THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 329, September 27 - October 3, 2004
Highlights this week:
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
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September 27, 2004
Making preparations for going out to the desert.
(1) Smarts are distributed on a bell curve, and whether you call it IQ or smarts, there is a distribution; it's convenient to talk about this as IQ, which is a measurable quantity that correlates pretty well with academic success. While it isn't meaningful to use IQ to make predictions about individuals who don't differ much (say one with IQ 95 and another with IQ 105) it is very useful to make predictions based on population IQ, as for instance is done in the book IQ And The Wealth of Nations. Moreover, even with individuals, it is quite useful to make predictions based on large differences: those with IQ 90 are not going to become great theoretical physicists and sending them to Cal Tech or MIT is a waste of their time and the institution resources.
(2) This is not Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average. Half are below average.
(3) Sorting out who is above and who is below average is a difficult and probably useless task. Sorting who who is WAY BELOW average and who is WAY ABOVE average is fairly easy, and worth doing.
(4) Education and training are two different procedures. Education is broadly useful as learning how to learn; well educated people can generally change skill sets fairly easily, and thus need less training to become proficient at many skilled tasks. It is easier to teach an IQ 115 to become a skilled lathe operator than to teach that same skill set to an IQ 85. On the other hand, the IQ 85 trainee can learn to do the job quite well.
(4,1) Higher IQ people
are more likely to get bored with skill tasks. This doesn't
(5) The lower you go on the IQ scale the less you can make use of education and the more you need training. The left side of the bell curve can do useful and meaningful work and be good citizens; but they do not tend to be educated nor do they want to be educated in the sense of having the ability to use lots of judgment and to learn new skill sets easily. Having acquired a skill set one tends to keep it and hone it.
(6) In times of rapid technological change adjustment is much harder for the lower IQ people precisely because some of their skills become less wanted and generate fewer jobs (buggy whip braiding, feed store managers, ice delivery workers, milk delivery workers) and others find competition from higher IQ people overseas (skilled textile workers, lathe operators) drives their wages down until they are no longer middle class.
(7) A sane republic will have education systems that recognize that teaching the finer points of English Literature to classes largely made up of IQ 80 to 90 students is less useful than teaching those classes specific skills and abilities that might be useful.
I could continue, but the inferences should be clear here. We cannot afford to put people who can use education in training classes -- but the education classes will not work well if filled with people in need of training who cannot benefit from "liberal education".
And finally: most of our education systems were devised by people who are off on the right side of the bell curve, as are almost all of those who read this page. See Mail for more on this.
Does anyone have a source of those long rubber things used to mount fans in computer cases? If you don't know what I am talking about I can't explain it without a picture, but those who have used one will know. I need to buy about a hundred of them.
This video shows footage that slipped
through the net of the IDF censors.
I have been unable to find a copy of the article/speech on line. Some comments on it:
Note I did not say comments I agree with, or even particularly sane comments.
At some point the article itself may become available; until then, you will need library access to a paper copy (or a subscription to The National Interest). If you have much interest in this subject it will be worth finding a copy.
NEW YORK, Sept. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- In an exclusive story in its September 27 issue, Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that a new $50 million "America's Space Prize" is being established by a millionaire space entrepreneur. The prize will go to the first team that can build a commercial space transport capable of sending 5-7 astronauts at a time into orbit. Aviation Week further reports that millionaire Robert T. Bigelow will be putting up at least half of the money for the new prize to transport astronauts to his new Nautilus "inflatable" space outposts. Aviation Week was given a look at the inflatable space module development inside Bigelow's heavily guarded plant near North Las Vegas, Nev. The magazine reports that the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston is providing substantial technical assistance to the Nautilus project. Bigelow's "America's Space Prize" is to be announced this week as part of ceremonies surrounding attempts by the Burt Rutan Scaled Composites "SpaceShipOne" team to win the $10 million Ansari X-Prize to reach suborbital space at 62 mile altitude. The America's Prize, however, is to award five times more money than the X-Prize and presents far greater challenges than the X-Prize, says Aviation Week. The America's Prize will require the development of a vehicle that could maneuver and dock with an orbiting space station at well over 100 miles altitude, then survive a reentry back into the atmosphere at 17,500 mph. This is something Rutan's SpaceShipOne is not designed to do and the NASA space shuttle can do only at great expense and risk. Bigelow, who earned his fortune as the founder of Budget Suites of America, wants to lease out his Nautilus inflatable modules so companies and government agencies can perform research at far less cost than on board the International Space Station. For further information, please visit http://www.aviationnow.com.
Prizes are catching on; and that is the way to advance the cause.
September 28, 2004
CNN is reporting this morning that North Korea has formally announced that they have a nuclear capability.
That will put the cat among the pigeons...
Subj: Fukuyama article online
I was able to access the Fukuyama article from _National Interest_ Summer 2004 online through my local public library, which subscribes to the "EBSCOhost" service in a way that lets library patrons log in from home using their library card number as an ID.
Don't know how many readers' local libraries provide a similar service.
So: Niven and I are out here in Mojave, for the moment in XCOR headquarters begging electrons and bandwidth. We've got our press credentials and we've missed the 4 PM press briefing but we will head off to the 5 PM one I think. Tomorrow they go for the X Prize. It should be quite a show.
There is lots of talk about space, and Virgin Airlines buying 5 Rutan vehicles to carry passengers to space as tourists. We've heard that sort of thing before, but there's verve to it now that wasn't around: largely because for the first time it looks as if it might happen without needing NASA -- more, that NASA is now sufficiently crippled that it won't be able to stop private ventures to space. NASA was always the enemy, but not too many knew that. They convinced people like Dana Rohrabacher that they really were for getting people to space, not keeping their own control over who got access, and using that access to build empires. I mean, who would do that, compromise mankind's future for bureaucratic control? Well, now it's clear, that is what NASA has been doing since the 70's, and they have done it very well indeed.
And the Big Bad Wolf isn't dead, believe me. They'll keep trying. It will be interesting to see what NASA's official reaction to all this will be. Pooh pooh to begin with, of course.
2230: After the big party with everyone. Must be up at 0400. All looks good to go. Roland set up a wireless network so I can get this out. Back at XCOR after the party.
September 29, 2004
They made it. There was something weird about the ascent, with a roll as it went up. They cut off the burn 11 seconds early, but he made the altitude. It was a bit scary for a while but once the powered flight was over, everything was smooth.
Spin stabilized manned space flight. Off axis thrust, but spin stabilization works, if a bit odd. He was ordered to abort but went for the record.
Takeoff, and after the landing. Lots of people will have good pictures.
I am back home. The press conference said that everything ran fine: the roll was a roll, not a spin, and there was never any danger. This may be the first spin-stabilized manned rocket, but in fact a roll rate of 140 degrees a minute is not much for an aerobatic ship. I had inferred that he was in a flat spin; this I got from looking at the big projection monitor that was showing the view from one of the vertical stabilizers. But in fact that view showed that this was a roll not a spin.
As to why the roll, my guess, and it's pure guesswork, is differential burning in the hybrid engine. I have never been fond of hybrid engines: they give rather low ISP, and while they are safe in that they can be shut off (unlike a solid) and can't explode in transit like a solid, they do tend to uneven burns and thus variable thrust vectors -- not what you want when flying. But apparently my misgivings have been misplaced: the press conference at least said all went well.
I would still be quite astonished if hybrid engines ended up being on the commercial version of this ship.
September 30, 2004
I will have more on both private and public prizes after the event. I will remind you, as I have been reminding people in general:
If you want a Moon Base, it takes two lines of legislation: The Congress has determined that an American Moon Base is in the public interest. The Treasurer of the United States is directed to pay the sum of $10 billion to the first American owned company that places 31 American citizens on the surface of the Moon and keeps them there continuously, alive and well, for three years and one day.
At the XPRIZE launch yesterday Jim Cameron argued that this wouldn't do it because no one would trust the government not to change its mind, and thus no one would go after it. I conceded the point although in fact I think it's quite possible to make this a legal commitment: the government contracts with major companies all the time; but I also insisted that it does no harm, and might do good. We were interrupted before Cameron could explain that it might do some harm; I'll present his arguments if this discussion continues next time.
Titanic Director James Cameron at the X-Prize Flight
The important part of the prizes as incentives is that nothing is paid until the feat is accomplished. No progress payments. You might have separate prizes for intermediate steps, such as $1 billion for landing 31 Americans on the Lunar Surface, and $1 billion a year for each year they stay there until the 3 years is ended; but these should not be progress payments. Note that with intermediate prizes, after the first is won, public sentiment would be so much in favor that the chances of rescinding the prize in anything but a really major turnover of government would be small. For that matter, I suspect that it would be difficult to get any Congress to rescind a prize once offered if there have been good faith efforts to win it. There is some honor among politicians, and we do have some statesmen in Congress; and of those who fit neither category some still have a sense of shame.
Regarding the launch, there will be lots better pictures from many others. Dan Spisak and Jim Bennet took a number, some with my cameras. I'll get pointers to where they have put them up. For the record, here's the post-flight press conference:
With the principals. Left to right, Greg Maryniak, Executive Director Ansari X Prize; Paul Allen; Flight Director Doug Shane; Burt Rutan; Dr. Peter Diamandis, XPrize Founder; and Sarah Evans of CarryOn Public Relations.
There were only about 5,000 people out to the desert on a Wednesday morning for this event; as opposed to about 35,000 when they did the "first private pilot in space" launch last June. I expect there to be a much larger crowd next Monday morning.
Some more pictures from the launch. That's Eugene Roddenberry, son of the Star Trek producer, on the left. A shot looking west; to the East you could see the sun fully risen; and on the right, Larry Niven, and Gary and Ann Hudson.
I took the liberty of creating images for the rest of
your planets as well. I hope you like them.
An interesting place indeed.
I keep getting mail asking about my views on the election. I haven't said much, but I did say this once.
For lots of good pictures, try Dan Spisak's site:
The debate is over, and I got this much: Kerry will cancel all nuclear weapons research programs in the name of international control of nuclear proliferation; and Kerry is in favor of some drastic actions to control global warming.
I wasn't much impressed with Bush but I didn't expect to be. I was less impressed with Kerry's "plan" for Iraq, which is not a plan but a series of hopes: train more Iraqi police and soldiers, bring in more international partners, develop Iraq more quickly, and draw out American troops as soon as possible, in six months maybe if everything else works. This is fantasy and he knows it. He won't leave until the job is done, making his position indistinguishable from Bush's, except that if he knew then what he knows now he wouldn't have gone in -- also indistinguishable from Bush except that Bush can't admit that.
At least the egregious Frum with his Chalabi the Thief strategy is no longer in charge anywhere.
I didn't start with much hope; I began with a view I got from John Derbyshire
"If you ask me to state my one biggest reason for voting Republican, here is the answer: "Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, Ed Muskie, Cyrus Vance." Those are the names of the last four secretaries of state in Democratic administrations. Every one of them was willing — nay, eager — to permit himself to be hung upside down and shaken till the keys to the store came tumbling out of his pockets by operators much less ruthless than Kim Jong Il. Secretary Albright, in fact, once distinguished herself by standing at Kim's side laughing and clapping along while a Nork dance troupe performed a number titled something like: "Drown the American Imperialist Pigs in a Sea of Fire!" Heaven preserve us from Democratic foreign policy. " http://www.nationalreview.com/derbyshire/derbyshire200409300813.asp
Albright, in fact, was willing to commit the Army so long as there was no possible way to find any link to American national interests; and listening to Kerry talk about Africa I am not sure he has any different view, but that may be unfair. He certainly used the problems in Africa as another casual stick with which to beat Bush.
Bush is dangerously close to a 12 Division foreign policy with a 10 Division Army; Kerry doesn't seem to see that since he would put more troops on the ground or maybe he wouldn't, and train more Iraqis only as the reports come in on how that's not working I expect a change in that position too.
The fact is that there is no easy way out of the Iraqi mess. The neo-Jacobins sold us a bill of goods. The egregious Frum apparently really believed we could just go in, turn the place over to Chalabi the Thief, and all would be well, the oil would be flowing, the Dow would go to 12,000, and all would be well. Rove vetoed the Syrian addition to the Iraqi invasion, Deo gratia, but it was all pretty bad, and in a better world the Democrats would be running someone we can all trust, an avuncular centrist New Democrat. Bill Clinton would do just fine. Then Bush could be turned out for his mistakes, which were real, and we would have time for the country to regroup and relearn its lessons, and the Republicans to digest the lunch they just had handed to them.
It is not a better world, and the Democrats have run a man whose most positive statement in the debate was that he would stop the nuclear weapons research programs RIGHT NOW; and presumably ballistic missile defense programs as well. He seems to want a MAD world. I lived through one era of MAD. I prefer in future an era of US escalation dominance.
Escalation dominance, for all those who didn't learn strategic terms in the Cold War, means that your superiority over the other guy increases as the level of violence increases: step up the intensity of the war and he plays your game: every step up is into a regime where you are stronger than he, right up to nuclear warfare. He thus has no incentive to escalate, and in fact is afraid you will. It is not a strategy that appealed to Kerry when he was in the Senate, either before or after the collapse of the USSR; and it is not likely to appeal to him now.
Bush Senior flat out lied to the American people about taxes, then when caught in that didn't explain but tried to be flippant. Read my hips. The result was that long time Republicans couldn't wait for November to fire him. We were fortunate enough to get Clinton, not Kerry.
This time it's Bush or Kerry.
October 1, 2004
I have put my views of the debates above. I'll have more, but my conclusion is that Kerry rejects a Strategy of Technology. Bush isn't implementing it as I would, but he believes in it; Kerry explicitly said he would cancel nuclear weapons research. I have indicated above why I think this indicates a key failure in strategic thought and is vary dangerous.
I am no Bush enthusiast. I opposed the war before we went in. It was a bad idea when we did it, and it was not at all well done. On the other hand: Kossovo was a bad idea, and it was not well done; and Kerry was muttering about intervening in the Sudan, and making negotiations with North Korea a bi-lateral affair which means we either pay them Danegeld or fight them, there not being many other choices. Bush at least recognizes that this is as much China's problem as ours, and is more Japan and South Korea's problem than anyone's. Kerry seems determined to show he is Not Bush on North Korea. That's either ingenuous or frightening.
I don't think Bush did well, and I think he surrounded himself with a very bad set of advisors; but I don't see many in the Kerry camp who are better, and that too is frightening.
On domestic issues both are horrible. The Republicans are swimming in pork with more to come. Their domestic legislation looks like drunken Democrats on speed. Alas, Kerry says it wasn't enough and we ought to do more, and raise taxes as well. Either party is horrible. Were the Democrats adhering to sound strategic principles I'd say a pox on both their houses and vote my conservative heart; and given that I live in California I will do so anyway unless the Governor has brought enough people over that the state is in play. But where the issue is in doubt, the stakes are very high. A Strategy of Technology is the best chance we have. Kerry explicitly rejected key elements of that in the debate.
There is a warning from Microsoft about malware programs that can be built into jpeg image files. http://www.microsoft.com/security/bulletins/200409_jpeg.mspx
Note that systems with XP SP-2 are NOT vulnerable to this.
I have a small 2 station KVM switch. It's green plastic, quite small, with cables built in. There is no mfg label at all. There is no physical switch. I am sure it switches from one station to the other through some keyboard combination, but I have not only lost the package it came in, I can't even remember where I got it. As it happens, it would be just the thing for one workplace installation where I would like to keep two computers on line.
I will probably connect them up and try experiments, but it sure would be nice to know what I am doing. This is a green and greyish black (mostly green) gizmo with keyboard, mouse, and VGA connector on the plastic and two sturdy cables that sprout into keyboard, mouse, and VGA connectors out toward their end. It's simple, and should be easy to us, if I knew how to use it...
GOT IT! My readers know everything. It's scroll lock - Scroll lock quick doubletap, and it works just fine. I think the unit was originally a Belkin. Whatever it is, it's got a XANDROS Linux system and a Windows 2000 system running on the same KVM...
……While observing the significant incorrect information being published about the rolls seen on the 29 Sept 04 SpaceShipOne flight, we are responding by offering a bit of discussion to help provide some clarity. This information is approved for publication.
Comments On The Rolling Rumors
Burt provides some preliminary information about the rolling motions seen on the First X-Prize Flight:
The complex reason on why the rolling departure occurred will be described in a report we will post at a later date. What I am intending to do here is merely address some of the incorrect rumors about the rolls that have been seen in various news stories and web discussion groups.
While the first roll occurred at a high true speed, about 2.7 Mach, the aerodynamic loads were quite low (120 KEAS) and were decreasing rapidly, so the ship never saw any significant structural stresses. The reason that there were so many rolls was because shortly after they started, Mike was approaching the extremities of the atmosphere. Nearly all of the 29 rolls that followed the initial departure were basically at near-zero-q, thus they were a continuous rolling motion without aerodynamic damping, rather than the airplane-like aerodynamic rolls seen by an aerobatic airplane. In other words, they were more like space flight than they were like airplane flight. Thus, Mike could not damp the motions with his aerodynamic flight controls.
Mike elected to wait until he feathered the boom-tail in space, before using the reaction control system thrusters (RCS) to damp the roll rate. When he finally started to damp the rates he did so successfully and promptly. The RCS damping, to a stable attitude without significant angular rates was complete well before the ship reached apogee (337,600 feet, or 103 Km). That gave mike time to relax, note his peak altitude, and then pick up a digital high-resolution camera and take some great photos out the windows. Those photos are now being considered for publication by a major magazine.
While we did not plan the rolls, we did get valuable engineering data on how well our RCS system works in space to damp high angular rates. We also got a further evaluation of our “Care-free Reentry” capability, under a challenging test condition. As seen on the videos of the flight, the ship righted itself quickly and accurately without pilot input as it fell straight into the atmosphere. No other winged, horizontal-landing spaceship (X-15, Buran, SpaceShuttle) has this capability.
Added in a later communication:
Some publications have stated that Mike defied a request to shut down the motor and let it run a few more seconds in order to reach 100 Km altitude. This is not true. While a Mission Control aerodynamist did discuss a possible abort a few seconds earlier, Mike immediately shut down the motor on the first advisory call over the radio. Mike himself was monitoring the apogee predictor during the initial rolls and was in the process of going for the thrust termination switch as he heard the advisory call.
October 2, 2004
Column time, and I will be going out to the desert tomorrow and Monday. It's going to be tight.
Greetings, Dr. Pournelle,
I thought I should let you know that GDI+ can affect Windows XP Service Pack 2 users, since third-party software (such as Microsoft Office, which requires its own separate patch to fix this) have it built in. From what I've read, people who've downloaded the "patch" from Windows Update, in reality have only downloaded a scanner which tells them if they have a problem; if they click through it quickly, like I did, they rest easy in the false belief that they've fixed the problem.
I now know that I have SOME third party program on my machine that uses the old GDI+, but I don't know which one/ones it is. I've updated everything I can think of to update, such as Irfanview, GTK & The Gimp, Firefox, and Thunderbird, but I'm still not sure I covered all the bases here
-- David Bierbaum
Subject: IMPORTANT - GDI Vulnerabiltiy Info and Test for third-party apps
Your alert today about the GDI vuln (graphics engine) is correct, as we alerted your users just after MS sent out the patch. There has been a lot of misunderstanding about the extent of this, though.
The folks at the Internet Storm Center ( www.isc.org ) have been discussing this problem for a while. And they have provided this link which is a very good tutorial on the problem, and how to check all your software for the problem:
It also includes a link to a better GDI vuln scanner that will look for problems with non-MS software. They can also be vulnerable. The problem is also in all versions of Windows.
It is important to patch Windows. The problem is also in Office, so get that updated. (Use Windows Update to get the OS patches, then click on the "Office Family" icon on the Windows Update page to get to the Office Update page.)
Then use the GDI detection tool to find other software with similar problems. The tool is available here: http://isc.sans.org/gdiscan.php .
Note to non-Windows users: there are similar problems with your systems and various graphic file types. So you should also do your updates.
Regards, Rick Hellewell
An Army officer in Iraq who wrote a highly critical article on the administration's conduct of the war is being investigated for disloyalty -- if charged and convicted, he could get 20 years
-- Roland Dobbins
Lorentz is a non-commissioned officer, so the headline is wrong; but they have it right in the story. I have been busy tearing this place apart and putting it together again, so I haven't been able to follow this. There is more in mail.
October 3, 2004
We are here in Mojave. It's the night before the launch. The FAA Administrator was at XCOR this afternoon, and there are real signs of progress in regulations: protect the innocent public but let those who want to take risks to go to space. Protecting passengers is the issue: we are not at that stage yet, and must not be. Sure, make passengers sign waivers. Warn them that space travel is dangerous (who doesn't know that?). But regulations should be aimed at protecting the public, not the passengers.
Will Rogers and Wily Post were killed when Post's airplane crashed. Rogers was a passenger. I can imagine what he would have said had there been some regulation against his going on the flight. John Adams told us that in the United States we hold that each man is the best judge of his own interest. So should it be here. People on the ground didn't volunteer to take risks. Licenses are to protect them; but not the passengers.
The Mariah inn advertises high speed internet and for a few seconds it appeared to be working, but now I can't get DNS resolution. So it goes.
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