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Mail 670 April 11 - 17, 2011







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Monday  April 11, 2011

Mariana Trench mistakes

Greetings and best wishes.

I listened to a recent TWIT pod-cast, and I heard some things that don't sound right.

This is my understanding: (1) People have been to the bottom of the Mariana Trench before. (2) Deep submersibles operate at atmospheric pressure on the inside. They are simply very strong.

Some relevant search keywords are: Bathyscaphe Trieste, Piccard, Mariana Trench, Challenger Deep

Bert Douglas

This refers to one of the items on the TWIT show I did yesterday, I defer to Mr. Douglas' familiarity with the subject, and actually to common sense. There is a good reason why scuba or even hard helmet divers have a limit to how deep they can go. SCUBA divers do balance internal pressure and external, which means that gasses dissolve in the blood stream very rapidly at the elevated pressures, which is what causes nitrogen narcosis and other such effectd. No one could live in a bathyscaphe that had an internal pressure of 100 atmospheres, or at least I don't think they could, and I should have thought of that. Some instrumented unmanned diving robots are internally pressurized, but clearly one with a crew aboard can't be. Apologies for being misleading.

I was not aware of previous expeditions to the bottom of the Marianas Trench, but that's not all that surprising. Actually I do recall them now, but I had forgotten knowing about them.

One of the neat things about the Internet is that if you get something wrong you're not stuck with being an uncorrected idiot. There will be someone out there who knows, and will offer the correction. My thanks.


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Best wishes to you and Mrs' Pournelle, You are both in my prayers,.

A quick heads up that the Federal government spends 100 Billion dollars not every twenty-nine days, but every two point nine days.

I imagine you slipped putitng in the decimal point. A typo. After all, you have been busy with important matters.

Hang in there!


As an old slide rule man I used to be very careful of decimal points. I should have checked this one. Thanks for the correction. Alas, that makes it worse, doesn't it? Trimming a billion doesn't do too much for the budget. A mere billion.


Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Hi-Res Photos - 


A reminder that hydrogen leaks / explosions are serious business!

The drone used to take the shots is pretty slick looking.


Jim Riticher

Very good pictures. I recommend them.


What's Happening in the  Space Business

Dr. Pournelle:

In the midst of all the foreign affairs excitement, our nation's space activities are getting the usual short shrift. The National Space Society's International Space Development Conference (Huntsville, Alabama, May 18-22) will be discussing developments in the private sector as well as what's going on with NASA, space solar power, and a host of other worthy topics. If you are unable to attend, I would appreciate it if you could at least inform your readership.

I will re-subscribe to Chaos Manor this evening. Your wisdom in the midst of turmoil is much appreciated!

Bart D. Leahy Conference Chairman ISDC 2011 http://isdc.nss.org/2011 

and Cheer Operations Ninja http://ScienceCheerleader.com <http://sciencecheerleader.com/

Since I founded the International Space Development Conference and was its first chairman in Los Angeles lo these many years ago, I am pleased to call attention to its continued existence.  I haven't been to one in a while.

Space development remains important to US development. More important than adventures in Libya.


Global Warming Evidence?, 



I am more inclined to accept that as evidence for global warming than much of the scientific evidence. Growing season lengths are important and repeated measurement is possible. I have never doubted that the earth is warmer now than it was in 1776, or that growing seasons now are longer than they were in 1776 or in 1820. The earth has steadily warmed since the end of the Little Ice Age, The Little Ice Age began in about 1320 with a long rainy season. It followed the Medieval Warm which stretched at least from 800 to 1300, during which Leif the Lucky discovered Greenland and Nova Scotia,, and established colonies on both.

As to what causes that warming I am less confident that I know an answer. It seems to have begun before the industrial revolution and the subsequent rise in CO2.  I will repeat that I find the rapid increase of CO2 a matter of concern, and I think we should be doing research on industrial techniques to reduce CO2 by reabsorbing it or growing it into plankton,  But that is another matter.


 Letter from England

The next report will be a Letter from Crete!

"We do not understand how a country, for whose universities and higher education we have the greatest respect, can produce people who seem to be acting without thinking, let alone making serious efforts to investigate the consequences of their actions." <http://tinyurl.com/4yf428w

Reality has a way of trumping policy: <http://tinyurl.com/66yvwuo

Fees policy descends into chaos as the bottom universities charge top fees. <http://tinyurl.com/3p84u3p

My impression over the last ten years is that UK education is a good deal narrower than US education and not a great deal deeper. Recently, I was in a meeting with a biotech company. A wide-ranging technical discussion got going that went completely over the heads of the UK participants--if you've ever seen Bones, imagine the way the squint discuss evidence in a case, but this time for real. If your people are too narrowly trained, they simply can't keep up when the international competition has broad training to the same depth. That, more than anything else, seems to be the British disease.

"If academic research is not devoted to finding the truth, it is a form of propaganda, and not necessarily to be preferred to other forms, much cheaper and perhaps more persuasive." (Russell 1993) State plans for humanities research: <http://tinyurl.com/3bpukw9

Prime Minister launches a new push to convince the public that the NHS needs reforming. The public remains unconvinced. <http://tinyurl.com/3r2kgm8

Target culture: <http://tinyurl.com/66495s8

-- Harry Erwin


CIA, Al Qaeda, Libya

Anyone paying attention knows that CIA and Special Forces were on the ground before this nonsense happened. I already mailed--and you published--the video where the CIA officer explained that we are funding Al Qaeda in Libya against Gadhafi.

Now if that didn't give you the giggles, check this out: http://www.miamiherald.com/

The new Libyan Rebel Leader lived for the last 20 years in suburban VA and according to a former Military Intelligence Analyst, the leader is CIA. Even if the leader isn't CIA, it doesn't change the implications of the data points. I can already hear the nay sayers and their trade mark slogans, but the reality seems clear.

The Muslim world has been saying that Bin Laden is a character, like Emmanuel Goldstien, and yeah I understand how intelligence works. I know there is a "scary world" of "twisted alliances" that "normal people" cannot grasp, etc. and I get all the spooky, secret squirrel stuff. All that aside, this situation is out of control and people need to start recognizing that before it will get better. "They" have lost their touch. Epic fail!


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

I would not entirely sell short the Company. There are some good people in there. Supervised largely by idiots, but then there are some bright people at top levels. It's all very strange and 'twas ever thus.

But see below


Incompetence or malice


Mr. Bonaparte notwithstanding, I have reluctantly reached the same conclusion as your anonymous correspondent: “..Mr. Obama has as his principal purpose the abject violation of the explicit meaning of his oath of office….” Unfortunately, I fear your correspondent understates the case when he says Mr. Obama’s Middle East policies serve this purpose. I cannot identify any policy from Mr. Obama, foreign or domestic, which doesn’t serve to undermine the Republic of the United States militarily, economically, and/or socially.

I’m sure you remember the quip from the seventies: “I can’t prove Jimmy Carter is a Soviet agent, but if he were, what would he do differently?” I would be much relieved if you or your highly intelligent readers posted a few examples for Mr. Obama.

Come to think of it, you had better leave my name off this if you happen to post it.

A Proud Subscriber


Fukushima NRC report

Hi Jerry,

The NRC report on Fukushima is here: http://bit.ly/eEDZn1  <http://bit.ly/eEDZn1

The report indicates the spent fuel pools may have gotten damaged enough to scatter nuclear fuel around the site, which is not good, as this is the primary source of airborne emissions.

It also indicates the reactors are in very tenuous shape and so hot that working near them is not practical.

TEPCO too is quite open about that issue: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110407006089.htm 

Toshiba is speaking of a 10 year cleanup: http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/04/84098.html  <http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/04/84098.html

It does not seem to be improving much. Meanwhile, the damage from the emissions is increasing steadily.

Not a satisfactory situation by any means.

Separately, so much agree with your take on our Libya involvement. Were we not warned from childhood about the pavement of the road to hell?

Very best regards,

Wolfgang Demisch

Not improving much is a relative term, Actually it is improving enormously. It will take years, but so far the only injuries have been to plant workers. This was no disaster other than financial, and 9.0 earthquakes tend to be financial disasters...


Now for some good news

An Important Announcement from Michael Murray regarding Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind

I am very happy to give you this message from Michael Murray, the biographer of Jacques Barzun:

"Dear Leo, my biography of Jacques Barzun is available as a Kindle book on the amazon.com website. Would you kindly let our fellow Barzun enthusiasts know? --Michael"


Though the book is published for the Kindle e-reader -- which is probably how Jacques will read it -- you can also read it on your PC, Mac, iPad, or smart phone with free Kindle software available for these devices.

lw -- murphywong.net

I have been a fan of Jacques Barzun since high school when I read his -- still important and readable -- Teacher in America.  He is one of the sanest men in America.


They're Stealing Our Secret Weapons!

Dear Jerry,

While it's the stuff of potboiler novels, always makes a great tabloid headline, and allows politicians to grandstand, the Other Side stealing our technology "secrets" is the way of the world. "Secret" weapons are never (well, hardly ever. See "Greek Fire" which is still a secret, in that we think we know what it was, but who knows for sure?) secret for long.

You use your "secret" weapon once, and immediately the enemy knows its possible. That's ninety per cent of the game right there. The other ten per cent is some good research, both of the original variety as well as looking closely through Open Sources such as the technical literature and popular journals such as Aviation Week and Space Technology (which is traditionally so useful in this regard it has been referred to as "Aviation Leak"), and a dash of espionage.

The best successful example of stealing technology is the Soviet A-Bomb project. But they were working on that well before they knew about the American Manhattan Project A-weapon effort,. While the data the Soviets stole with their very successful Atom Spy Ring helped greatly, it probably amounted to about a year or two in time saved. The biggest secret of the A-Bomb was that it could be done with current engineering technology of the nineteen-forties variety. The science had been settled in Berlin with Hahn and Meissner in 1939.

The best example of a failure in using stolen secrets \was also Soviet. By 1945 they had two or three B-29 bombers, impounded when their crews landed in Soviet territory as a last resort when they could not return to their Pacific island bases after missions over Japan. Stalin ordered Tupolev, his top heavy bomber designer, to reverse engineer the B-29 and produce a Soviet version.

Tupolev had a superior aircraft already largely designed, and attempted to persuaded Stalin to develop it rather than copy the American plane, but Uncle Joe would have none of it. He was convinced the American's must have designed something far superior to anything a mere Russian might have, and so Tupoev diverted ten thousand factories, and two years of effort, to produce the "B-29ski" TU-4 heavy bomber, which first flew in May of 1947.

So the Russians at the start of the Cold War had the best bomber of World War two for their strategic air forces, while the US had moved on to produce the first jet powered strategic bomber, the B-47, the mainstay of SAC well into the sixties, as well as the all magnesium super-bomber B-36, the first heavy with the ability to fly from US bases to Soviet targets non-stop.

The Soviet bomber force never recovered, and was largely relegated to a naval strike role by the late sixties.

The reason we must have a strategy of technology, why we need always be at the bleeding edge, well beyond cutting, is because you never keep your secrets. The best you can hope for is to be The Best There Is For The Moment.

As the man said, there is nothing so expensive as a second best military in the world.


We covered that in Strategy of Technology which was a textbook in the service academies at one tome. The river of technology flows endlessly, and you cannot sit still: You must keep up.


Bathyscaphe Trieste and Mariana's Trench

Jerry. The Trieste’s trip to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana’s Trench was in 1960 OVER 50 YEARS AGO. We haven’t been back. Seems depressingly familiar somehow.

John Hartman


This is ridiculous. How could the government do this?!

Check your Driver's License

I already removed mine. I suggest you all do the same. Now you can see anyone's Driver's License on the Internet, including your own! I just searched for mine and there it was...picture and all!

Thanks, Homeland Security! Go to the web site and check it out. It's unbelievable!!! Just enter your name, city and state to see if yours is on file.

After your license comes on the screen, click the box marked "Please Remove." This will remove it from public viewing, but not from law enforcement. Please notify all your friends so they can protect themselves too.

Believe me, they will thank you for it.


Shocking. BUT NOTE:

Some believe that this place is collecting names and emails of people who have driving licenses to build a spam list. Discussion below. In my case if so they have it, but it is hard to believe there is anyone who wants to know who don't know I live in Studio City California, since it's in many of my books. But Fair Warning.======================

Reid lies. Social Security dies.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday disputed warnings that Social Security is headed for bankruptcy, calling those assertions an “outright lie.” And he says the huge federal entitlement program has not added “one penny” to the federal deficit.

but CNS observes

Because there is no cash in the Social Security trust funds, any deficits the program runs, including the 2010 deficit – and those projected into the future – must be repaid from current tax revenue.

Steve Chu

Cheer up. We'll have runaway inflation long before that happens. That will fix everything.


Indian outsourcer using jailed prisoners, including murderers, for call-center customer service representatives. What could possibly go wrong?


--- Roland Dobbins



Charles Murray

Hi Oh my, the AEI and Charles. Priceless. You understand that if you accept his thesis we know exactly who to blame for the coming, soon, disintergration of the USA and it's empire.


I am not sure I understand this message, but I gather you do not care for Charles Murray. I suspect that is because you have not read him. Agree with him or not, no one is more meticulous about presenting his data and making his reasoning clear.

I am unclear as to which thesis you think explains just what. I fear I am unrepentant in my recommendation of Murray's work: I have not said I agree with everything he has said, but I do think his arguments deserve answer -- or at least a clear statement of what is disagreed with.


March Temperature 



April 5th blog entry

March global average temperature -0.099 Celsius (relative to 30 year average 1981-2010). Monthly global cooling 0.08 Celsius. Biggest change was in the Southern hemisphere with the tropics effectively unchanged.


A significant up tick in sun spot number (40 - 81 averaged for month) and in solar RF flux. However, one of the knowledgeable amateurs I consult says that some metrics suggest an early and low peak of solar activity for this cycle, which certainly matches past comparable long cycles. Time will tell.


I think it is nearly certain that the temperature of the earth has been rising since 1776. How much is at issue.  I still fear cooling and the return of the Ice Age far more than the runaway heating. I am more concerned that we are not trying to find mechanisms for using up the excess CO2 just in case. It's likely to be biological, of course.



Web of trust (WOT) ( http://www.mywot.com/en/
scorecard/license.shorturl.com)  warned me not to go there. They indicate it may be a phishing site. Maybe your other readers know more?

Christopher Johnson

MSgt, USAF Retired

I use Firefox with popup blocking. I didn't see any popups blocked, and I can't think what they are phishing for since they didn't make me any propositions. I do have Microsoft Security Essentials installed and keep it updated.


I now have a number of messages from people warning me that this may be a site collecting names for spamming. In my case I suspect I am on every spam list in captivity, so I doubt I have told them anything they didn't know, but they do ask for your name, state, and town. I found it amusing, but I guess I don't advise you to go to that site.




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Tuesday,  April 12, 2011

I Like Chaos Manor Being Moderated


My experience on interacting on the web is that moderated sites have high signal to noise, and I don't have to sort through a lot of dross.

I appreciate that you post what you deem important. It gives a distinctive "Pournelle flavor" that I happen to like very much.

My friend Jerry Weinberg ran a closed forum for many years. The subscription and the closed nature of the forum allowed an additional level of safety and comfort for people to raise issues that were sometimes sensitive in nature. It worked much like the View portion of Chaos Manor. Most of the writing was done by the forum members with Jerry's own take on the posts that added a great deal.

From the forum's content a couple of books were written and very well received by most who read them. Unfortunately they didn't sell too many copies: "Roundtable on Project Management: A SHAPE Forum" and "Roundtable on Technical Leadership: A SHAPE Forum Dialogue"

I own them both; I did not contributor to either book. I highly recommend them.

Keep up the good work at Chaos Manor!

Perhaps if you still have interns or associate editors that could plow through Chaos Manor, I think a high quality book or two could be produced. I know I would enjoy reading it(them).

Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE

I really have no intention of changing the rules here. I ran conferences on Genie these many years ago: GE hired moderators but even so it took so much time that it wasn't worth it except as an experiment in developing the web. I contend that Chaos Manor Mail is among the best mail forums on the web. Thanks for the kind words.

I have thought of mining previous Views to make up short books on various topics to be offered as eBooks. Thanks for reminding me.


For Your Pleasure


Wonderful pictures of clouds!


Regards, Charles Adams


Funding those Libyans 

Dear Jerry,

Joshua Jordan claims, in MAIL for 4/11/11, the CIA is funding Al Qaeda in Libya.

Mr. Jordan states his information comes from a source the link to which was posted by you recently.

If he refers to the CNN interview with former CIA employee Michael Scheuer, a link to which was posted in MAIL last week, then Mr. Jordan is mistaken. Scheuer made no such claim in that interview.

Call me a naysayer if you wish, but I would like to see the source for his extraordinary claim.

As you pointed out, there are more than a few good people at The Company, and plenty of not very bright ones in charge/. So it is not impossible for a Very Stupid policy to be proposed and even implemented.

I tend to follow the old dictum about intelligence work and the press, "Those who know, don't talk; those who don't know, talk."




For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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This week:


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Wednesday, April 13, 2011



A very sensible report on Fukushima in The Register:- http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/12/fukushima_ffs/ 

My best wishes to Roberta.

John Edwards


Two good articles to send to Chicken Little types regarding Fukushima Daiichi. Based on comments I am seeing on some forums, there are a fair number of them out there.

Mummy, mummy, there's a nuclear monster! Go back to BED! No more stories from Auntie Fear for you <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/12/fukushima_ffs/>  --Lewis Page, The Register

Even After Level 7 Rating, Fukushima Is Not Another Chernobyl <http://www.japanprobe.com/
rating-fukushima-is-not-another-chernobyl/>  --Japan Probe


Jim Riticher

Well, of course it's not Chernobyl. Ah well. Thanks.


“This internal black hole domain, hidden by two horizons from the whole external universe, is indeed a suitable place.”



--- Roland Dobbins


"If interstellar violence is possible, the bad news is that all societies are required to constrain their endeavours to activities that could never be detected at a distance."



--- Roland Dobbins


'The Washington Post' provides proof positive of AGW

Hello Jerry,

Today you had a link in 'Mail' to a WAPO article that finally drove stakes through the hearts of the 'deniers' by quoting several people describing how flowers were blooming earlier and earlier each year. Some years.

Given the testimony of the flowers, the following is obviously meaningless, but interesting (to me, anyway) nevertheless.

I live in the country about 70 miles west of DC. About four miles down the road from my house lives a gentleman who is 'into' Purple Martins. There is a nationwide organization of Martin enthusiasts, many of whom put out dozens of Martin houses and in fact attract flocks of Martins to their back yards. I am interested in Martins to the extent that I put out a Martin apartment in the hopes of attracting enough to eat enough of my yard bugs to make themselves obese. I also like to watch them fly.

One of the most exciting events in the Purple Martin community is the arrival of the first scouts in the spring. These are dutifully reported to Martin Headquarters, which publishes them and uses the reports to track the northward migration of the Martins.

Now Martins eat bugs. More specifically, flying bugs. While they are flying. No bugs, no Martins. Bugs are 'temperature sensitive'. If it is cold, they don't fly. If they don't fly, the Martins don't eat. So the Martin scouts move north ensuring that bugs are available for the main troop. If it is cold, they aren't.

Which brings me to the point (finally). The gentleman down the road from me (who I have never met or corresponded with) is VERY conscientious about reporting scout arrival. After all, EVERYONE wants to be the first to report in their area. With all of the above in mind, here are the arrival dates in my area for the first scouts as reported by him the last five years:

2007 13 March
2008 19 March
2009 24 March
2010 31 March
2011 4 April

I wouldn't want the Martins to get in trouble for contradicting their flower friends, but it IS data and it is reported by someone with no obvious 'climate change' agenda of either variety. He just watches his Martin houses closely and reports when the first ones show up in the spring. And it is not anecdotal; it is actually hard data reported by a conscientious observer. What does it mean? Probably at least as much (or more) than anecdotal reports of 'I saw a flower the first week in March this year.' 4-5 consecutive days of warm weather early in an otherwise record cold spring will get you early flowers. They will not get you early Martins.

Bob Ludwick

Interesting. There are also records of the ice breakup in streams across the country, but I have not collected that data. At one time that was a reliable way to look at climate trends. The Farmer's Almanac used to collect such.

I am convinced the Earth has been getting warmer for a couple of centuries. I do not see the evidence for how fast it is getting warmer. And lately -- has it been getting colder? I sure don't know.


CNBC figuring out that nukes are OK? 


OK. CNBC's Fast Money did a piece on “Nuclear Power Fears at New Heights Despite Safety, Viability:”


“But among the most intriguing stats that Downs includes in his report is that “the average coal plant releases 100 times more annual radiation than a comparable nuclear plant.”

It seems that the MSM finally has caught on. Wonder why?


Someone slipped up?


Bathyscaphe Trieste


I was living on the island of Guam in 1960 when Jacques Piccard and LT Don Walsh dove in bathyscaphe Trieste to the bottom of the Challenger Deep (Mariana Trench).

I was eight years old and in third grade at the Adelup School and we did a field trip to see the Trieste before her record setting dive.

As I recall, the spherical steel wall of the Trieste's crew chamber was roughly four feet thick. There was a single glass porthole that was only a few inches wide at the interior wall and almost a foot wide at the exterior wall. The interior diameter of the crew chamber was only about six feet tall; Jacques Piccard was much taller than Dad, and Dad was 6 feet tall. Trieste had two steel shot tanks with steel balls as ballast, held in by a failsafe magnetic field; if the electricity failed, the steel balls poured out, and the Trieste would return to the surface. I think this happened about a month before I turned nine on 19 FEB 1960.

As this happened over a half century ago, my memories may be somewhat less than accurate. Memory is a fragile thing...

My father was a personal friend of Don Walsh. One afternoon, my family was relaxing at Tarague Beach. Dad saw Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard there. Since I loved the ocean and oceanography, Dad walked over and introduced me to them. Jacques Piccard took time to tell me what it was like at the bottom of the Challenger Deep. I was quite excited...


Rodger Morris NSWC PHD International Military Student Officer (IMSO)


Deep Water Exploration 

Dear Jerry,

Yes, it has been over half a century since the bathyscaphe Trieste went to the deepest point of the world ocean in 1960, and safely returned its two man crew to sun and air.

As noted, "we" have not been back. One reason is that the Trieste two man crew, Piccard and Walsh, were very lucky to get back.


"At 32,400 feet the bathyscaphe is shaken by a loud but muffled explosion, rocking Trieste’s cabin like a small earthquake. Has the bathyscaphe crashed into a rocky ledge on the trench wall? Has the float been punctured, causing Trieste’s precious gasoline buoyancy to leak into the ocean, dooming the Piccard and Walsh to an inescapable death on the deep seafloor? They don’t know it yet, but the explosion was caused by the cracking of a window in the bathyscaphe’s entrance tunnel."

The Challenger deep has been visited twice since 1860, by two unmanned vehicles- a Japanese robotic craft, "Kaiko', in 1995 and an ROV, "Nereus", in 2009.



MYSTERY of huge Canadian chicken-shed EXPLOSION, 


The Mounties have confessed themselves baffled after a Canadian chicken shed blew up in a huge, devastating explosion whose shockwaves were "felt across southern Manitoba", according to reports:


“The Red River Valley Echo has the story, reporting that a "large chicken barn which used to be part of the landscape" exploded in a "massive cloud of smoke" last week.

"It was like somebody chopped it up into little pieces and just flung it everywhere," local resident Joyce Penner told the paper, adding that the detonating 5,000 foot2 building had caused the "loudest boom" she had ever heard in her life. The explosion blew in her kitchen windows, dished in the wall of her house, left power cables trailing on the ground nearby and lifted her garage from its foundations – though fortunately no one was hurt.

The "big boom" apparently rumbled all across southern Manitoba, a vast prairie province in central Canada. The Echo reports that people "as far away as Lowe Farm, Winkler, Carman, Homewood and Altona" heard and felt the blast.”

More: http://www.altonaecho.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3071368 

“The Morris area woman says she's lucky to be alive after a chicken barn exploded just 50 feet from her house.”

Back to The Reg:

“It would appear that the bizarre, devastating chicken-shed explosion of Manitoba may continue to baffle even the famously persistent Mounties. In years to come people may speak of it alongside Roswell, the Mary Celeste and suchlike strange happenings.

“Or then again maybe not.”


You can make a fuel air explosion of just about any flammable powder, as witness silo explosions. Chicken offal can make a very fine dust in the right circumstances. Only guessing, of course.


Re: "...spending reductions in the tax code."


Here is the text of Obama's speech concerning the federal deficit.


His second to last paragraph:

"This is my approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next twelve years. It’s an approach that achieves about $2 trillion in spending cuts across the budget. It will lower our interest payments on the debt by $1 trillion. It calls for tax reform to cut about $1 trillion in spending from the tax code. And it achieves these goals while protecting the middle class, our commitment to seniors, and our investments in the future."

What does it mean when you cut spending from the tax code? Does it mean eliminating spending stipulated in the tax code, perhaps by eliminating or reducing the IRS? No, as he makes clear throughout his speech. Instead it is the philosophy being spoken that any money that is not taken from you in the form of taxes is considered "spending". If you think that is a misinterpretation of his intention, refer to this in paragraph 11:

"Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts – tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade."

Regardless of who it is being taxed or how just or unjust you consider those taxes, referring to "unpaid-for tax cuts" is simply dishonest word smithing. When your income goes down you do not refer to an "unpaid-for salary cut". You might, though, speak of an "unpaid for refrigerator" if you bought it on credit after your salary cut. In the following paragraph he emphasizes the point: "...if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts..." And elsewhere "The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code." and "Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions."

In the closing paragraph, second to last sentence, he repeats the slight of hand:

"If, by 2014, our debt is not projected to fall as a share of the economy – or if Congress has failed to act – my plan will require us to come together and make up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code."

He plan is four-fold: 1) Savings in domestic spending building on the agreement reached last week, 2) Savings in defense spending, 3) Saving in health care spending by reducing the cost of health care, and 4) Reduce spending in the tax code.

Most of Obama's speech is very adversarial. Spending cuts will only hurt Americans, especially the middle class. Hundreds of billions will be saved by tackling waste, fraud, and abuse (without using that term). Using that approach and others that will reduce costs, all of his health care promises will be kept while reducing what that all costs.

If I thought that Mr. Obama believed most of what he asserts I would say that he is engaging in magical thinking, but I doubt he believes very much of it. When you read the entire speech and see the amounts and the time frames coupled with the supposed outcomes that he is speaking of you will see what I mean. What is clear is that he believes that government makes (or can and should make) various things happen by dictate, and government is the trustee of all resources. When government does not take certain monies from you in the form of taxes, that is the equivalent of spending that money on you. Spending that money on you by allowing you to keep it.

That is certainly not the philosophy upon which this country was founded, nor upon which it has prospered, meaning upon which its inhabitants have prospered. Good government has an essential place in a healthy and prospering society. History has shown that government is always striving to bloat and morph itself into overbearing, over-controlling, bad government. I hope that enough people see the folly of unlimited promises that the government will make everything right for the fools gold that it is.

Regards, George

I suspect Mr. Obama is perfectly capable of believing six impossible things before breakfast...


Subj: Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Seen on Drudge


<snip>Inflation, using the reporting methodologies in place before 1980, hit an annual rate of 9.6 percent in February, according to the Shadow Government Statistics newsletter.

Since 1980, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has changed the way it calculates the CPI in order to account for the substitution of products, improvements in quality (i.e. iPad 2 costing the same as original iPad) and other things. Backing out more methods implemented in 1990 by the BLS still puts inflation at a 5.5 percent rate and getting worse, according to the calculations by the newsletter’s web site, Shadowstats.com.

“Near-term circumstances generally have continued to deteriorate,” said John Williams, creator of the site, in a new note out Tuesday. “Though not yet commonly recognized, there is both an intensifying double-dip recession and a rapidly escalating inflation problem. Until such time as financial-market expectations catch up with underlying reality, reporting generally will continue to show higher-than-expected inflation and weaker-than-expected economic results in the month and months ahead.”<snip>




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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tax Time







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Friday,  April 15, 2011

Tax Day






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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Navy Energy Officials Predict Biofuels Will Be Cost-Competitive by 2020 - 


"The Navy's goal is ambitious: By 2020, half of the service's total energy requirement will come from alternative sources. To meet the challenge, industry must produce 8 million barrels of alternative fuels annually,"

I hope this works out. What I appreciated about the article, is that it didn't seem to focus on corn-bred biomass,

"The technology is "ripe" for industry to produce biofuels in quantity, said a General Atomics representative as he stood behind vials of switchgrass and jars of algae and biofuel on display in the exhibit hall"

"The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding an expansion of its half-acre phototropic algae production facility on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The larger facility will house eight acres of algae ponds and associated equipment to scale up its production of biofuels by the end of the year. A commercially viable facility would require 1,000 acres to 5,000 acres to produce biofuels adequate to meet the demand."

So much military deployment, rightly or wrongly, is tied up in oil-producing lands. Using corn or otherwise arable lands to produce biomass for fuel is short-sighted as you just can't eat fuel directly. If the algae ponds are able to be sited on non-arable lands then it is a gain all around.

It would be a neat trick if, in the future, the process is able to be scaled back down such that a specialized ship in a squadron, or an easily assembled support facility on land, could help limit the number of refuelings required by the deployed military units. Obviously there would be other issues, but it would be nice if possible.

I believe that this may be a near-term answer to oil imports for the US. I don't know how the carbon counts will work out. Hopefully it will work out at least to a wash with the algae fixing carbon then using the fuel releasing it.

I hope Mrs. Pournelle is feeling better.


I recall being enthusiastic about biofuels in Strategy of Technology days. The numbers don't look all that bad.


The War Nerd on the US Navy's lasers.


-- Roland Dobbins

see mail tomorrow


New Rail Gun Rounds Zip Through Steel at 1 Mile a Second

The video was impressive...

The "sabot" round uses a three stage mechanism that sends a dart-like shell hurdling at amazing speeds and distances-a General Atomics rep claimed over four miles, perfectly straight, even after smashing through a steel plate.


Bill Shields

Impressive indeed


Would You Sign My Kindle?


- Roland Dobbins


On autographing ebooks

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I just read this:


and thought it might interest you. Good luck with the tax man.

Regards, Tim Scott

Sounds like an interesting idea, but I have been unable to figure out how to actually do it. I presume I have to take my iPad to a place with a WiFi network and log that in; then apparently there may be an ap but I couldn't figure out which one. The notion that a reader might get a picture with me and send it to my iPad where I sign it and sent to his iPhone is interesting but it sure seems complicated. We'd be there all day...


TSA patdown

"Watching the video raises the question: what did they think they would discover?"

What they thought they would discover is what the American people mean when we say "the government should do what it takes to keep us safe."

What we mean is that we don't actually *mean* it.

-- Mike T. Powers

I do not myself think that patting down 6 year old girls accompanied by their families makes us safer. It may make us feel more "equal" or some such, but do you really believe we are safer for it? Can you imagine a scenario in which the little girl is actually carrying something dangerous that will be discovered by that procedure?


New Earthlike planet discovered 

Gliese 581C, a planet in the Habitable Zone of a red dwarf about twebty light years from Earth.


Surface temperature range of zero to forty Centigrade (thirty two to one hundred four Fahrenheit).



Scientists Discover Wild Solar Energy Effect, Allows Power Without Cells:


If true, it is quite promising.


The if true is the operative part. We can all wish, but it is not very likely.


Exposures of the Fukushima workers have been released:


<snip> In parliament Wednesday, Senior Vice Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Yoko Komiyama, told his colleagues that 22 employees at the Fukushima complex had been exposed to more than 100 millisieverts of radiation. The highest level of exposure among the workers was 198.24 millisieverts.

Background radiation levels of one to 1.5 millisieverts every year are normal, while nuclear workers are generally allowed exposures of up to 20 millisieverts annually. <snip>

This is presumably during the one month following the incident.

For us cavemen who studied health physics before the common advent of SI units in the US, 100 millisieverts = 10 REM.

It should be noted that the worthies who continue to bring the cores down will continue to have increased exposure, but on an exponentially decreasing curve as the short-lived byproducts continued to decay.

Wiki has a number of relevant cross-linked pages, of which the following are noteworthy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionizing_radiation  Basic definitions. Includes brief discussion of hormesis.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_(radiation)  points out that Chernobyl workers are believed to have taken 200,000 mSv/hour doses of radiation, 1000 times what the Fukushima workers have received in a month. So, Virginia, Fukushima is NOT Chernobyl.

Direct correlations of cancer risk with acute radiation exposure levels are not shown on Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer#Radiation  covers the subject qualitatively by discussing papers (apparently based on linear-no-threshold response models not considering hormesis) which estimate significant increases in future cancer risk due to increasing uses of CAT scans. This cited the report abstracted here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20008689.  This study used the National Research Council's Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) Report from 2005 found here: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11340  (can be read online) with a pdf summary available for download from that page. From the BEIR summary:

1) A linear no threshold response model is assumed.

'2) The BEIR does not consider hormesis, but notes (page 9 of summary):

"Some of the materials the committee reviewed included arguments that low doses of radiation are more harmful than a LNT model of effects would suggest. The BEIR VII committee has concluded that radiation health effects research, taken as a whole, does not support this view."

3) The curve ES-1 of the report (ironically taken from data of the nuclear attack survivors) shows that persons exposed to 1000 mSv of acute radiation have approximately 50% greater risk of developing cancer over the ensuring 30 years after exposure than that of persons not so exposed.

(Of course, it should also be noted, per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sievert,  that the annual average dose is about 7 mSv/year, or about 500 mSv/lifetime, and can be 10 times that in locations with high background radiation.




What I'd like to know about is the vetting process for a presidential candidate. It appears that it it less rigorous than that of obtaining a Top Secret security clearance.

Given that the President is the Commander- in-Chief, it would seem that the process should be at least as rigorous.

-Jim S.

But who enforces it other than Congress? You are dealing with the most fundamental parts of constitutional government. Good government is a blessing from God; it doesn't just happen automatically.


Birth Certificate -

While I agree with you that deposing a sitting president is an act of civil war I don't think removing Obama from office is main point of Trump's call for a birth certificate.

I think the Obama birth certificate debate is about the NEXT election.

The Arizona legislature just passed a law that requires proof of birth before your name can go on their presidental ballot. This is a states rights issue and should make a GREAT surpreme court case. As I read the constitution the individual states get to decide how candidates are allowed on the ballot and how the electoral votes are distributed.

It should be simple to produce your birth certificate. I have mine. If I lose it I can get a copy from the state of Texas.

Obama should produce a copy of his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. This is a very straight forward request. If he changed his name and is trying to hide the fact I think that's an important piece of data that voters need to know.

If Arizona refuses to honor a birth certificate from Hawaii for some reason ... that will make another great case for the Supreme Court.

  ----- Jim Coffey

The Electoral College could adopt procedures. Or Congress could. But once the College has acted we cannot entrust such matters to courts.


Taxing the rich

Dr. Pournelle,

In connection with President Obama's plan to deliver free stuff for everyone by taxing "the rich", I expect you have seen this:


but perhaps some of your readers have not.

It makes the point in a fairly unmistakable way.

Stay well!

Andrew Duffin

We also ought to worry about feeding the family on whatever the government leaves you when things collapse.


Taxes & GDP

Dr. Pournelle --

I seem to recall that, typically, the federal government has taken in about 19% of GDP regardless of the height of the top tax bracket. Why it is not obvious to some that the key factor to increasing revenues is to focus on getting the GDP to increase is beyond my understanding.

Of course, the definition of who deserves the moniker of "rich" is apparently changing. When I was a child, anyone who made $250k/yr certainly was rich but years of inflation have changed that.

Today, $250k/yr is rich. Will it be $150k/yr tomorrow? An obvious question, to me at least, is when will they start looking at the 47% of households who currently pay no taxes - or even make money off the tax system - as an untapped resource? It isn't unreasonable to ask these people to pay their share as well.

But then, "the government that robs Peter to pay Paul is assured of the support of Paul."

But Peter is, I think, getting tired of working for someone else's benefit.


Obama's plan will make that 24% of GDP as normal. Parkinson concluded that if government disposes of much more than 10% of GDP, things will deteriorate, or as he put it, it is time for the Israelites to study the atlas.... Only now there is no place to go. And when things collapse, 24% won't be enough. Nor will the 76% left to the populace.


This Just In


 ----- Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

 Percussa Resurgo

Not a big surprise...


Chicken sh!^

> You can make a fuel air explosion of just about any flammable
> powder, as witness silo explosions. Chicken offal can make a
> very fine dust in the right circumstances. Only guessing,
> of course.

Or methane from fermenting chicken sh!t. Just some really rough calculations off the top of my head...

5,000 square foot building, so call it 50,000 cubic feet. About 28 liters per cubic foot, so call it 1,400,000 liters. IIRC, the LEL of methane is about 5%, so let's say it made it up to 10%, or 140,000 liters of methane. At standard conditions, there are 22.4 liters per mole, so that's 6,250 moles of methane. At about 16 grams/mole, that's 100 kilograms of methane. Oxidation of methane is exothermic, to the tune of about 900 kJ/mol, so that's 5,625,000 kJ, or about the same as the heat of explosion of 2,000+ kilograms of TNT.

If only that chicken hadn't lit that cigarette...

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Now that you remind me I think I remember a methane explosion in an old barn when I was young. But dust explosions were more common.



Hello Jerry,

For those who are interested in the Trieste and its history: http:// www.navsource.org/archives/08/08554.htm  includes history, with annotated pictures.

Wikipedia also has an interesting article, including the specs for the crew module (wall thickness 5", not 4'):


Bob Ludwick

I would think 5" more likely than 4' since I doubt that a 4' thick walled sphere would float. I could do the math but I won't.

and indeed

: Regarding Trieste

In your blog it is quoted: "As I recall, the spherical steel wall of the Trieste's crew chamber was roughly four feet thick"

Research indicates that the walls were more like 5 inches thick and the sphere weighed 13 metric tons. If the walls were four feet thick the structure would have weighed several hundred tons.

Ray Thompson

And I doubt it would have floated. I should have checked at the time but I was hurried. Sorry to be so long in posting the correction, but I doubt anyone suffered for being misled by it.



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Sunday, April 17, 2011      

House Progressive Caucus Budget


The proposal by the Progressive Caucus does not appear to be a 90% marginal tax. Rather they wish to apply Social Security tax to 90% of earnings.


And indeed that is correct. That will teach me to do things in a hurry. Apologies. It's still a disaster, particularly for the self-employed.


Reading on the iPad

Just saw your latest appearance on TWiT where you discussed the school in Maine that bought all of its kindergarten students iPad 2s. I really think that you ought seriously to consider pressing your wife to port that program to the iPad. One of the serious defects in modern culture is the fact that education and health care haven't profited from any significant degree of automation; once that happens (and it WILL happen) it will be a real game-changer.

-- Tim of Angle

It is a subject worth considering. My wife's reading program is "automatic" in that it doesn't need a teacher or tutor once it is set up. It just works.

I expect to see more of such things as time goes on.


Trieste sphere

If a five-inch-thick steel sphere about 6.5 feet in diameter weighed 13 metric tons (about 29,000 lbs.), it won’t float anyway. If my math is right, it would only displace about 9,000 pounds of water. Without that big gasoline-filled balloon holding it, it would drop to the bottom.

Tom Brosz

Sound about right. As I recall there is this enormous "balloon" above Trieste, and electromagnets holding steel balls below; the balls fall if the power fails, and up she comes. The calculations aren't all that difficult, particularly with a good calculator such as Windows furnishes, but I haven't had the time (or the interest) in doing them. Thanks!


incompetent EPA 


Watch this EPA guy testify before congress. He can’t answer simple questions. No wonder they’re fighting to regulate the stuff plants breathe as a toxin…


It’s hard to tell, but he’s trying very very hard to avoid making a quotable statement for the record that an EPA economic assessment did not consider the impact the issue would have on jobs. In a recession. Watch him tapdance around refusing to admit that the EPA does not consider job gain or loss a “cost” of an EPA rule, and therefore does not include a jobs assessment in their economic cost/benefit analysis.

Oh yes, why isn’t this stuff on CNN where it belongs? One more Fed agency that needs to be thinned dramatically, with its major responsibilities given back to the states. Leave fed EPA to minimalist stuff like certifying STATE EPA efforts, but leave the rule making to the states. Heck, Calif has been leading the nation for years on environmental issues…

So, I just saved 1 trillion over 10 years by recommending we defund the EPA. Where’s MY nobel peace prize? Oh wait, I forgot. First I gotta borrow $700 million from the Chinese so we can bomb some random little country with a tin pot dictator and some protestors, now that the Nobel standards have been raised.

Wait… Weren’t there some destructive anarchist demonstrations in London that had to be put down by police? Good thing we were already involved in Libya or we might have sent a carrier to bomb London. Phew. Being a Nobel Peace Prize winner is hard, I think I’ll give mine back.



Today, California; tomorrow, the dark

See: http://m.ocregister.com/




"...power without cells..." TANSTAAFL

Dr Pournelle,

Buried in the article linked in Mail on Saturday ("Scientists Discover Wild Solar Energy Effect") is the following joker:

[snip]The "catch" here is the material. In order to exhibit this effect, light must be shown on an insulator like glass. Glass, however, needs incredibly intense light to produce this effect -- 10 million watts per square centimeter. Normal sunlight only produces around 0.012 watts per square centimeter when shining.[/snip]

So while the effect is interesting, terrestrial-based applications might be limited. Might make interesting capabilities for power transmission though, especially if it can be used with a coherent light source. If true, it could be useful for orbital power generation.

Change of subject -- re: typesetting for Kindle. In a previous message, I described some weird formatting effects for text with graphics observed in the Kindle version of _Outies_. I have seen it again in a Kindle-formatted Gutenberg edition of Twain's _Following the Equator_. After graphics are page-centered, it seems to be important to explicitly left-justify the text immediately afterwards. Otherwise, text is centered until the next explicit left-justify hypertext tag is inserted. This is an annoyance, only, and has not really subtracted from my enjoyment of either text.

I've seen a couple weird effects when viewing Gutenberg Kindle formatted text, plain text, or low-cost, out-of-copyright released collections from Amazon or from Barnes. I've loaded several free or inexpensive downloads onto the Kindle via USB, rather than by sending to Amazon for conversion. I've also pushed the .pdf of _Strategy of Technology_ directly onto the Kindle, which was legible, but not organized as readably as the original copy on the computer desktop Acrobat reader. Most new books formatted by Amazon don't show the same effects, but only the less costly conversions.

Another change -- we enjoyed TWIT last week. I hope Leo keeps asking you on. We enjoyed the brief appearance of Sable on TWIT too, and hope she is asked to return as well. Considering the conversation that led to Leo's subtitle for the episode, was she (or her breed) the inspiration for the Tim Hamner character's dog wool socks in the windup chapter to _Lucifer's Hammer_?

My sympathies on taxes and my best wishes for Roberta's continuing health and recovery.



The Register: Feel the love!

Hi Jerry,

Thought you might be interested in this poll running on The Register at the moment; "vote for the greatest SF movie never made". Let's just say Moties and Ringworlds are getting a LOT of love on there. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/15/sci_fi_film/ 

Kind Regards

Dave Evans



Hello Jerry,

"Navy Energy Officials Predict Biofuels Will Be Cost-Competitive by 2020."

Assuming that the output of the biofuel production system is used to provide the energy necessary to grow and process the biofuel, so that no oil, coal, natural gas, or nuclear energy is required in the loop, what is the net energy production per acre of the biofuel production process that the Navy claims will be providing cost effective fuel by 2020?

'Biofuel' is a hot buzzword within the 'save the planet now' community, but biofuels are simply extremely inefficient solar collectors. Pick a biofuel farm of the biofuel enthusiast du jour's choice, predict the net energy production of that farm, using the best estimates available, and then predict the net energy production of the same farm covered with the best available solar exploitation system. See which one produces the most 'sellable' energy.

I read the link provided and as best I can figure, biofuels will be cost competitive not because their price will fall dramatically but because the government intends to subsidize them while driving up the cost (ongoing) and/or restricting the supply (also ongoing) of conventional fuels to ensure the desired result (“This is a role that the government has played in the past, in terms of moving markets, helping to mature markets,”....). Given the power of government and a desired end result, ANYTHING can be made 'cost competitive'. And will be, if that is what it takes to stave off the destruction of our planet by those evil capitalists bent on poisoning our planet with noxious CO2.

Bob Ludwick

Of course the efficiencies are low; my interest is more from recovery of energy from waste biofuels. At one time SCE was looking at ways to convert the waste from Camp Pendleton and the city of Oceanside into electricity; the notion was that the total effect would be to save money and reduce the amount of waste that has to be dealt with. That research went by the boards when California's legislature butchered the energy business in the state, but I thought it was a good idea.








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