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Monday  January 10, 2010

Arizona shooting category error

Dr. Pournelle,

Political pundits were madly trying to outrace ambulances so that they could establish the narrative that the shootings were caused by political "hate speech". A tragedy like this focuses the public attention, which may start to flag before the tedious business of assembling the facts is complete. For these guardians of public virtue, truth cannot afford to wait for facts.

As the facts emerge, it becomes clear that the shooter is a mentally and emotionally disturbed man. The statements by friends, classmates, teachers, and his own writings/postings paint a picture of a frustrated and angry man with delusions. The shootings were not caused by Sarah Palin, but by failure of mental health intervention.

Steve Chu

One man's mental health intervention is another's police state, or Department of Pre-Crime.

Freedom is not free. A free society has no choice but to put up with a great deal of bizarre behavior. I have not seen enough of this chap's public warning behavior, but what I have heard so far doesn't seem all that different from what I can read on a number of web sites. He doesn't seem to have been as passionate about whatever disturbed him as I have seen on bo th sides of a number of issues including Climate Change. Would you have forcibly intervened in his life prior to his pulling the trigger?


Far From Canada, Aggressive U.S. Border Patrols Snag Foreign Students - International - The Chronicle of Higher Education


You thought the TSA was bad.


Francis Hamit


Letter from England

It sounds like you had an interesting CES. It also must feel very good to get back in the saddle. I finished transcribing Q (first century Greek, one of the sources of Matthew and Luke) and did some initial statistical analyses. Q is surprisingly similar to Luke in word usage patterns, which is causing us some head-scratching, since the dates of authorship are believed to be about 40 or 50 years apart.

 University politics: see <http://tinyurl.com/33yohhu>, <http://tinyurl.com/35h4xt5> and <http://tinyurl.com/352octk>.

 The Meteorological Office in the UK is a private business. It provides a public 14-day forecast by contract to the Government and private long-term forecasts to companies and other organisations that want to buy them. That means the UK public doesn't have access to the long-term forecasts. <http://tinyurl.com/26pxk73> <http://tinyurl.com/33qksn8>. Weather forecasts look to me like a public good. However, the UK Government does not seem to believe in public goods. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_good>, and I'm not sure they expect to encounter market failure, either. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_failure> My experience with the cost of living in the UK is that goods and services that cost $X in America generally cost about £X in the UK, with the £1 being worth about $1.60, and I suspect the difference is widespread market failure.

 Another public good under attack: <http://tinyurl.com/27v997u> However, UK libraries generally seem to be run in ways convenient to the staff rather than the public--closing in the evenings and weekends--so I'm not sure what to make of this

 It finally looks there are now some proposals to reform the UK libel laws. <http://tinyurl.com/38reqvz>


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

Harry Erwin PhD


The Golden Age of Pulp Fiction, Janissaries Style

Dr. Pournelle:

You said you don't think you can produce anything like the L. Ron collection, but you already have it started. My first copies of Janissaries, and Janissaries: Clan and Crown were beautifully illustrated by Bermejo. They could be turned into content-laden CD/DVD format provided someone had the original artwork. Of course I don't know just how detailed the Hubbard work is from that rather loud promo video. I'm assuming text with accompanying artwork.

A step beyond that would be to get a cast of volunteers to make an audio version of your Janissaries collection. The audio would have the accompanying artwork to move the story along. You'd need a narrator and a few voices to perform the major roles, and a few "bit player" types to supply background voices. Note I said, "volunteer." I'm sure if you put the word out you'd have most guys and gals from this blog lining up. Hell, I'd fly out from Texas to volunteer to record, or upload it from here. I do a number of accents... badly.

If you build it, they will come!

You could get Baen books involved. I'm sure this could be done pretty easily, like the old time radio shows, without a huge cash outlay on anyone's part.

Think of this as a way to promote Mamelukes. Just tossing the idea out there.

Best regards,

Bill Kelly Houston, TX

Thanks for the kind words. Alas, I do not own the rights to the original illustrations in the Ace Books editions.


MOre on the Fighter


You commented on the fighter, saying that it was not secret if it was in broad daylight. Well, that article I sent to you earlier also says this: "China allowed video and pictures of last week's runway tests of its prototype stealth fighter to be taken and posted online."



Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

The timing was what was important.


Game Changer


This is a game changer--and there is more in the first link about a stealth jet:

>Washington is also concerned about a new ballistic missile that could theoretically explode an aircraft carrier nearly 2,000 miles (3,200 >kilometres) out to sea. China has also apparently beaten US >estimates to develop that weapon.


In addition to the sunburn and klub missiles--which China could use to destroy U.S. Naval vessels off the coast of China, now it can hit any naval vessel in the strait. China just became a regional hegemon. With enough of these new missiles, and other anti-naval weapons, China can ensure that American attack could only come over North Korea and into Manchuria--and through other treacherous and difficult approaches. China would have time to react to any U.S. invasion if we lost naval capability. Russia and the United States would need to get friendly like we did with Uncle Joe in WWII for anything to happen involving U.S. troops on the Sino-Russian border--in my opinion.

The Navy is taking this seriously:

>It is estimated that the missile can travel at mach 10 and reach its maximum range of 2000km in less than 12 minutes.

>Supporting the missile is a network of satellites, radar and unmanned aerial vehicles that can locate U.S. ships and then guide the weapon, enabling it to hit moving targets.

>While the ASBM has been a topic of discussion within national defense circles for quite some time, the fact that information is now coming from Chinese sources indicates that the weapon system is >operational. The Chinese rarely mention weapons projects unless they are well beyond the test stages.

>If operational as is believed, the system marks the first time a ballistic missile has been successfully developed to attack vessels at sea. Ships currently have no defense against a ballistic missile attack.


I find it interesting that--even though we have word from the Navy with this post I shared with you--Bloomberg acts as if this is not a big deal:

>China doesn’t yet have the capability to use its new anti-ship missiles effectively against U.S. aircraft carriers and other warships, according to U.S. Navy analysts.

>While the Chinese have deployed an early version of the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile system, U.S. naval intelligence officials downplay the near-term impact, since China’s military hasn’t conducted >a full-scale test or established an operational unit for the missiles.


Bloomberg just got a naughty hash mark. So are Bloomberg's people's angle on this one? Why are they trying to calm people down when the situation is obviously out of control? Perhaps this means nothing for the near term, but we are not at war with China now. If we go to war with China, we will go to war with China later. Even if we went to war with China tomorrow, could we not reasonable expect the Chinese to hasten development of this weapons system? How much more development time would be needed then? The entire line of rational speculation presented by Bloomberg makes me wonder about those writers.

Fox News says it could "reshape sea combat". Continuing with a more vague, abstract description of the threat, Fox says:

>China is developing an unprecedented new missile that is designed to be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier from a >distance of more than 900 miles, sources say.

>Initial reports on the new missile suggest it could reshape conflicts at sea, but U.S. weapons experts told FoxNews.com that it's no game-changer, nor a revolutionary threat to America's aircraft carriers -- >which are the center of U.S. Pacific defense strategy.


So there are some unprecedented things going on with missiles that go more than 900 miles and these can penetrate the defenses of our most advanced, critical ships while they are moving but that's not a game changer or a revolutionary threat. So, this must mean the Chinese already have a weapons system that can destroy moving aircraft carriers at distances of more than 900 miles. Therefore, this does not change anything. But, I don't believe that is the case, so this is a game changer. So what is the deal with Rupert Murdoch's people playing this down?

I hope Murdoch and Bloomberg's people are trying to play this down so they do not create pressure on the Chinese people and create a patriotic fervor that will halt destabilization of the Chinese Communist Party. I hope that idea circulates among our elite and they are right for the right reasons on this one.

You gotta love the Stars & Stripes article though. They mention that it may "complicate relations"


-------- BDAB, Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

There could be a possibility...




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Tuesday,  January 11, 2010

The libertarian conundrum 


For reference, an article by Clayton Cramer on the problem of mental illness and institutionalization.


A couple of pull quotes:

"In 1950, a person who was behaving oddly stood a good chance of being hospitalized. It might be for observation for a few days or a few weeks. If the doctors decided that this person was mentally ill, they would be committed, perhaps for a few months, perhaps longer. Hospital space was always at a premium, so generally, if someone was kept, there was a reason for it. The notion that large numbers of sane people were kept for no reason just has not survived my research efforts."


"I could give you a complete list of mass murderers who were recognized by family and friends as mentally ill and who refused treatment. Authorities were helpless to hospitalize them because of our wonderfully beautiful but completely absurd theories of civil liberties. This list would run on for very many pages.

How many more of these tragedies do we have to watch before we say, “Wow! Great theory! It didn’t work. Let’s reconsider this matter.” I’m afraid it is going to be a lot more tragedies before we start facing the harsh truth."

Michael Medved has stated that a large fraction of the homeless are clinically insane or on drugs (I guess a form of self-induced and self-maintained insanity). (No I don't know where his numbers come from.) It seems that many of the current homeless would have been locked up under vagrancy laws, but such laws are now a violation of civil rights.

Maybe we need something like vagrancy laws. I'd feel better about reinstating such if we didn't have so many enforcers of laws, regulations and rules employing binary "zero tolerance" thinking.


Does one have a right to be stark raving mad? Should they have locked Diogenes the Cynic away?


First, thanks for continuing to maintain a presence after Byte magazine. I've enjoyed your books and columns over the years and you seem to be one of the more approachable "Great Ones" as in the pantheon of great science fiction authors that have shaped and inspired me since childhood.

Second, my heart as with almost everyone goes out and wishes a speedy recovery for the injured, condolences to the families of deceased, and justice for the guilty.

The difficult problem

I consider our Second Amendment Rights to be absolute and complete. How then do we as the People, handle situations like this deranged shooter? This has happened many times: Virginia Tech, 2006 Police station in Chantilly Virginia, and many others. On the other hand military veterans were being denied their Second Amendment Rights when returning home they sought treatment for PTSD. In the communist Soviet Union, dissenters were declared mentally incompetent and locked up in institutions. How do we balance the individual right to be free and eccentric with the need for Public safety?

It does seem that in almost every one of these cases people brought the mental health issue forward prior to the deranged lunatic acquiring his firearms. In the Chantilly Virginia incident he walked out of the institution where he was detained for observation and broke into his parents firearms cabinet. I cannot think of a good solution.

The demons from the Left

I am numb to media linking this to a right wing hate mongering racist conspiracy. I suspect some media have their text saved on their desktop and just paste it into their accounts. Congress is now already talking about knee jerk feel good gun control laws. The failure here is not gun control. Every firearms application asks about adjudication as to mental defect. The failure was in getting the community to perform this adjudication and then to truthfully respond to the questionnaire.




Behavioral Health

Dr. Pournelle, I believe that we have people on the streets with extreme behavioral health illnesses because it is "cheaper" for politicians to clean up after them than it is to budget to care for them appropriately.

From the news reports I have heard the shooter in Tucson was not overly abnormal in high school and changed in his late teens, this would seem to be a rather classic psychotic break. He may have begun using drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self medicate or the drug use may have contributed to his psychotic break. His parents may have just adapted to his behavior and didn't try to get him treatment. When he did run afoul of the police he either would muster the self control to act appropriately in the presence of people capable of enforcing appropriate behavior or he was taken to an emergency facility where he would be temporally medicated into some semblance of sanity and discharged with prescriptions and follow up directions which no one ensured he would take and/or follow.

One or both of his parents probably have similar symptoms, which would make it unlikely that they would be effective in getting him diagnosed or staying with a treatment plan.

When he finally does commit a major crime cleaning up for that crime doesn't come out of anybodies budget, treatment for a gunshot to the brain will ultimately cost somebody several million dollars if all of the bills and impact to society is taken into account. But, not a dime of it will come out of the Arizona Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services budget. No legislator will have to tell his constituents that they can't have a library, park or pay higher taxes because he or she has to pay for case managers or effective/long term hospitalization for somebody the constituent and their legislator would consider human debris.

I don't know which is cheaper in a financial sense, effective care or cleaning up after the occasional major incident. Most people with severe behavioral health problems will never be violent, problematic yes, violent no. The carnage they cause to their families, themselves and occasionally the public at large is very expensive in an emotional sense, but again it doesn't land on anybodies ledger or budget.


And who decides? Was Tom Paine a madman? Certainly King George thought so...


Category error redux

Dr. Pournelle,

It may be that the price of living in a free society is that we must live with some people who are, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy. At least we talking about an issue relevant to the shooting, and not some ginned up talking points about uncivil political speech.

Steve Chu


Freedom is not free. A free society has no choice but to put up with a great deal of bizarre behavior.

Thank you. It is so refreshing to find a voice of reason, even when discussing unreasonable people/behavior.

I once read that “the price of liberty is innocent blood”; the human condition makes this a truism. So many fail to understand that… yet, “it is what it is”. We can either err on the side of locking up anyone who might be a danger to themselves or others (and open the door to the corruption of locking up those who have powerful enemies, whether they are randomly dangerous or not), or err on the side of letting people, no matter how whacky they might be, simply be free – and deal with the consequences post facto if they go off the deep end and do something tragic.

I, for one, vote for the latter. Freedom is not free, but well worth the price – even if that price occasionally be paid in blood (and yes, even mine – gladly)

Thanks for all your wonderful works and thoughts,

“long time fan, first time writer – or maybe second; this site has been up a long time…”

-Matt Nichols


eBook self-publishing figures for December.



--- Roland Dobbins

Not all that glitters is gold...


“We’ve had some incidents where TSA authorities think that congresspeople should be treated like everybody else.”


--- Roland Dobbins




Harry Irwin wrote,

"...I finished transcribing Q (first century Greek, one of the sources of Matthew and Luke) and did some initial statistical analyses. Q is surprisingly similar to Luke in word usage patterns, which is causing us some head-scratching, since the dates of authorship are believed to be about 40 or 50 years apart."

Doing some head-scratching myself. :-) I really don't see what's so surprising about that. Luke himself said (1:1-4),

"1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

First Century scholarship didn't generally include quotation marks *heh* and footnotes attributing material to specific sources. That the writer of the Gospel of Luke would choose to keep his word choices and even phrasings as close to the sources "just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word" would seem to be exactly in line with someone seeking to do good 1st Century scholarship. So, to me, not at all surprising. "[H]anded down to us" does not necessarily mean oral tradition only.

Of course, "Q" is simply an inferred, hypothetical text comprised of material that is similar in two of the three synoptics (Matthew and Luke), and a manuscript copy of Q has never been seen by modern scholars. That Luke may have seen or /heard/ Q (or the /source materials/--written and oral--from which this hypothetical document was drawn) and used material from it for his work would not be surprising at all. After all, that was what he /said/ he did.

Of course, I'm just arm-chairing this and my own readings on the subject are decades old, so I may be misunderstanding or entirely missing the commenter's point.

David Needham

It has been long since I did any reading in Biblical scholarship, but I long ago reached about the same conclusions. We do not know what documents Luke had available, or what happened to them. We do know that an obscure prophet from a not terribly important province founded a religion that survived persecution to become the official religion of the Empire.



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Wednesday, January 12, 2012

'Climate change' in 49 states.


- Roland Dobbins


Teacher Reprimanded for Letting Children Use Sled (UK)

Dear Jerry;

Glad to hear that you're surviving whatever 'apocalypse' California is having this season. That's the nice thing about LA: one knows that eventually the rain will stop, the sun will shine, and life will be good again. :)

I got this off the web:


My wife would claim that this sort of thing does not happen by chance, that in the United States we're heading down the same road toward mediocrity and irrelvance, and that it's designed to increase the dependency of the citizenry on the state's authority and largesse.

I used to think my wife was funny, but I stopped laughing a while back.



Jared Loughner, Would you have forcibly intervened?

Dr. Pournelle, Regarding Jared Loughner and how much mental health intervention is proper in a free society, I think it would have been appropriate for local police, the community college, etc. to inform Jared's parents in the same household that 1) Jared's increasingly erratic behavior appeared to be a mental illness and 2) they need to get him help. The government shouldn't be in the business of forcing mental health treatment prior to a crime, but they could make sure family members know what has happened and strongly suggest that they try to intervene. I'm also curious about how Jared Loughner's drug use interacted with what appears to be Schizophrenia. Is Jared's drug use an effort by an already mentally ill individual to self-medicate, did the drugs significantly increase the mental illness, or is there some of both in the way recreational drug use and mental illness interact? If Jared had not used drugs as a teenager, would his brain have developed significantly differently?

George Bednekoff Plano, Texas

"One man's mental health intervention is another's police state, or Department of Pre-Crime.

Freedom is not free. A free society has no choice but to put up with a great deal of bizarre behavior. I have not seen enough of this chap's public warning behavior, but what I have heard so far doesn't seem all that different from what I can read on a number of web sites. He doesn't seem to have been as passionate about whatever disturbed him as I have seen on both sides of a number of issues including Climate Change. Would you have forcibly intervened in his life prior to his pulling the trigger?"


SUBJ: Crisis mongers

Call them "Blood Dancers". Shamelessly cavorting in the blood of innocents for their own agenda.

The term is needful and fits perfectly.

Cordially, John

The phrase is interesting, and largely true, but I do not believe it much aids rational discussion.


statement from the father of the 9 year old girl

Good day Dr. Pournelle and Happy New Year.

John Green, the father of Taylor, is one of the few voice’s of reason I have heard on-line or on the news. I cannot imagine the loss and grief his family are going through and my heartfelt prayers go out to them. I feel that his statement is that of a true patriot and an American, his daughter would be proud.

“Punish the one, not the many. I feel that they should make an example of the nut job, a public example at that within the laws of this country. I hope that instead of this incident causing mass hysteria and mobilization of congress to further encroach our God given rights that it motivates more people to arm themselves and be prepared to act.”

Henry Sutter

Which about says it all.


A number of New Testament writings are either known to be or suspected of being composite; that is, being based on multiple written sources. Those include the gospels of Matthew and Luke, which appear to be based on the gospel of Mark and a second lost document referred to as Q; Acts, which the author characterizes as being based on written sources; II Corinthians, which appears to be composed from at least two Pauline epistles, and II Peter, which is based on Jude. The Gospel of John appears to contain a shorter early gospel that is sometimes referred to as the 'Signs Gospel'.

Q appears to have been a written collection of sayings, aphorisms, parables, and sermons in Greek. That conclusion is still debated, but reflects the word-for-word identity of parts of Luke and Matthew that are not based on Mark. Pace Papias, Q was not in Aramaic, and pace a number of scholars, Q was not an oral collection. Possibly about 80% of it can be reconstructed by comparing Luke and Matthew, and there have been a number of reconstructions of the Greek published over the years. What I did was transcribe one of those reconstructions into electronic format to allow me to do a statistical analysis of word frequencies.

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

Harry Erwin PhD

Which gets about as far into Biblical scholarship as I care to go, given that I am not equipped to contribute to the matter and there is not I think enough known to be a basis for firm conclusions. Like Climate Change, there are some landmarks that stand out, the chief one being that somehow a small group in Jerusalem and Galilee spread the Word through the entire Roman Empire despite opposition from the authorities.


SUBJECT: Kinder Surprise egg seized at U.S. border

Hi Jerry.

The Iron Law in action:


In Canada, Kinder eggs are a staple at Christmas time and such - I had no idea they were banned in the US! I can imagine many people making this mistake, and accidentally trying to bring these candy eggs into the US.


Mike Casey

The purpose of TSA is to convince Americans that they are subjects, not citizens. It does that task well.


Sodomy and Sufism in Afgaynistan,


Spengler dug this up about “a human terrain report on male sexuality among America's Afghan allies:”


Well? What do you think? This isn’t the first I’ve heard of this.


I doubt that I have any significant thoughts on the subject. The customs of Afghanistan have been known since Alexandrian times, as have their politics. Afghans see helicopters not unlike the Russians, filled with people better armed but of the same appearance as the Russians, and what they see is armed foreigners intending to subject Afghanis to their customs and rules by force of arms.

Afghanistan makes nothing we need or ought to want, and the best we can accomplish there is that it not be a haven for launching attacks against the American people and the United States. This has already been accomplished. I see no reason why we cannot declare victory and leave, with some precautions and warnings. As to the Afghan practices with boys, I don't have to have a public opinion.


Blue flashes

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that there may be a phenomenon that has either gone unrecognized for years or is increasing in frequency.

In a forum thread on the Homesteading Today site, a person talks about being outside on a snowy overcast night at about 3 AM and suddenly seeing a bright blue flash that was not electrical in nature and was totally silent.

Later, that person found that a second person had seen the same event as a "streak of blue. It went from the ground to the sky, diagnoly(sp)." Still later, she found people living twenty miles away had noticed the event, which tends to further rule out power grid issues.

The silence eliminates thundersnow, and at first I thought "St. Elmo's Fire," but upon reflection that doesn't fit.

The thread is here if you care to look at it. It has a reference to another less reliable site where numerous similar reports have been made. http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/

Now there are reports of TGFs in thunderstorms: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/

An earlier report noted that auroralike phenomenon were visible as far as 500 miles out from earth, beyond the space station orbit.

What I find disturbing is that Cerenkov radiation is characteristically blue and is present around high energy particles. It makes me wonder if the events described as happening in the clouds could actually either be starting at ground level, or shoot downwards towards the ground instead of spaceward. I don't even want to think what the result would be if we are just starting to see increasing bombardment from the beam of a neutron star.

Make of it what you will.

J Chase


SUBJECT: Antimatter caught streaming from thunderstorms on Earth

Hi Jerry.

A surprising, and interesting result!



Mike Casey


thunderstorm antimatter 


Natural Antimatter - From THUNDERSTORMS!


Thunderstorms Proven to Create Antimatter, NASA Finds

Thunderstorms create far more than just rain. NASA has accidentally discovered that they spit out antimatter, too.

Scientists using the space agency's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope <http://www.nasa.gov/fermi> have detected beams of antimatter produced above thunderstorms on Earth, a phenomenon never seen before. They believe the antimatter particles were formed during "terrestrial gamma-ray flashes," sharp bursts produced daily inside thunderstorms that are still poorly understood.


Added detail from end of related Space.com Article:


The tops of thunderstorms harbor electric fields. Under the right conditions, scientists think, these fields can become strong enough that they drive an upward avalanche of electrons.

When these electrons are deflected by molecules in the atmosphere, they emit gamma rays. Some of these gamma rays pass near atomic nuclei, in the process transforming into an electron and a positron, researchers said. It's these particles that reach Fermi's orbit.

The revelation that thunderstorms can produce antimatter follows closely on the heels of the discovery that lightning can emit X-rays and gamma rays, researchers said.

"Just a year or so ago, it wasn't at all obvious that something like this should happen," Dwyer said.

Earth is likely not the only planet that boasts antimatter-generating storms, researchers said.

"There's every reason to think the same processes are happening on other planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn," Dwyer said. But the storms on those gas giants generally occur deeper in their atmospheres, so their antimatter beams may not be able to escape into space, he added.

NASA Graphic in space.com article


Nasa.gov links (significantly more technical detail than the Fox article): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/

Article showing processed data from FERMI of a positron beam generated by an Egyptian thunderstorm:


Goddard link with video: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a010700/a010706/index.html 

ADDITIONAL NASA LINK found on pages above:

Article on the use of positrons from high-energy gamma rays as the basis of a relatively-low-energy antimatter space craft for Mars exploration



The implications are astonishing, at least to me.


Bad Medicine?


"Ritalin – This drug is commonly prescribed to children diagnosed with ADHD <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/
use-of-ritalin-in-hyperactive-children.aspx>  , despite the fact it has the same pharmacological profile as cocaine <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2001/09/26/ritalin-part-two.aspx>  . By definition, Ritalin stimulates your central nervous system, leading to side effects such as increased blood pressure and heart rate.

"When taken over a period of years, as Ritalin often is, the drug can cause severe health problems, including cancer. Short-term, it can still lead to chromosomal damage <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2005/07/21/ritalin-cancer.aspx>  . "

More details and discussion here:


Charles Brumbelow

I hear this periodically. I have no expertise in the matter, but it does seem reasonable to conclude that we are over-prescribing Ritalin. I know people who claim to have benefited from it when growing up, but I also know people who claim to have been harmed by it. It seems reasonable to pay a lot more attention to this.





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, January 13, 2011

I will not be going to this, but perhaps some readers will find it interesting:

Dear Raymond Chandler fan:

Please save the date of February 14, 2011.

After 57 years Pearl (Cissy) and Raymond Chandler are going to be reunited.

Place: Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego, Imperial Avenue gate & Hope Ave (between South 39th & 38th streets).

Time: 1 PM (1300 hours).

Event: New Orleans style processing led by Crown Island Jazz Band carrying Cissy¹s Urn 2/10s of a mile to Ray¹s Grave. Service by Randal B. Gardner, D.Min., Rector of St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, La Jolla.

Reception and Gin Gimlet toast to follow at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, followed by optional Dinner at the Vela Restaurant in the Hilton.

-- Debby Atkinson www.deborahatkinson.com


SUBECT: Flow chart on how to write good code

Hi Jerry.

The xkcd tongue-in-cheek take on the problems of writing good code in this day and age:


Unfortunately, probably true for most big projects these days!


Mike Casey


SUBJECT: A supernova for every child

Hi Jerry.

Commentary on teaching science to young children:


"Schools need to create more opportunities for skilled science teachers to teach their colleagues."

A corollary to that, one that is perhaps so obvious that people forget that it exists: a good teacher never stops learning.


Mike Casey


carbon sequestration failure

Jerry: Who would ever have thought this would work?

Carbon sequestration failure: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/

Chris C

I would never have invested in that project. I would think that biology would be a better technique.


Global Warming Panic explained


I thought you might get a chuckle out of this.

Rick Patterson

A liberal tries to explain why she thinks the world will end, and what should be done about it.



Thoughts on your reflections about the shootings...

I am amazed that the Arizona shooting is actually engendering so much dialog. Even more amazed that it has managed to quiet the flood of hateful political rhetoric, from both sides, we expected in the current session of congress. Perhaps out of this horrible tragedy, a tiny bit of good can emerge. I hope so, perhaps it would comfort the victims or their survivors just a little if it did.

I willl contend that media figures, such as Limbaugh and Beck, try to incite in their listeners a guilty pleasure of anger and hate. it's not reason or right thinking that attracts the vast majority of their audience. It is a feeling almost of permission to hate that attracts and keeps that audience in place.

Yes, a lot of people can listen to them and pick up the good ideas while automatically filtering out the nonsensical emotion twisting garbage.

But a lot of people simply can't.

Worse, some people just don't want to.

Why should they after all? The evil "others" are doing bad things! Why shouldn't a person be angry at them? Even hate them for the 'evil' things they do and ideas they support?

A person like the Arizona shooter is clearly incapable of separating the "entertainment" from the ideas. Perhaps because of a mental illness, or perhaps only because he was never taught to do so. In any event, mental illness or stupidity by itself is not a reason to lock someone up. If it were, we would all be locked up, at least at one time or another.

Only when that illness or stupidity is translated into action, such as this shooting, is reason to lock them up.

But think about this - if the people surrounding the shooter had been openly armed and willing to defend themselves and their neighbors - he would never *ever* had opened fire. Armed and dangerous citizenry would be a real deterrent to the issue.

Of course, an armed citizenry is also a direct danger to our political masters. I seem to remember an old story by H. Beam Piper where making life dangerous for politicians was even encouraged.

I sure feel sorry for Ms. Giffords. I believe she is an admirable person, and did not deserve to be shot any more than any of the other people did. But politics is a dangerous game, and made even more dangerous by the hateful political rhetoric being spewed about in huge quantities to entertain the masses.

Just my $0.02. Not a law of the universe, but still...

Being civil is a civic virtue, and gravitas used to be expected from politicians. As to the spewing of hateful political rhetoric, as much of that is in the eye of the beholder as in the intentions of the spewer.


Addition of Project Gutenberg to Kindle

Dr. Pournelle,

The new ios for Kindle that allows Kindle access Project Gutenberg, the Internet archive, et. al. Is available as a free upgrade at the Apple iTunes App store, and is discussed at


Which I shortened using Tinyurl.com to http://tinyurl.com/4sqqeq4 

Keep up your good work and have a great day!

Countdown to our Atlantic crossing - 4 months.


Gutenberg on Kindle iPad


This is in response to your post on getting Gutenberg books in to your Kindle on the iPad. I too was confused on how to do this, as the press release led me to infer it would be supported natively in the application. This is unfortunately not the case as far as I can tell. However, there are now two ways to get them:

1. Via the Safari browser. Open Safari on your iPad and go to www.gutenberg.org  (or other sites for that matter). Find the book you want to download in Kindle format and click to download it. The book will now be on your iPad / Kindle software. 2. Open iTunes (on the Mac...unsure if this works on Windows). Make sure the iPad is plugged in, then go to the Apps tab on the Ipad within Itunes, then the File Sharing portion below, then click on Kindle. You can then upload books to the Kindle software on the iPad.

I'm really pleased that Amazon has added this feature; however, I don't think they got it right. A couple of points:

a. As they are marketing it as supporting Gutenberg, I feel they should have the Gutenberg library tightly integrated with something like adding a Gutenberg tab. I realize they don't do this with their store; however, I believe Apple prohibits the direct selling through apps, so they have to make a round trip to the browser and have it "pushed". This is not the case with free items, as other readers support Gutenberg directly.

b. The titles of the book do not show up in the Home screen on the software, instead you get a nameless icon that looks like an old palm device, so with a couple of books you have no idea which is which title.

Tip: If you prefer a cleaner mobile feel to browsing Gutenberg, go to http://m.gutenberg.org  on your iPad...you get a lot more on the screen and can still download the books.

I believe b) not showing titles effectively breaks the solution, and hope that Amazon fixes it quickly. In the mean time, I'll continue using the free Stanza reader for Gutenberg books, but I sure would like the reading experience to all be in one application.

--ron -- Ronald McCarty


Re: J-20

Here's Bill Sweetman's analysis of the available info: http://tinyurl.com/4bm4zu7 

Briefly, he thinks this is primarily an anti-AWACS system.

The US military has come to rely heavily on two extremely vulnerable systems: GPS satellites, which can be destroyed by ICBM's and the longest-range SLBM's, and AWACS, which are essentially Large Slow Targets.

Nobody ever talks about the former, and I'd always been surprised nobody'd developed specific weapon systems to target the latter. It seems we're there now.

Jean-Louis Beaufils


North American English Dialects, Based on Pronunciation Patterns


This is good stuff for anyone interested in language. I grew up an Army brat, so I was always meeting people from many different places, and liked to try to identify where people were from based on their accent. This guy takes that sort of thing up a few quantum levels. Lots of maps, detail, sound files, etc.


Jim Riticher


Ye gods, have we come to this?

"Boston emergency services debuted a specialized ambulance designed to carry obese patients on Tuesday, and the retrofitted vehicle was promptly needed on two calls, authorities said."


I suppose it was inevitable. after all half the population is too fat to fight. Unles it's for a place at the table!

Ah well, I am certain it's all covered by ObamaCare.



Hubble telescope zeroes in on green blob in space 

A few rather lonely stars, in the depths of intergalactic space. If any have planets with intelligent life, they have a night sky with only ten or twelve stars.The flip side of "NIGHTFALL",.


One wonders if such objects might account for small, irregular satellite galaxies, such as the Magellanic Clouds?



Why the CIA is spying on a changing climate | McClatchy


Dear Jerry:

Considering recent events in Australia and elsewhere, it may be time to stop playing politics with this issue. I can't imagine anything more stupid than blindfolding the Intelligence Community to any potential threat.


Francis Hamit







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Friday,  January 14, 2011



I must take umbrage at your anonymous reader's assertion:

"I will contend that media figures, such as Limbaugh and Beck, try to incite in their listeners a guilty pleasure of anger and hate..."

Perhaps it is a "guilty pleasure," but, personally, I generally only experience it when these worthies are describing some action or quoting some saying by their political opponents which deserves a response of righteous anger, generally something that the Founders and Framers would have repudiated as being unworthy of the public discourse.

With Mr. Limbaugh, that feeling alternates with the irritation I feel when he substitutes rants or faux cuteness for logical argument, particularly at callers who disagree with him. (Conversely, I've heard him use considerable time, gentleness, and good humor to address the soul searching of a liberal troubled by the actions of those of her ideology, and I can never forget the half hour he spent on the phone with his mother discussing vanilla extract...)

Due to it's timing during the workday with late night repeats, I've rarely gotten to listen to Mr. Beck, though I've purchased the audiobook version of two of his tomes and listened. But I personally have never heard anything from him save patient and diligent analysis of liberal motivations and connections as he traced the trail of money and influence from the current actors to their predecessors and sponsors. His current book Broke is one of the most thorough and understandable expositions of the country's current economic crisis in existence, not to mention easy to read and generally non-partisan.

Adding to my umbrage is that fact that there is zero evidence that Mr. Loughner ever listened to these worthies. He seems to have been motivated by far more extreme conspiracy theories, and by a personal animosity towards Congresswoman Giffords.

Conversely, I do have to agree completely with the reader's statement: "But think about this - if the people surrounding the shooter had been openly armed and willing to defend themselves and their neighbors - he would never *ever* had (sic) opened fire. Armed and dangerous citizenry would be a real deterrent to the issue." Unfortunately, it appears that those Arizona citizens who might normally have been carrying arms left the aside out of deference to the Congresswoman, a mistake I'm confident that few will make again unless this foolish "1000 foot rule" manages to make it through Congress, which will do nothing to deter the lawbreakers while putting law-abiding citizens at a further disadvantage.

I also agree with the reader that I continue to be astounded by, and prayerful for, Congresswoman Giffords' recovery.



I do not agree with his theory of Limbaugh and Beck's motivations, but I do not see why I should be offended that he holds it. Perhaps Messrs. Limbaugh and Beck have reason to be offended, but they also have the means to defend themselves should they choose to do so, and I know that each has at least one staffer who reads this web site.

Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. He states this himself. He uses the device of the "Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies in describing his show, but I do not think he takes that seriously. He is clearly the best judge of his capabilities and of his audience -- that is, he is a phenomenon, a highly successful radio host of many years standing. He must be doing something right. For the most part I find myself in agreement with his conclusions, but not always with his discourse; but then I wouldn't expect to. For the same reason I generally do not publish many of the enthusiastic agreements with my essays that I find in my mail. I am glad to get them, and I try to thank the readers who send them when I am not absolutely  snowed under (which alas happens more frequently than I like), but I do not think they add to rational discourse, which is the theme that I hope informs this place. I need to do a certain amount of entertaining since this place won't stay open without readers and subscribers, but I hope to draw a readership largely devoted to rational discussion about serious matters.

I am not angry when I find people do not agree with me. I do understand the temptation to anger when I see accusations of base motives, and I do take umbrage when those are directed at me, but I have too small a supply of umbrage containers to take more of the dish on the part of Messrs. Limbaugh and Beck... 

I found enough in his note to agree with to find it worth publishing. I seldom edit letters I do decide to publish: my mission is editing, not censorship.

So. You are correct in asserting that there is no evidence of any intellectual connection between the Tucson shooter and Messrs. Limbaugh and Beck, but I do not see any reason for you to be offended by his being mistaken.

And apologies: your note did not deserve this long a reply, but it made me curious enough to look up "umbrage" although I have used the phrase for much of my life. That sparked me to comment using the word. For more on umbrage, look here.

"The Bishop ... took umbrage at his freedom of speech in the pulpit anent [regarding] the government," is a usage example from the Oxford English Dictionary. The reference is from 1680, but aside from that "anent," it could have been a comment on the recent funeral of Coretta Scott King, for example, where a number of prominent figures saw an opportunity to critique the Bush administration, and seized it. Plenty of umbrage was taken.



Hi Jerry,

I have an undergrad degree in Psychology, earned during the DSM-IIIR days. I tend to agree with your assessment - and formed that opinion after I learned that homosexuality was voted out as a disorder in the early 1970's. Setting aside if that was correct or not, any so-called medical science whose illnesses are subject to definition by vote raises immediate suspicions.

Organic maladies (e.g. Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar disorder), that can be treated with medication are in a unique category (one of the tests is, if the drug works, then you've got that disease - there's lots of medical conditions where drugs work when we don't understand the mechanism). Of course, those, along with certain types of addiction, have a genetic component, and will likely be subject to such screening in the near future. Pure behavioral based issues are highly subject to interpretation, aren't easy to pin down. Counseling, EMDR, and other treatments are effective for many of those, but both the conditions and treatments are in a different category. Perhaps splitting the manual into two volumes - psycho/medical disorders, and psycho/personality disorders might be appropriate.



The whole field of psychology theory is a mess. The experimentalists have some useful predictive tools with IQ tests and other psychological assessment instruments, but the Courts have been hard on those using them for any useful purpose. They are, or course, statistical in nature, and there is always a danger in applying them to individuals.

I don't know of any viable theory of personality active today. The great schema as put forth by Freud, Jung, Rogers, Horney, Korzybski, and, yes, L. Ron Hubbard have not been validated by any repeatable experimental evidence; and there do not seem to be any replacement theories catching on.


Prepare to be scared out of your wits:

Airborne Prions Make for 100 Percent Lethal Whiff:


“When sprayed into the air, prions that cause mad cow and other neurodegenerative diseases may be in one of their most lethal forms.

A new study has revealed one short exposure to sprayed prions can be 100 percent lethal in mice. While the discovery doesn’t present any foreseeable public health threat, it comes as a surprise to scientists who study prion-based diseases and calls existing safety rules for laboratories and slaughterhouses into question.”

“Prions are like an enemy within, the alien in some B-movie that transforms people to an evil version,” said prion biologist Edward Hoover of Colorado State University, who was not involved in the study. “The immune system doesn’t see them coming.”

“Because the incidence of prion disease is so low among humans — and continues to remain low — it’s unlikely airborne forms are a significant threat to most people.”

— Until someone weaponizes it. Brrrr.



: US air force has new scramjet hypersonic plane plans 

Subject: US air force has new scramjet hypersonic plane plans


Tracy Walters, CISSP


Life in prison for evading highway toll booths.

"A Chinese court announced Friday it will retry a farmer sentenced to life in prison for evading highway tolls after a massive public outcry over his heavy punishment."



You got to love this moniker- "Pingdingshan Municipal Intermediate People's Court".It's up there with Goof Old East Campus of Nortrhwest South Carolina State.

How does one say"ORDNUNG" in Mandarin, anyway?




Subj: US Navy pulls the plug on "optimal manning"


"Optimal Manning" was the Navy's smaller-crews-plus-more-automation experiment.

>>The long term impact was very damaging to morale and ship readiness. What happened was that, as many little emergencies showed up, especially on long voyages, sailors were pulled away from their duties, especially ship maintenance. The maintenance deficits were often never made up, and ship systems began to fail. In particular, they began to fail the periodic readiness inspections. This eventually caught the attention of senior leadership. Investigations followed, and it was concluded that to solve the maintenance problems, the crews needed to be larger.<<

Reminds me of the story "Reflex", by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, about the battle (just before the start of _The Mote in God's Eye_) between highly-automated Union Republic War Cruiser _Defiant_ and His Imperial Majesty's General-Class Battlecruiser _MacArthur_, published in _There Will Be War_ from TOR in 1983.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Rear of the skull mounted digital camera



Not really the science-fiction vision of an enhanced human, able to see behind him, but a first step.

With the improved survival rate of severely injured service personnel and the improved prosthetics, do you think that we are far from Bernard Wolfe’s Limbo?




General Jack Pershing on how to stop Muslim Extremists


: Unable to help myself

Hello Jerry,

I keep telling myself that I will stop sending you stuff like this, but since it appears in my in box every week, I periodically 'fall off the wagon', so to speak:


I consider them not so much articles on state of the art audio technology as windows into the minds of liberals, as I predict that the purchasers of the products highlighted vote Democratic more reliably than do the residents of Harlem.

Bob Ludwick


A Strategy of Technology in Asia

Jerry, it occurs to me that the Chinese are just about in a position with their new J-20 fighter and a naval strike IRBM (with intelligent terminal guidance) to do the same thing to the US that we did to the Soviets with the threat of Star Wars and the reality of Trident, the F-117, and the B-2 (not to mention the effect of several hundred fax machines in 'free' hands behind the Iron Curtain).

Certainly with a national debt approaching $15 Trillion we might not be able to counter the J-20 (the F-22 lines are not just shut down but dismantled). Aegis might be able to counter the naval strike IRBM but at what cost.

With China holding a huge percentage of our national debt, through interest and currency rate manipulation they could certainly affect our R&D and production capabilities.

Something to think about.


The most dangerous game 

Funny how no one thinks through the logical outcome of laws ..


The Hunting Act <http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/37/contents>  , which became the law of this land in 2005 following months of protest and parliamentary debate, made it illegal to use dogs to hunt foxes. It also protects some other mammals, such as hare (but not rabbits), mice (but not rats) and mink (but not men).


The Coakham Hunt began "hunting men for fun," as its Web site <http://www.coakhambloodhounds.com/>  boasts, well before fox hunting became illegal. The fact is, if you happen to be on the lookout for something to hunt through today's rapidly urbanizing countryside, Homo sapiens has several advantages over Vulpes vulpes, Britain's common red fox.


 I have to wonder whether it would be more fun to be hunter or prey. But what do you do with 'em once you've caught 'em?


Brian P.



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Saturday, January 15, 2011

The future of English: English as she was spoke http://www.economist.com/node/17730434/print 

The days of English as the world's second language may (slowly) be ending Dec 16th 2010

The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel. By Nicholas Ostler. Walker & Company; 368 pages; $28. Allen Lane; £20. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

ENGLISH is the most successful language in the history of the world. It is spoken on every continent, is learnt as a second language by schoolchildren and is the vehicle of science, global business and popular culture. Many think it will spread without end. But Nicholas Ostler, a scholar of the rise and fall of languages, makes a surprising prediction in his latest book: the days of English as the world's lingua-franca may be numbered.

Conquest, trade and religion were the biggest forces behind the spread of earlier lingua-francas (the author uses a hyphen to distinguish the phrase from Lingua Franca, an Italian-based trade language used during the Renaissance). A linguist of astonishing voracity, Mr Ostler plunges happily into his tales from ancient history.

The Achaemenid emperors, vanquishers of the Babylonians in 539BC, spoke Persian as their native language, but pragmatically adopted Aramaic as the world's first "interlingua". Official long-distance communications were written in Aramaic, sent across the empire and then translated from Aramaic upon arrival. Persian itself would serve as a lingua-franca not at the time of the empire's greatest heights but roughly from 1000AD to 1800. The Turkic conquerors of Central Asia, Anatolia and the Middle East, though they adopted Islam and worshipped in Arabic, often kept Persian as the language of the court and of literature. Persian was also the court language of Turkic-ruled Mughal India when the British East India Company arrived.

Some lingua-francas have ridden trade routes, but these are tongues of convenience that change quickly with circumstances. Phoenician spread from its home in modern Lebanon along the northern coast of Africa, where (pronounced in Latin as Punic) it became the language of the Carthaginian empire. But Rome's destruction of Carthage in 146BC reduced it to a dwindling local vernacular. Greek, by contrast, planted deeper roots, surviving not only Rome's rise but also its fall, to serve as the lingua-franca of the eastern Mediterranean for over 1,000 years.

What does all this, then, have to do with English? Often very little. It seems sometimes that Mr Ostler, fascinated by ancient uses of language, wanted to write a different sort of book but was persuaded by his publisher to play up the English angle. The core arguments about the future of English come in two chapters at the end of the book. But the predictions are striking <snip>


Doctoral degrees: The disposable academic http://www.economist.com/node/17723223/print Dec 16th 2010

ON THE evening before All Saints' Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year.

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research--a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master's degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as "slave labour". Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle. "It isn't graduate school itself that is discouraging," says one student, who confesses to rather enjoying the hunt for free pizza. "What's discouraging is realising the end point has been yanked out of reach."<snip>


What's this? "Studies of teenagers have found that self-discipline is a much better predictor of academic performance than IQ--and may account for the superior grades of girls, who display more of it."

Daniel Akst: We Have Met the Enemy http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/31/books/31book.html  [A highly entertaining first chapter added.]

Weak-Kneed Willpower Faces Temptation's Lure By PATRICIA COHEN

WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY Self-Control in an Age of Excess By Daniel Akst 303 pages. The Penguin Press. $26.95.

If you want a little insurance to help keep those New Year's resolutions, you might consider turning to StickK.com. Started by two Yale professors and a graduate student in 2008, the Web site provides a binding contract to help you meet a particular goal, whether it is shedding pounds, quitting smoking or finishing Proust. Fail to live up to your end of the deal, and you have to pay a person or charity that you have designated in advance. You can even increase the incentive by choosing an anti-charity, a cause that you would normally oppose. Gun-control advocates, for example, could decide to forfeit their money to the National Rifle Association if they falter, while anti-abortion advocates might choose NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The site is a way of reinforcing a quality most of us seem to have a desperate shortage of these days: self-control.

The growing epidemic of obesity, the reckless debt that contributed to the financial crisis, the proliferation of so-called addictions to everyday activities from shopping to video games to sex are all evidence of how a technologically advanced capitalist democracy makes temptation easier, cheaper and faster to indulge than most Americans seem equipped to manage sensibly.

Daniel Akst, an author and journalist who has frequently contributed to The New York Times, tries to get a handle on this modern dilemma in "We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess." <snip>


I don't want to be either the first or the last to believe in ESP. As a former member of the Communist Party of the U.S.A. said, "Those who left the Party before I did were traitors, those who left after were fools."

Journal's Paper on ESP Expected to Prompt Outrage http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/science/06esp.html [Highlighted comments added. Way, way too many otherwise.]


One of psychology's most respected journals has agreed to publish a paper presenting what its author describes as strong evidence for extrasensory perception, the ability to sense future events.

The decision may delight believers in so-called paranormal events, but it is already mortifying scientists. Advance copies of the paper, to be published this year in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, have circulated widely among psychological researchers in recent weeks and have generated a mixture of amusement and scorn.

The paper describes nine unusual lab experiments performed over the past decade by its author, Daryl J. Bem, an emeritus professor at Cornell, testing the ability of college students to accurately sense random events, like whether a computer program will flash a photograph on the left or right side of its screen. The studies include more than 1,000 subjects.

Some scientists say the report deserves to be published, in the name of open inquiry; others insist that its acceptance only accentuates fundamental flaws in the evaluation and peer review of research in the social sciences.

"It's craziness, pure craziness. I can't believe a major journal is allowing this work in," Ray Hyman, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University Oregon and longtime critic of ESP research, said. "I think it's just an embarrassment for the entire field."

The editor of the journal, Charles Judd, a psychologist at the University of Colorado, said the paper went through the journal's regular review process. "Four reviewers made comments on the manuscript," he said, "and these are very trusted people."

All four decided that the paper met the journal's editorial standards, Dr. Judd added, even though "there was no mechanism by which we could understand the results."

But many experts say that is precisely the problem. Claims that defy almost every law of science are by definition extraordinary and thus require extraordinary evidence. Neglecting to take this into account --as conventional social science analyses do--makes many findings look far more significant than they really are, these experts say.<snip>


ESP Report Sets Off Debate on Data Analysis http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/science/11esp.html  

You Might Already Know This ...


They should have seen it coming.

In recent weeks, editors at a respected psychology journal have been taking heat from fellow scientists for deciding to accept a research report that claims to show the existence of extrasensory perception.

The report, to be published this year in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is not likely to change many minds. And the scientific critiques of the research methods and data analysis of its author, Daryl J. Bem (and the peer reviewers who urged that his paper be accepted), are not winning over many hearts.

Yet the episode has inflamed one of the longest-running debates in science. For decades, some statisticians have argued that the standard technique used to analyze data in much of social science and medicine overstates many study findings--often by a lot. As a result, these experts say, the literature is littered with positive findings that do not pan out: "effective" therapies that are no better than a placebo; slight biases that do not affect behavior; brain-imaging correlations that are meaningless.

By incorporating statistical techniques that are now widely used in other sciences--genetics, economic modeling, even wildlife monitoring--social scientists can correct for such problems, saving themselves (and, ahem, science reporters) time, effort and embarrassment.

"I was delighted that this ESP paper was accepted in a mainstream science journal, because it brought this whole subject up again," said James Berger, a statistician at Duke University. "I was on a mini-crusade about this 20 years ago and realized that I could devote my entire life to it and never make a dent in the problem."<snip>

The article continues with a pretty good overview of some of the problems of statistical inference, and Bayesian vs. classical analysis. These are very complex but very important matters. Much of the scientific community takes what is taught in statistics classes and applies it in a cookbook manner. This results in many errors, some very expensive.


NS 2794: Placebos can work even when you know they're fakes http://www.newscientist.com/
even-when-you-know-theyre-fakes.html  * 14:04 23 December 2010 by Jessica Hamzelou

There is little doubt that the placebo effect is real, but it has always been argued that a person feels better because they think the pill is the real deal. But what if it works even when you know it's a fake?

According to Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard Medical School and his colleagues at least one condition can be calmed by placebo, even when everyone knows it's just an inert pill. This raises a thorny question: should we start offering sugar pills for ailments without a treatment?

In the latest study, Kaptchuk tested the effect of placebo versus no treatment in 80 people with irritable bowel syndrome. Twice a day, 37 people swallowed an inert pill could not be absorbed by the body. The researchers told participants that it could improve symptoms through the placebo effect.

While 35 per cent of the patients who had not received any treatment reported an improvement, 59 per cent of the placebo group felt better. "The placebo was almost twice as effective as the control," says Kaptchuk. "That would be a great result if it was seen in a normal clinical trial of a drug."

Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, UK, thinks that "the size of the benefit is too small to be clinically relevant". Kaptchuk agrees and wants to run some larger trials to get a better picture of the effect.

If a dummy pill can improve IBS, shouldn't we be exploring its effect on other ailments? "It wouldn't work on a tumour or kill microbes, but it's likely to affect illnesses where self-appraisal is important, such as depression" says Kaptchuk.<snip>

The more interesting question is why not try it on tumours and microbes? Like Chicken Soup it couldn't hurt... Here, have some snake oil---

(and see below)



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Sunday, January 16, 2011      

Paramilitary: Mobilizing The Ancients,


You and I are too old, but for the rest of you, “if you are an adult American male between the ages of 17 and 45, you are part of the militia, whether you knew it or not, whether or not you want to be, and whether or not you are armed:”


The first part of the story has to do with using recently retired military and National Guard soldiers to augment the National Guard in times of need. But then it goes on to discuss “the Militia Act of 1903 (popularly known as the Dick Act), the unorganized militia.”

So, the Second Amendment (not discussed in the article) actually makes some sense. Certainly if someone had been armed, she might have put a stop to the recent bloodshed in Arizona, just as the armed sergeant put a stop to the killing at Ft Hood. Funny that arguments about gun control never mention the fact that because the sergeant was armed she was able to intervene.



Rounding Up the Guns - Interview - National Review Online - 

John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0226493660/jerrypournellcha>  , was interviewed by National Review Online regarding Loughner. One key comment closely mirrors yours:

While Loughner had an arrest record and exhibited strange behavior, he was not a convicted criminal, and had not been involuntarily committed, and had not been deemed as a risk to himself or others. Do people really want to forbid gun ownership to law-abiding individuals who have never been convicted of a crime?

Lott covers significant other related factual territory in the interview, a good thing given the general hysteria surrounding many of the statements and legislative proposals regarding firearms being made in the wake of the Tucson atrocity.

Rounding Up the Guns (an interview with John Lott) <http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/257026/rounding-guns-interview


Jim Riticher

Clearly there are those who think that the Tucson crisis should not be wasted. It's an opportunity to increase state power and restrict freedom in the name of safety and public order.


Stuxnet Worm Used Against Iran Was Tested in Israel - NYTimes.com


I know that you will be shocked, shocked to learn “By the accounts of a number of computer scientists, nuclear enrichment experts and former officials, the covert race to create Stuxnet was a joint project between the Americans and the Israelis, with some help, knowing or unknowing, from the Germans and the British:”


Apparently a joint effort between Israel and the US. This bit is choice:

“The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart.”

“Officially, neither American nor Israeli officials will even utter the name of the malicious computer program, much less describe any role in designing it.” So who’s been talking to the NY Times?

“The attackers took great care to make sure that only their designated targets were hit,” he said. “It was a marksman’s job.”

“For example, one small section of the code appears designed to send commands to 984 machines linked together.

“Curiously, when international inspectors visited Natanz in late 2009, they found that the Iranians had taken out of service a total of exactly 984 machines that had been running the previous summer.

“But as Mr. Langner kept peeling back the layers, he found more — what he calls the “dual warhead.” One part of the program is designed to lie dormant for long periods, then speed up the machines so that the spinning rotors in the centrifuges wobble and then destroy themselves. Another part, called a “man in the middle” in the computer world, sends out those false sensor signals to make the system believe everything is running smoothly. That prevents a safety system from kicking in, which would shut down the plant before it could self-destruct.

“Code analysis makes it clear that Stuxnet is not about sending a message or proving a concept,” Mr. Langner later wrote. “It is about destroying its targets with utmost determination in military style.”

And lots more. It’s nice to know we have competent people working on stuff like this.


Well, you can infer the authorship of Stuxnet, but you can't be sure. You generally can tell from the tracks whether it was a fox or a wolf, but not always.


re: naval strike IRBM

Dear Jerry,

While it is understandable that the Chinese would try and develop such a weapon, I wouldn't be that afraid of it in the short and medium term if I were the US Navy - or the French Navy if it still deserved the name.

The only way I see it could be effective is if it were fitted with nuclear warheads, and no sane government would use nukes against US warships because I don't think there's any doubt in anybody's mind that this would entail retaliation in kind.

Even with nuclear warheads a naval strike ballistic missile is still a dubious proposition. Before you can launch any kind of weapon to strike a ship, you need to detect and acquire it first, that is you must know where it is precisely enough in space and time for the guidance package aboard the missile to be able to take over from your information. This takes a platform within direct line-of-sight to the target from the time you launch until the terminal guidance system can acquire the target for itself.

You can't do this with a satellite, so you have to do it with either a plane, ship or submarine.

If you're able to keep an emitting ship, plane or submarine within line of sight of a US carrier task force, why would you bother with naval strike ballistic missiles?

You have to keep in mind that missile warheads aren't very large, 1-2t is on the high end for an IRBM, and you want to sink 100,000t warships, so odds are you'll need several hits to ensure at least a mission kill and you'll have misses too - that's why I said earlier that nuclear warheads would likely be necessary.

When everything's said, such a weapon system sounds like it would only be effective in a surprise peacetime attack. Somehow I do not see the Chinese as being desperate enough to start a war with the US hoping they could win a decision before the other ten carriers come for vengeance.

Jean-Louis Beaufils, Paris


They've invented slow glass!


I remember when The Light of Other Days was published. Bob Shaw had an interesting concept. Now it looks like folks are getting to the point where they could make some:


“As the light passed through the rubidium atoms, they acted like a speed bump, slowing it down by a factor of 1,200. The 6-meter-long incoming light pulse was squashed like a Slinky, fitting into just 5 mm on the chip. Reducing the second laser’s intensity could slow light even more, potentially even bringing it to a stop, Schmidt said.”

Getting there, they are.



Fox shoots man,


Fox hunting is not illegal in Belarus, but now the foxes are shooting back:





Placebo? and Irritable Bowel Syndrome


If the Placebo is inert and does not change as it passes through the digestive tract is really a Placebo so far as IBS is concerned.

Perhaps a new treatment for IBS has been discovered. An inert pill shaped object taken at regular intervals. The clinical trial might involve several groups each taking pill shaped objects of different sizes and a group taking a "real" Placebo, a sugar pill that dissolves in the stomach.

Bob Holmes 

Actually that's not bad idea, but I cannot think of anyone who would fund that study.


General 'Black Jack' Pershing vs. Muslim Terrorists - Urban Legends,


I was going to send that Pershing article to my friends, but I didn’t want to link to your site. So I did a Google search to find the original. That’s how I found this - General 'Black Jack' Pershing vs. Muslim Terrorists – an Urban Legend:


There are other examples as well.


I'm sorry, I thought it obvious that the story was a legend at best. The US Army does not have the authority to do summary executions of 49 people letting one of them go. Back in Burma in the time of the grave of the hundred heads such things might have happened when there was no actual British commissioned officer present, but not likely: Kipling's poem describes nothing I know of that actually happened. There are stories of incidents like this in the early days of the British conquest in India, but even there it's likely that most such incidents, including people blown from a cann0n, were psychological warfare. The story of burying men wrapped in pigskin was certainly circulated, and it may even be that some burial details did that after a battle, but as a policy following execution? 

In any event, I did not include it because I thought the incident was true.


Are you spacey?


'Type professionals can get amusingly—if justifiably—overworked about spaces. "Forget about tolerating differences of opinion: typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong," Ilene Strizver, who runs a typographic consulting firm The Type Studio <http://thetypestudio.com/>  , once wrote <http://www.itcfonts.com/Ulc/4111/DoubleSpaces.htm>  . "When I see two spaces I shake my head and I go, Aye yay yay," she told me. "I talk about 'type crimes' often, and in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment. It's a pure sign of amateur typography." "A space signals a pause," says David Jury, the author of About Face: Reviving The Rules of Typography <http://www.amazon.com/gp/
=2880467985>  . "If you get a really big pause—a big hole—in the middle of a line, the reader pauses. And you don't want people to pause all the time. You want the text to flow." '

Charles Brumbelow

When I began writing in the days of the typewriter (I know, I know, no one remembers typewriters, but really they existed) I was taught that one typed two spaces after a period that ended a sentence. This made it clear to the typesetter that it was an actual sentence end and not just an abbreviation. I continued to do this after computers when I was submitting material on paper. After electronic submission became common (which was well into the 1980's) it became customary not to add two spaces after a period, and eventually the practice ended. I just looked this up in Skillin and Gay, and while I can't find where it says to terminate a sentence with a period and two spaces, I note that the professionally edited manuscripts used as illustrations all have a period followed by two spaces...

I no longer have the habit of two spaces after a period, but I developed it when I was using a typewriter as a direct result of a command by Robert Heinlein.


Detroit and Decay


"The city may abandon half its [remaining] schools to pay union benefits."

"Under the emergency plan, consolidated high-school class sizes would increase to 62 by 2014, "consistent with what students would expect in large university settings." Yet under the terms of the Detroit Federation of Teachers contract, the district must pay bonuses for class enrollment over 35, thus imposing some $11.1 million in new costs through 2014.

"Note that this dispensation carries about the same price tag as the school abandonment windfall: In other words, Detroit may end up destroying serviceable capital assets so it can pay its public workers more over the short term."

Detroit Decay Tour on Flickr


Charles Brumbelow







 read book now





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