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Monday, August 9, 2010

Why the Recession will Continue

Why I'm Not Hiring by Michael Fleischer is very clear and explains why the economy will not -- I would go so far as to say cannot -- recover so long as it is threatened with Obamacare and other entitlements.

And even if the economic outlook were more encouraging, increasing revenues is always uncertain and expensive. As much as I might want to hire new salespeople, engineers and marketing staff in an effort to grow, I would be increasing my company's vulnerability to government decisions to raise taxes, to policies that make health insurance more expensive, and to the difficulties of this economic environment.

A life in business is filled with uncertainties, but I can be quite sure that every time I hire someone my obligations to the government go up. From where I sit, the government's message is unmistakable: Creating a new job carries a punishing price.

But, it will be said, we need health care. People are entitled.

The argument that we need various entitlements is endless and cannot be settled. The discussion of what we can afford is less ambiguous. We can't afford Obamacare. We may or may not be able to afford something like the French system -- but that is not Obama care and that is not what was debated.

If the election in November is ambiguous, we will be due for a full Depression. Count on it. If that seems unduly gloomy my apology. I wish it were not true.


There were disquisitions on Global Warming and Rational Debate, first ever US official presence at the annual Hiroshima ceremonies, and other such matters over the weekend.

And there's lots of mail today.


I remind you all that Escape from Hell by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is available in both paperback and kindle editions. It's a good read. Perhaps not as philosophically sound as C. S. Lewis would have made it, but we hope at least as readable.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010   

A Step Farther Out was the title of my column in Galaxy Science Fiction in the 1970's. Jim Baen was editor. After a few years I collected many of the columns into a book, edited by Jim Baen who was then the editor in chief of Ace Books. The book was published in 1979. It contained comments I made after the columns were written but before the book was published. A later edition in the early 1980's had further comments.

Here is an extract from the book:

But what of publishing? McCarthy [Stanford University professor John McCarthy, founder of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory] sees the end of the publishing business as we know it. If you want to publish a book, you type it into the computer terminal in your home; edit the text to suit yourself; and for a small fee put the resulting book into the central information utility data banks.

(So far I have described how I now, only two years after I wrote the above, prepare my own books. The difference is that after I have them composed on the TV-like screen, and edited to my satisfaction – a computer controlled typewriter puts it onto paper, which is mailed to New York, edited again, and given to someone to type into electronically readable form for typesetting. Obviously that stage will be eliminated soon; why can I not send a tape and be done with it? Incidentally, the NY Trib had no typewriters or paper at all: reporters and rewrite persons worked on a TV screen, editors called that up to their screens, and when done the text went directly to composing without ever being on paper at all. JEP)

Once a book is in the central utility data banks, those who want to read it can call it up to their TV screen; a royalty goes from their bank account to the author’s; where is the need for printer or publisher? Of course some will still want books that you can feel and carry around; but a great deal of publishing can be as described above, and for that matter there’s no reason why your home terminal cannot make at reasonable cost a hard copy of anything you really want to keep.

Few publishers own printing plants; most hire that done. What publishers provide is editorial services and distribution. The latter function will largely vanish: the information utility does that job. There remain editorial services.

With such a plethora of books as might appear given the above – after all, the only cost to “publish” a book would be to have it typed, plus a rather nominal fee to the utility for storing it – critics and editors will probably grow in importance. “Recommended and edited by Jim Baen,” or “A Frederick Pohl Selection” would take on new significance, and one assumes that these editors would continue to work with authors since they’d hardly recommend a book they didn’t like (and some authors might even admit that a good editor can help a book). “Big Name” authors would probably have little to worry about, with their readers setting in standing orders for their works; new writers would probably have to get a “name critic” to review their stuff.

OK; still not all that new for veteran science fiction readers; but did you catch the time scale? The equipment, all of it, exists now. The telephone net to link nearly every-one in the U.S. with the information utilities exists now. Computer electronics costs are plummeting. McCarthy’s home terminal can be with us in the next five years, with the information utility fully developed in ten to fifteen.

In fact, the only obstacle is entrepreneurial: the equipment and technology exist at affordable costs. It takes only someone to organize it.

Having seen that, go read the third part of Norman Spinrad's latest disquisition on publishing. If you haven't read the first and second part of his three part essay, you might start there.

I have a medical appointment (routine; my check-in with my oncologist) in a few minutes. I'll have more to say on this another time.


The printed book A Step Farther Out  is still available and there are several sources of eBooks in different formats. Obviously any edition from Baen is authorized.


1600: back from the oncologist, who says my condition is something close to miraculous, there being no sign that the Lump has any continuing existence, and all my joint problems turn out to have been phantoms; I still have to stretch but then who doesn't? I don't get sharp pains in hips or shoulder and haven't since the radiation therapy.

I really need to get to work on The Mask on the Wall, which is the title I have in mind for an account of cancer and recovery. When I start in I think I don't have enough to say, but I probably do. First I finish Mamelukes, which is taking a LOT longer than it should. It's about 135,000 finished words now, and it still looks like about 10,000 to go to finish this segment; there's probably one more book in the story line, but this one will have an ending of sorts. Of course the first one did too...


I started a piece on publishing, but I have moved it to Word where I will turn it into the August column. The column is late, of course. I seem to be perpetually late. I will have a lot of books -- some really interesting -- to review, a disquisition on publishing and its future.  I'll also have a few more words on the iPad. I took the iPad to my medical appointment today, and Dr. Rodriguez came in, saw it, and said "So you've given up the Kindle for the iPad." We took a little time to look at the iPad. Of course we're both busy so we didn't have too long for the conversation.

Anyway, I have the Hollywood Bowl tonight, so I won't get to the column until tomorrow.


A Modest Proposal

Education: about half the high school dropouts come from fewer than 10% of the schools. One of the results of Gates Foundation research is that one of the biggest improvements we could make in education would be to eliminate the worst 10% of teachers. Alas, union rules make that impossible: in California we have fired fewer than 40 teachers in the past decade. I do not believe that the California system level of competence is that good.

I don't know how many of the some 2,000 dropout factory schools that account for more than half of the high school dropouts are in California, but I am sure there are many. I have a modest proposal: fire every employee of those schools. All of them, faculty, administrators, and staff. Reopen the schools with a new principal and charter school board. Allow the fired staff to apply for new jobs, but make it explicit that hiring can not be based on time served or seniority; the teachers must be hired on the basis of potential effectiveness.

Now that's drastic, I admit. Better perhaps would be to require the worst 50% of California schools to fire their worst 20% of teachers. It's not hard to find bad teachers. Principals, the other teachers, parents, and even students know who the bad ones are. Actually casual visitors to the schools know. And yes: the flip side here is that some good people will be axed because someone really hates them, there will be some arbitrary and capricious actions -- but then there are now, and what we don't have now is good results.

We could probably cut the high school dropout rate in half by firing the worst 10% of the teachers in the 10% of the schools that account for a full half of the dropouts. Fire about 1% of the teacher force and look at the savings.  Of course that will never be done. The unions are part of the Ruling Class, and they are not about to let go.

Where is Madame Defarge now that we need her....





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Wednesday,  August 11, 2010

Trying to Understand the Believers: More on climate change

I wrote most of this last night. This morning the morning papers had a story from the Associate Press about an enormous ice island that broke off from the Greenland ice sheets. The Petermann Glacier is four times the size of Manhattan. Representative Ed Markey Chairman of the Energy Committee says that the island should serve as a home for global skeptics. This is known as rational debate. The existence of the island is said to show the truth of global warming. "The Petermann glacier "May symbolize a warming world like no other."

Further into the article we find that this glacier is the largest since -- 1962.

Anyway, the following is long, for which I apologize, but the matter seems to be important.

Query: I have been trying to chase down just how much warming the seas receive from volcanism. Common sense would tell you that if you want to heat water, blowing warm air over it is not a very effective way to do it; far more efficient would be applying heat directly to the water.. Since to heat the Earth you must heat the water, and CO2 greenhousing heats air, it does seem reasonable to see if the "extra" heat that the AGW theory is trying to explain may be found from underseas volcanic activity. (And of course heating the seas causes them to disgorge dissolved CO2, raising the CO2 levels; or so I presume.)

I find a lot of estimates as to how many active underwater volcanoes there might be. A quick suggestion is here:
http://www.volcano.si.edu/faq/index.cfm?faq=03 which suggests there are 50-70 known eruptions each year, meaning about 200 more underwater. One would presume that just about all the heat from the underwater volcanoes is transferred to the oceans. I have no idea how much heat that is; I've been unable to find out just what is the average energy of a volcanic event. Those more familiar with the data than I should have no trouble looking at how much energy is required to heat the earth by a degree, and comparing that to the amount we can estimate is added to the sea temperature by 200 "average" underwater eruptions. Given the size of the earth and its seas, I suppose it's not likely to account for a sizable fraction of the warming we observe (about a degree per century) but I'd like to see the numbers anyway. I suppose I can keep digging, but does anyone know?

I've been digging into the theory of man=made global warming, and I keep getting steered in circles; it seems the principal argument is, the Earth is warmer than the black-body temperature would predict given energy received from the Sun and that radiated back out to outer space. Since the Earth is too warm, something has to account for it. The only thing the climatologists believe can account for it is greenhouse effect -- which certainly seems to have heated Venus -- and therefore it must be the explanation since we have no other. I may have put that a bit baldly, but it does seem to be the view of the AGW "believers" ("believers" or "true believers" as opposed to "deniers"). I have had a believer lecture to me in what amounts to baby talk, assuming that if he talks real slow I will understand, and that was his principle argument: the Earth is too warm, greenhouse effect explains Venus, and it's all we have to explain the excess heat on the Earth. The computer models all say that's what's happening and no one has anything better. Therefore we accept AGW. That, my boy, is science. Again I may sound as if I were parodying the argument but in fact I am not.

At this point I thought, "I've written most of this before" and went looking for when. The result is that I dug it out of another conference. The discussion was a lot longer than what I am giving you here, and what follows is pretty long. I post it because I am still interested in the debate, and the discussion in this other conference didn't get me very far: you'll see that if you read the next couple of screens. Apologies for the length, but the question is one of importance, and rational debate isn't always brief. Alas, I am not sure the debate got me very far, but I tried. My partner in the debate is a Ph.D. physicist, reasonably well known, and very clearly a believer in human-caused global warming.

After a number of interchanges in a conference of fairly smart people, the physicist apologist for AGW replied to me as follows:

Once more:  The greenhouse effect is part of the laws of physics.  The reason that scientists pretty much dismiss the skeptics out of hand is that, as far as I'm aware, NONE of them have come up with a plausible alternative explanation for why adding carbon dioxide should *not* increase the temperature of the Earth.

 (Let me remind you that the natural greenhouse effect is about 30 degrees C: without an atmosphere, the Earth's radiative equilibrium temperature would be below freezing.  The anthropogenic contribution is, in fact, a pretty small perturbation).

 It's fine enough for amateurs to pick through the enormous data record of climate science and say "wait, what about this curve?  How about this one?", but this, actually, is not science.  The correct way to do science would be to try to fit those curves to a model, and see how they fit.

 Is there a model in which carbon dioxide does NOT cause greenhouse effect warming WHICH FITS THE CURRENT DATA?

 Here is the greenhouse effect physics, in a nutshell:

1. the warm Earth emits infrared radiation.

2. some portion of that infrared is absorbed by (infrared-absorbing  gasses in) the atmosphere.

3. the atmosphere re-emits that absorbed energy in the from of infrared, isotropically.

4. Some of the infrared radiation emitted from the sky is absorbed by the Earth.

 These are all pretty straightforward physical processes (that have been known for a century); if you like you can measure the downwelling infrared with an infrared bolometer, and even spectroanalyze it.  This is not new physics.  It is covered, for example, in book-length detail in the copy of _Introduction to Atmospheric Radiation_ (1980) on my bookshelf, not to mention dozens of other texts.

 Let's suppose that there is, actually, some (as yet invisible) reason to be skeptical.  I will suggest that the current crop of "skeptics" have *damaged* our ability to find it.  Overall:

 -they ignore back-of-the-envelope physics calculations  -they don't believe detailed physics calculations based on integrating the absorption spectrum  -they dismiss all the detailed numberical-integration atmospheric models  -they discard the measurements when they doesn't agree with the conclusion they started with.

 Basically, once you discard all the tools that they don't like the results of, there aren't any tools left to do science with.

 I was tempted to reply in the same tone, but what I said was:

So: we have a serious statement by a serious person, who wants to discard the skeptics and get on with what to do about it since the science is settled.

 My first critique is simple: 

 Historically, warming precedes rises in CO2. This is in accord with normal theory. While it is certainly true that a 'greenhouse effect" influences climate, historically, CO2 levels have not caused warming; the CO2 levels follow a temperature rise, not precede it.

 Arrhenius thought:

 (1) that temperatures were rising and had been since 1800. Correct. Historical data. Not a prediction. Observed through the 1800's.

 (2) They would continue to rise as they had been rising. This was more or less projection of an existing trend. That would be about a degree per century. As it happened, the observed temperature rise decelerated (and had been decelerating for a few years) when Arrhenius made that prediction, but temperatures did rise. The NOAA data show 1880 as -.2 below the 1940 "normal" of 0, and "normal" or 0 in 1940. That's not the 0.5 predicted in 1900 but the trend is in the right direction.

 (3) Arrhenius predicted that there would be an "extra" rise of about 2 degrees over a century if CO2 levels doubled. This is theory.

It is now 110 years since he made that projection. We have had under 2 degrees rise in that time period according to the NOAA data.

That is, from 1940 to 2003 it went up about 0.4 degrees. There is a sort of "hockey stick" sharp rise from 2000 to 2009 but these data are a bit controversial. We can agree on about 0.7 C rise =~ to 1.7 F from Arrhenius to now. It's less than expected, but it is a rise. Call it a full degree C (1.8 F) rise if you like.

 (4) you may ascribe that 1 C rise to CO2 if you like, in which case you have to throw out the projection of a continued "normal" 1 C rise that would have happened without CO2. You may ascribe that 1 C rise to the "normal trend" that has been taking place since the end of the Little Ice Age. You don't get both, because the data show only the 1 C rise, at least as close as I can read the NOAA charts.

[You can see the temperature graphs here http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/ The most often used graph shows the temperature in 1880 as about 0.4 below the "normal" of 0 in 1940 and about that above the normal in the year 2000, giving a rise of about 1 degree in 120 years.]

Why? We don't have a good theory as to why; but those are the data, and the usual practice in science is that theory has to account for data, not data have to be forced to fit the theory.

 Now about the simple back of the envelope accounts: As Dyson points out, CO2 can have an effect only in COLD DRY AREAS. There isn't much room for "greenhouse" warming in moist areas. Greenhouse effects may -- indeed must -- be involved in the temperature of the Earth, but clearly we don't have a good quantitative handle on which ones do what: but surely we can agree that CO2 isn't what's happening.

 Or: if it is CO2, then the fears of the 1970-1984 doomsters who feared a coming Ice Age are very well founded and the CO2 is what saved us. This is sort of what Niven, Flynn, and I projected in Fallen Angels.  That was a work of fiction, and as I have often said, novelists need only be plausible: we don't have to marshal all the arguments for our case as do advocates, and we certainly do not have to account for all the data. Scientists, however, do have to account for all the data, and none of current models do that.

 One theory common in the 1970's was that warming brought out more moisture, which moved more water vapors around, which was increasing snow falls and that was what was causing the new disastrous coming New Ice Age and Global Cooling that had scared Schneider and Margaret Meade and others, and dominated big science conferences during the 70's and early 80's.

 What we must conclude is that the models have not predicted what we have observed; nor have we found the stratospheric hot spots that CO2 driven warming predicts we will find. This is not a confirmation of the accuracy of the theories, all of which more or less predict the same results -- which results have not been found so far.

 For decades we have had two kinds of climate scientists: theorists and observers. The theorists are all pretty strong Global Warming advocates. The observers are a mixed lot, but none of them see what the models predict. The believers among them say "we have not seen them yet."

 More theory: if I want to put CO2 into the atmosphere, I can burn coal and oil, but if I really want to run the CO2 levels up I should warm the seas. I want to bring up a lot of cold water to the surface and warm that. Warming the oceans will really raise the

CO2 levels; how much CO2 for how much  temperature rise is calculable, but getting that circulation going is a bit more complicated, and we don't seem to be able to predict El Nino and La Nina events which have great effects on ocean surface temperatures. As a first cut, if I want more cold water to come higher, I'll turn on the heat down at the bottom -- otherwise known as volcanic events.

 And if I want something to worry about, I'll worry about how to remove a great big lot of CO2 that we could get if the oceans warm.

That could really cause a runaway hockey stick temperature rise. Could. It's not inevitable. I'd think some investment in developing engineering methods to really clean out CO2 from the atmosphere would be prudent. We may not need the techniques, but if we do, we are going to need them bad.

 So: I don't think Dyson and Baliunas and Singer and the other skeptics are ignoring the back of the envelope calculations: but they are pointing out that the data don't seem to be reconciled with the theory. As to "-they dismiss all the detailed numberical-integration atmospheric models" perhaps they should until the detailed numerical models can take a set of initial conditions and generate a good fit to what actually happened.

 As to the greenhouse effect itself, who ever thought there wasn't one? And perhaps that is what is saving us from living on a ball of ice. Perhaps not. But I fail to see how investing in better models -- they get better when questioned, and I doubt they get better by setting up "peer review" so that anything that doesn't approve of the -the detailed numberical-integration atmospheric models   gets ignored.

 Present policy seems to be to spend billions in ways that will have a pretty small effect on the CO2 released into the atmosphere and even less effect on the actual warming -- this according to the detailed numberical-integration atmospheric models  which show that Kyoto would have had the effect of preventing well under 1 C of the projected temperature rise. The costs run to the trillions.

 That's not good policy. Prudent policy would try to understand what is going on before spending big money to change the entire economy.


The reply I got was:

This is a war of words that the creationists invented-- if you keep repeating that "it's just a theory" and "it's just models," the public will say oh, it's not real.  And I am afraid that the scientists are losing this war. 

 It's something that non-scientists don't quite understand: Science is all about models.  When we scientists say "model," what we mean is, this is our best understanding of the world.  The fact that models get refined, and improved, is something that the creationists, and their ilk, attack as if it were a flaw, but it is, in fact, a feature of the scientific method, not a flaw.

 What science is very, very good at is discriminating against competing models.   When scientists ask the so-called skeptics to come up with a viable model by which carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does NOT cause warming, this *is* the scientific method.  Basically, by not having any good model by which the basic physics of the greenhouse effect can be circumvented, the skeptics have pretty much abandoned the idea of science, although they still maintain the pretense.

 Of course it's all about data.  That's what science does.  That's why science credits in the greenhouse effect, because the model fits the data.    (There are about 20,000 climate scientists in the world-- do you seriously believe that none of them ever actually look at data?   What do you think they do?)

 The greenhouse effect is very simple.  The Earth emits infrared radiation.  Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere absorb this infrared radiation.  They then re-emit the infrared in all directions.  Some of the re-emitted infrared returns to the ground.  This downwelling infrared radiation heats adds heat to the Earth.

 Which part of this physics do you not credit?


If you don't believe the model, you can take the data yourself.  Find a LWIR spectrometer-- a good university should have one-- and measure the spectrum of the downwelling infrared radiation coming from the sky.   Then see if you can fit the data to a model that in which carbon dioxide does not cause global warming. 

 As far as I can tell, however, the climate-change "skeptics" have little interest in any data that does not fit their already pre-determined conclusions.  *No* amount of data will ever change their opinions, because they will only pay attention to data if it fits their previously formed conclusions.

 At which point I gave up since I learned nothing from the last reply, and it was getting clear that this renowned physicist wasn't going to address my specific points. I have had similar dialogues with other AGW believers, but quoting them would make this already too long discussion even longer while adding no knowledge, or at least none to mine.

The part of the physics I don't credit is that the predictions are that we should be seeing more temperature rise than we have observed. A second part of the physics I don't credit is the accuracy of the measurements. I do not believe we know the temperature of the Earth in the time of Arrhenius to anything like a single degree of accuracy, and for that matter I am not convinced that we know it now to that accuracy. I don't have any pre-determined conclusions. As an old Operations Research guy I do like to have some confidence in both theory and observations before I spend a lot of money on remedies to problems that are predicted by models.

I think I have been through all this several times.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.


I put all that above because I begin to wonder at my own sanity: what happened to common sense? The warming that we are all frightened of was about 1 degree in a century. That one degree increase was predicted in 1890 simply by looking at trend lines from the 14th Century. No one was mad enough to try estimations to a fraction of a degree.

If I wanted to take the temperature of the United States to an accuracy of a tenth of a degree, how would I go about doing it? What weight would I assign to, say, Lake Superior as opposed to an equal area of Kansas? Do I give them equal weights? At that altitude do I take my air temperature, and what weight do I give that as opposed to the temperature of the earth beneath it? I keep searching for a simple -- or even a complex -- discussion of those matters, but I don't find them.

And when I want to look at the heat balance of the Earth, it would seem reasonable to say. "What do you mean by the temperature of the Earth?" Do you mean some average of the temperature from the center of the Earth to the top of the atmosphere? Apparently not. The interest is on surface conditions. Excellent. But the interior is hotter than the surface. Surely there is some transfer of heat from interior to surface. What is that transfer? How many calories are annually added to the surface temperature from the interior? Is it a significant amount, or is it trivial and thus can be ignored. So far I have found no answers to that question.

We know volcanism affects surface temperature, but the general effect is cooling. Dr. Benjamin Franklin was so far as I know the first to observe that: as he passed Iceland on his way to take his ambassadorial post in Europe, there was a large eruption that made for dark skies and noticeable cooling, and he speculated that enough of those might have a dramatic climate effect. After that came Tambora and "the year without a summer" that caused Mary Shelley to write her Frankenstein story and create the science fiction novel. But it there a transfer of heat from the interior of the Earth to the surface? There must be. How large is it? Could lava flows in the Mindanao Deep cause water circulations and have some effect on El Nino? I look for data on this and I don't find much, which may be a commentary on my research abilities, but still, you'd think that would be interesting: I sure don't have a problem finding explanations of why global warming deniers ought to be exiled to an iceberg.

Ah well. Apologies for the rant. I'll go to other subjects. But I would appreciate enlightenment from a believer who can spare the time to answer some simple questions.


Yesterday's "stimulus" program which extended unemployment and subsidized union worker employment was purportedly financed by cutting the 2014 Food Stamp Program.

If you depend on Food Stamps, you might consider planting a vegetable garden.


Personal revenue for Californians is down by $40 billion this year. California continues to hire new state civil service workers.

Federal civil service workers are now earning not more than, but double, what private sector workers earn. Their income has increased annually for the past nine years. Federal civil service average paying benefit is $109,000 a year (included benefits and pensions of course). The average bureaucrat makes about twice what those who produce goods and service and pay taxes. There are no layoffs, and there will be raises next year.

Where is Madame Defarge now that we need her?






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Thursday,  August 12, 2010


Subject: Determining the average temperature of the earth

Lately, you've devoted a lot of space to this question: "How would you go about ascertaining the temperature of the Earth to a tenth of a degree?"

Leaving aside the fact that AGW alarmists have made "the average temperature of the earth" a the major focus of their media campaign, I do wonder if it is really necessary to establish an accurate average temperature of the earth in order to learn something useful from historical surface temperature records. IF it is the case that the majority of good historical temperature records show rising temperatures through the course of the last 100 to 150 years, then shouldn't that count for something?

CP, Connecticut

I may not have been clear: of course temperatures have been rising. The best guess is at about one degree a century, and this has been going on since we started coming out of the Little Ice Age. As i have said often, we know that in the Viking era there were dairy farms in Greenland, longer growing seasons in Europe and China, and so forth: we know it was warmer. How much warmer we certainly do not know to a fraction of a degree, or even to a degree, but we know that in those days it was probably warmer than it is now: that is, we can see the Greenland dairy farms emerging from the ice, but some are still there.

And we know it was colder in 1776 when the Hudson froze over hard enough to support cannon, and there were market festivals on the Thames. We have the stories of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates -- that is, routine skating on the brackish canals of Holland.

I should make it clear: I don't believe we can come up with any reliable estimate of the average temperature of the Earth for any given year; not accurately enough to compare year to year so that we can say that "this is the warmest year ever" and such like. Note that all the global warming we know of shows annual temperatures to a fraction of a degree, and shows about a one degree rise in that annual average from 1880 to 2000. Now we know it was warmer in 2000 than than in 1880, but how much warmer isn't so clear.

Of course the Earth is warming. How much, and why, is what the argument is about.


The Earth could become too hot for people

Something new to worry about.

I have been looking for data on heat transfer from the interior of the Earth to the biosphere.

One number I have found says that geothermal transfer is about 0.1 Watt per square meter. The Solar Constant is about 1.3 Kw/m^2, so while the amount isn't trivial it is not large. Whether geothermal heating in the oceans has any effect on such patterns as El Nino I don't know.


I have an appointment with an old friend to go hiking in a few minutes. Back later.


ISG: The Sky is Falling!

12 August 2010

ISG: A spectacular view of the Perseid Meteor shower tonight!

Plus a look at gem peridot crystals in a meteorite......Pallasite!

<http://www.schoolofgemology.com/Pallasite/1.jpg> The sky is falling on the world tonight! OK, not really the sky, but little bits of it far smaller than this iron-nickel meteorite shown at left. This 1.5 kilo chunk of a star fell in 1947 over the skies of eastern Siberia, and now resides in the ISG Student Reference Collection of StudyGems and Minerals. That event showered over 23 tons of meteorite material over the area providing some of the finest specimens of star stuff found anywhere on earth.

Tonight is a bit less risky for all of you star gazers out there as the earth will pass through the path of comet Swift-Tuttle that left a tail stream of tiny pebbles, ice and dust that will rain down on earth as the annual Perseid Meteor Shower.

Best viewing time is in the early morning hours between 0300 and 0600 hrs depending on your sunrise time. It is at this time that the rotation of the earth brings you into a position of riding the front of the earth as it travels through the comet's tail of debris. Since you are on the leading edge of the earth going through this debris trail the opportunity to see a lot of meteors it heightened. Its sort of like riding on the hood of a car going at high speed. The chance of getting really good views of bugs is far better than riding on the back bumper.<snip>


Review of Patterson's Biography of Heinlein:









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Friday,  August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th Falls on Friday

The age of chivalry is gone. -- That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold a generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, achieved defensive nations, the nurse of the manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage while it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness. . . . Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution is one of the essential documents of a serious student of conservatism. It's not easy reading for modern students because he takes a while to get into things. The passage quoted above is wonderful, but there's a lot of winding into the subject in the beginning, and many who start at the beginning never get to the good parts. The quote above is drawn from an edited version. It is better to read the entire book, but that can take time, and requires some understanding of the historical background, of the Terror, and the American Revolution which by then was an accomplished fact. The Wikipedia entry on the book isn't sufficient, but that should not be astonishing.

It looks at first as if Burke were purely nostalgic, and the remedy for him was later to be provided by Dickens with The Tale of Two Cities. One critic famously said that Burke pities the plumage but neglects the dying bird. In fact, Burke is trying to show that good government is fragile. Power survives. Rejection of what exists simply because you don't understand it, or find it distasteful, not in conformity with some scheme, is dangerous.

There ought to be a system of manners in every nation which a well-informed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.

But power, of some kind or other, will survive the shock in which manners and opinions perish; and it will find other and worse means for its support. The usurpation which, in order to subvert ancient institutions, has destroyed ancient principles will hold power by arts similar to those by which it has acquired it. When the old feudal and chivalrous spirit of fealty, which, by freeing kings from fear, freed both kings and subjects from the precautions of tyranny, shall be extinct in the minds of men, plots and assassinations will be anticipated by preventive murder and preventive confiscation, and that long roll of grim and bloody maxims which form the political code of all power not standing on its own honor and the honor of those who are to obey it.

Kings will be tyrants from policy when subjects are rebels from principle.

He might have been writing about modern liberalism. Indeed, he was... Fear of being turned out of office drives a great deal of despotic public policy.


As to what reminded me of Burke, Los Angeles news is dominated today with the story of Matrice Robinson, an attractive young woman in her 20's, who for some reason went alone to Geoffrey's restaurant without her purse or wallet, had a dinner that cost $89, and was unable to pay. The management of Geoffrey's put her under citizen's arrest and called the sheriff. The sheriff's deputies determined that she was not drunk, but arrested her and took her, not to the Malibu station, but eight miles inland over the mountains. Her car was impounded. One suspects that giving the tow company some business may have had something to do with all this: I know that when my motorcycle was stolen, the local police found it, and since I knew them, they tried to call me to tell me they had found it -- but before they could do that a tow truck company came and grabbed it, damaging it in the process. If you infer that I have a certain contempt for tow companies, you are absolutely correct. You may also infer a distaste for the management of a restaurant that calls the cops over an inability to pay an $89 bill rather than just taking her name and address, I don't expect you are wrong. The family had offered to pay the bill by credit card, but Geoffrey's wouldn't take that by phone. They wanted a fax. When they didn't get it, the cops came and the car was towed.

At 1 AM she was released at the inland sheriff's station. She had no transportation, no wallet, her car had been impounded and towed away. She was 8 miles from where she had been picked up. On foot, with no cell phone. She had no coat and it was cold in the middle of the night. Her mother said that she would come to the station to get her if she were going to be released at night, but otherwise they should hold her for the night and the mother would come in the morning. The sheriff station is not in an area where anyone walks at night, nor is there much traffic. Precisely what the deputies thought she would do at 1 AM when released is not clear to me. I suppose they thought, well, it's not my problem.

The age of chivalry is dead.

I wish I had known of this incident when I was writing Escape From Hell. I have a place for those deputies and the manager of Geoffrey's, and it would be interesting to hear the arguments when their case comes up for discussion in the endless mock trials up in the Vestibule...

And by total coincidence I find another reason to be reminded of Escape from Hell:

This might matter to some readers:

Amhras Scuaine: Some People Are So Desperate To Play Video Games, They Sell Their Souls!

A computer game store put an interesting clause in their EULA, by just clicking "okay" the user agrees to give the retailer the right to their immortal soul. Maybe I should actually read those... Tim Harness.



Which raises a number of interesting questions. I wish I'd thought of this one before we wrote Escape from Hell (now available in paperback or Kindle). It would have been interesting to have the bureaucrats in Dis discussing this, and to have an "Others' Advocate" arguing for those who agreed without reading it. I would have enjoyed writing that scene, as well as the scene in the Vestibule.

I have to say that my opinion is a minority around here. The girl was an adult, she had made her choices, and it's not the deputies' fault. I suspect that's cold comfort to that night's watch commander.

Anyway I doubt I'll be eating at Geoffrey's anytime soon. And I note that a bill to send money to regime supporters was recently passed. Think too about Preventive Confiscation...


State workers are picketing the governor. Their signs say "State workers are not expendable." Apparently taxpayers are.

There is discussion of government worker pay, and climate models and data, over in Mail for today.






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Saturday,  August 14, 2010

I know no more about this that you can find at the link:

We now have credible reports (Below -- Michael Connelly is a Constitutional lawyer and a friend) that the Obama Administration's DOJ plans to steal the rights of our overseas troops to vote in November's election by deliberately not enforcing the law. No matter what your political party, this is despicable, underhanded, and wrong.


In other times I would dismiss this as patently absurd, particularly since no sources are given.

I now have this:


The J. Christian Adams blog post at http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/
at-doj-military-voting-rights-hang-in-the-balance/  has the details. (Adams is a recent former DOJ voting rights guy and whistleblower.) 12 states are asking for waivers on the requirement to mail absentee ballots to troops overseas at least 45 days before the election, and so far this Administration is showing every sign of just letting that pass. The list of states: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Wisconsin, Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

Adams makes the point that there's still time to do something about this. Read the piece, especially if you're from one of those states.

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The State of Washington has high sales taxes and no income tax. Oregon has considerably lower sales taxes, but a California style income tax. The result has been bedroom border towns, where people live in Washington but shop in Oregon. Now Bill Gates Sr. (yes, his father), wants to change that.


The full article seems to be behind a pay wall, but it's not particularly important. The result will be more tax supported government workers, and extinguishment of one of the few reasons to locate a business in the State of Washington. And the beat goes on. Perhaps the people of Washington will realize the costs, but perhaps not: the appeal is that all the taxes will be paid by a few who can well afford it, and thus the property and sales taxes will be reduced. Of  course that won't happen. As Mrs. Thatcher said, the problem with socialism is that you run out of other people's money. Even if one of the other people is Bill Gates.


Apparently Dr. Laura Schlesinger is in trouble because she actually said the forbidden "N-word" (even I don't care to write it, because it will show up in Google and get me email from people I don't care to hear from: those who want to castigate me for actually writing it, and those who approve and want to congratulate me). I still don't know the actual story, but apparently she said it a number of times, presumably to make a point. Or several points, one of which is "sticks and stones" which most of us learned as children. That was, apparently, an inexcusable offense, and she ought to be jailed for racism. Indeed, anyone who even thinks the N-word ought to be jailed, or exiled, or preferably jailed and then exiled. Clearly -- according to what I am finding -- if you think or say the N-word, even in illustration of a point, you are guilty of "Blind, Ignorant Racism" and unforgiveable. Blind ignorant racists have no rights. The Constitution doesn't apply to racists according to the received wisdom, and we can safely ignore any rights they purport to have.

And, since the thrust of history is toward liberal democracy, and there will never be any kind of change of views that would disapprove of the liberal view, this is a safe and good thing to do. Why even pretend that blind, ignorant racists (which is not universally agreed to apply to Dr. Laura, but that's irrelevant) have any rights?

Which may be a dangerous view of the world. I am sure there are many Ouighers, and inhabitants of Islamic Monarchies and Republics, who would not agree. Opinions do change. And when I was a lad, the polite way to refer to what today is called African Americans was "Negro", properly pronounced. I understand that is no longer a word to be used. "Black" was considered polite for a while. When I lived briefly in New York after leaving the army a black friend said that blacks called themselves spooks (of all things), and while he didn't care for the N-word it wasn't a mortal insult, just uncultured. So has the world changed.

Anyway, while looking up the incident, I found


on which I found that if one is a white man accompanying a black woman to a wedding, and some other white guy makes a racist remark, one must not ignore it:

My guy ignored him. Want to know what that feels like? It was as if my partner and I were swimming life's ocean together; however, when racism's waves suddenly crashed into us -- he swam to shore for safety and quietly watched as I drowned.

Which bring us to two articles of importance.

Liberal columnist Joe Conason issues a challenge:

Most conservatives were late in taking responsibility for their movement's immoral opposition to civil rights. It is time for them to step up and denounce the racism that is again disfiguring our country in their name.

OK, Joe, we hereby denounce--well, actually, hang on a second. Before we issue denunciations, we'd like to consider what exactly it is we're being asked to denounce.


Which goes into detail on just what lengths people will go to in order to plant the racist label on their political opponents, and, more importantly,

Peggy Noonan's latest, "We Pay Them to Be Rude to US, which is available here for the nonce, although I don't know for how long, and for the moment is paywalled in the WSJ.

I think it's a cultural story. American culture is, one way or another, business culture, and our business is service. Once we were a great industrial nation. Now we are a service economy. Which means we are forced to interact with each other, every day, in person and by phone and email. And it's making us all a little mad.

I'm not sure we've fully noted the social implications of the shift from industry to service. We used to make machines! And steel! But now we're always in touch, in negotiation. We interact so much, we wear each other down. We wear away the superego and get straight to the id, and what we see isn't pretty.

Here's why. At the same time we were shifting, in the past 30 years, to the more personal economy of service, we were witnessing and took part in a revolution in manners. We tore them down as too fancy, or sexist, or ageist, or revealing of class biases. Just when we needed more than ever the formality and agreed-upon rules of manners to act as guard rails, we threw them aside. And now no one knows how to act anymore.

The full article is well worth reading. And I have to get to work.


There's more about today's opening item above. Apparently it's not as absurd as I thought. They really are trying to keep the Legions from voting in certain states.



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Sunday,  August 15, 2010

Is there a plot to keep the Legions from voting? See above.


I was wondering if volcanism has anything to do with the El Nino cycle. Stephanie Osborn found this:


Dr. Dan Walker at the University of Hawai'i has noticed a strong correlation between seismic activity on the East Pacific Rise (which he presumes indicates an eruption) and El Nino cycles over the past ~25 years. It is the belief of Dr. Walker and others that large numbers of underwater volcanoes contribute toward the heating of the oceans.  There were 56 volcanoes having confirmed eruptions in 2001-2002.  There is no doubt that volcanoes produce heat, and over 3/4 of the yearly magma budget occurs under our world oceans.  Add to the underwater magma the number of hydrothermal vents and there certainly could be enough heat to make a difference.

I am accumulating numbers on the heat transfer from the internal heat of the Earth and the biosphere. Note that deep caves have constant temperatures day and night, winter and summer, year after year, which suggests that there is an equilibrium exchange between the high temperatures of the interior through the mantle to to the surface. What that does to computer models of the solar radiation / earth surface temperature is not known to me; I have never seen anything that indicates that our climate models have any inputs for interior temperature.

What I need is the amount of heat in kilowatts / square meter inputted to the biosphere by solar radiation, and the amount inputted by the Earth's interior.  We're working on getting that and doing the conversions. The step after that is to look at local effects. El Nino has a lot more effect on weather than CO2 or any climate change mechanisms I know of: more moisture means more snow and rain. 

I can't imagine that I am the first to think of this stuff; I'm just trying to understand what is known, and I do find it astonishing that there's so little discussion of it among the Believers.


Best of Fred

Dr. Pournelle,

This is the best I've seen from Fred in a long time. Excellent read.


"Things were looser then. When I wanted to go shooting, I put my rifle, a nice .22 Marlin with a ten-power Weaver, on my shoulder and walked out the main gate. At the country store outside the gate I’d buy a couple of boxes of long rifles, no questions asked, and away my co-conspirator Rusty and I went to some field or swamp to murder beer cans.

Today if a kid of fifteen tried it, six squad cars and a SWAT team (in all likelihood literally) would show up with sirens yowling, the kid’s parents would be jailed, the store closed and its proprietors imprisoned, and the kid subjected to compulsory psychiatric examination. Times change."

Matt Kirchner

Fred's memory is similar to mine. In Capleville, Tennessee, Buck Biggs and I used to leave 7th Grade in Capleville, stop at Mr. Biggs' store to buy .22 Long Rifle, go home, and get our bolt action .22 rifles. I was never able to afford a scope. Scopes were exotic in World War II, and in fact most available rifles were used, some ancient: my first one was an octagon barrel .22 that broke open like a shotgun to load. It was only later that I got a good bolt action. We swam in the creek that ran through our property, and fished there and other places including some that took half an hour to get to by bicycle but it was worth it because the lake had bass as well as crappy and bream, and of course catfish. Such freedom isn't available to citizens and their children now. At least not in theory.

When we hunted, we had some rules: land was huntable unless it was posted, but stay out of posted land (about a quarter of the land around us, most of it under cultivation; few posted their woods and cane patches). You always left a gate as you found it. Pass the firearms through the fence, don't carry them while trying to get through a fence. Don't point a weapon at anything you wouldn't shoot, and don't shoot anything you wouldn't kill. Common sense. But that was in war time... As to what we hunted, rabbits and squirrels mostly. Sometime doves. The custom was that a rifle shot at a sitting bird was OK (provided that you could see where the bullet would hit) but you didn't shoot sitting birds with a shotgun. Unless everyone was pretty hungry, and we were never that hungry. Buck's father was a Watkins man with a Watkins route, and my father worked for radio station WHBQ, as salesman, then sales manager, and finally as general manager, as well as sometimes doing what wasn't then called a talk show but that's what he did. But it was all long ago. When we were free.





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