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Mail 375 August 15 - 21, 2005






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Monday  August 15, 2005

Subject: Meteor Impact Antipodes


First, in responding to this question, I found the following New Scientist article which argues the same association but a vastly different mechanism (which claims that Chicxulub was a smaller partner of a much larger impact in India):



Large meteorite impacts may not just throw up huge dust clouds but also punch right through the Earth's crust, triggering gigantic volcanic eruptions.

The idea is controversial, but evidence is mounting that the Earth's geology has largely been driven by such events. This would also explain why our planet has so few impact crater remnants.


For example, the 10 kilometre-wide asteroid that hit Chicxulub in Mexico 65 million years ago is widely blamed for wiping out the dinosaurs. But it could have been a piece from a much bigger rock that hit India, triggering the surge of volcanic activity known as the Deccan Traps.

"Many areas that exhibit extensive volcanism from the past, such as the Deccan Traps and the Siberian Traps, may in fact be sites of gigantic meteorite impacts," says Jones. Perhaps the dinosaurs would have survived a meteorite impact alone, but the double whammy of a meteorite and volcanoes pushed them to extinction.

Second, returning to my original comments:

Off the top of my head (not an analysis):

1. Shock transmission of this type, as a general phenomenon, is far from unknown. The example I am most familiar with is concussive damage to the point of the brain directly opposite a cranial impact.

2. Consider, however, the relative scales. The Chicxulub impact is believed to be about 10 km in diameter, or about 10/13,000 = 1/1,300 ~ 0.1% of the diameter of the earth. For the average person, this would be like being hit in the chest by an object about 0.25 mm in diameter. Admittedly, it is going to hurt like the dickens, but with a mass of 8 micrograms (assuming water for density matching), even at a velocity of 11 km/s, the impact energy would only be 0.5 J, which is far below the conventional estimated threshold for fatality (about 100 J). And the stress waves would have correspondingly high frequencies and would be quickly damped. (Checking that number....unless I've made a serious error, that's right -- though the dynamic pressure direclty under the 0.01 square millimeter impact point would be 600,000 atmospheres for 23 nanoseconds, and the resulting power expenditure for that period is 22 MWts). Plus the shock wave from Chicxulub would have to punch through a variable density viscoelastic region, the earth's mantle and core; bottom line, not likely but probably not impossible.

3. The article cited above does however give some creedance to the possibility that the effect on the plates might trigger significant earthquate and volcanic activity far from the point of impact. Entering the Chicxulub paramters in the online Earth Impact Effects Calculator ( http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects/  ) with 17 km/s impact velocity and 10 km diameter stony mass on water of depth 200 meters, at 45 degree impact, yields the following reported effects at the antipodes (probably stretching the program, but...) The key point is that the seismic effects are approximately Richter 10, 10X that of the Somali earthquake of last December, and particularly if there were already geological instability in the region, it would make it worse.

Jim Woosley

Impact Effects

Robert Marcus, H. Jay Melosh <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/People/Faculty/melosh.html>  , and Gareth Collins <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~gareth/gareth.html

Please note: the results below are estimates based on current (limited) understanding of the impact process and come with large uncertainties; they should be used with caution, particularly in the case of peculiar input parameters. All values are given to three significant figures but this does not reflect the precision of the estimate. For more information about the uncertainty associated with our calculations and a full discussion of this program, please refer to this article <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/effects.pdf>

Your Inputs:

Distance from Impact: 13000.00 km = 8073.00 miles Projectile Diameter: 10000.00 m = 32800.00 ft = 6.21 miles Projectile Density: 3000 kg/m3 Impact Velocity: 17.00 km/s = 10.56 miles/s Impact Angle: 45 degrees Target Density: 1000 kg/m3 Target Type: Liquid Water of depth 200.00 meters, over typical rock.


Energy before atmospheric entry: 2.27 x 1023 Joules = 5.42 x 107 MegaTons TNT The average interval between impacts of this size somewhere on Earth during the last 4 billion years is 9.9 x 107years

Major Global Changes:

The Earth is not strongly disturbed by the impact and loses negligible mass. The impact does not make a noticeable change in the Earth's rotation period or the tilt of its axis. The impact does not shift the Earth's orbit noticeably.

Crater Dimensions:

What does this mean? <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/craterexp.html#crater

The crater opened in the water has a diameter of 102 km = 63.1 miles

For the crater formed in the seafloor: Transient Crater <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/craterglos.html#transient>  Diameter: 61.8 km = 38.4 miles Transient Crater Depth: 21.8 km = 13.6 miles

Final Crater <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/craterglos.html#final>  Diameter: 106 km = 66 miles Final Crater Depth: 1.21 km = 0.748 miles

The crater formed is a complex crater <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/craterglos.html#complex>  . The volume of the target melted or vaporized is 1390 km3 = 334 miles3 Roughly half the melt remains in the crater , where its average thickness is 464 meters = 1520 feet

Thermal Radiation:

What does this mean? <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/craterexp.html#thermal

The fireball is below the horizon. There is no direct thermal radiation.

Seismic Effects:

What does this mean? <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/craterexp.html#seismic

The major seismic shaking will arrive at approximately 2600 seconds. Richter Scale Magnitude: 9.8 (This is greater than any earthquake in recorded history) Mercalli Scale Intensity at a distance of 13000 km:

I. Not felt except by a very few under especially favorable conditions.

II. Felt only by a few persons at rest, especially on upper floors of buildings.


What does this mean? <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/craterexp.html#ejecta

Little rocky ejecta reaches this site; fallout is dominated by condensed vapor from the projectile.

Air Blast:

What does this mean? <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/craterexp.html#airblast>

The air blast will arrive at approximately 39400 seconds. Peak Overpressure: 1770 Pa = 0.0177 bars = 0.252 psi Max wind velocity: 4.15 m/s = 9.28 mph Sound Intensity: 65 dB (Loud as heavy traffic)

Tell me more... <http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~marcus/effects.pdf

Click here for a pdf document that details the observations, assumptions, and equations upon which this program is based. It describes our approach to quantifying the important impact processes that might affect the people, buildings, and landscape in the vicinity of an impact event and discusses the uncertainty in our predictions. The processes included are: atmospheric entry, impact crater formation, fireball expansion and thermal radiation, ejecta deposition, seismic shaking, and the propagation of the atmospheric blast wave.



On Chaos Mail, 2005-08-13, S. C. Healy said, "In the news recently was a story on how the dinosaurs were affected by extensive lava flows in India. The timeframe was 65 million years ago."

When you and I attended the AAAS annual meeting in 1980 in Washington DC, there was a geologist who argued that the Deccan Traps - lava flows dating to 65 MYA - and the consequent release of CO2 were the cause of the dinosaurs' demise.

I tracked down the geologist. He is Dewey McLean. His website is here: http://filebox.vt.edu/artsci/geology/mclean/Dinosaur_Volcano_Extinction/ . I asked him if the Lucifer's Hammer that hit the Yucatan could have caused the Deccan Traps.

There's a place on Mercury called "chaotic terrain" that is on the antipodal spot - 180 degrees around the planet - from where a big impact occurred. It seems that seismic waves spreading out from the impact went around the planet and converged on the opposite side. I wondered if we had a similar situation here on Earth in the Cretaceous. He told me that the Deccan Traps spewed lava for a long time, and if I recall correctly, he said they started before the Hammer hit. He also said that the Traps were caused by a really big magma plume. So he didn't think the impact caused the Deccan volcanism.

I'd be interested in Healy's recent news cite, though.


Thank you! And that ought to give those interested enough to think about for a while. And see below.

Russell Seitz on climate

August 14 2005
 Dear Jerry:
 In my 1990 screed on scientific uncertainty in the Climate Wars,'A War Against Fire" (http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/global.html#Seitz2)  I reserved the right to change my mind if the data dud, because various peer revied accounts of'average" global temperature pointed "up, down, and sideways"

Well, the data have changed. In this week's _Science_, three papers point out that the discrepancy between the satellite radiometer record of warming and the climate models are due to the satellites drifting as their orbits decay in ways that confound the corrections used for a generation.. The standard interpretation of their data, by the University of Alabama's doyen of satellite thermometry, Professor Roy Spencer, used a model for diurnal drift to assure that the temperatures taken coincided with the local time of day at the ground points to which they were attached for the record, the idea being to catch local temperatures near their peak in the noonday sun.

Alas, the orbits drift day to day in complex ways, and over the years it seems their observations have drifted away from the daily local peaks. Despite ingenious efforts to correct that tendency by massaging the data, they have understated the warming trend by somewhere between 50% and a factor of 2.

Since the infrared optics have not been pointing on schedule, the satellites beloved of the warming skeptics have failed to catch how fast temperatures have been going up.

Spencer concedes the point in a graceful article on TCS at : http://www.techcentralstation.com/081105RS.html  , he also has some interesting things to say about how the orbital platforms the thermometry gear rides have been rolling and yawing as well.

The other two Science papers address the discrepancy between ground temperatures and tropospheric balloon sondes, and likewise argue for up-shifting the still nebulous definition of 'average" global temperature.

So though I expect ferocious denial by authors of books with '' Myth Of " in their titles ( and much irrelevant policy hype by the Dark Greens ) , the unchanging case for coolth articulated by the usual suspects over the years must now be weighed against their own insistence that we should rely primarily on satellite radiometers to define the global average .

Here is a pretty strong statement three made last year, followed by an excerpt from the honestly written 11 August 2005 piece by Roy Spencer, whom I quoted in A War Against Fire in 1990 :

Meltdown for Global Warming Science by Patrick J. Michaels, S. Fred Singer and David H. Douglass Cato Institute August 19, 2004

"The surface temperature record shows a warming rate of about 0.17 degrees Celsius (0.31 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade since 1979. However, there are two other records -- one from satellites, the other from weather balloons -- that tell a different story. Neither annual satellite nor balloon trends differ significantly from zero since the satellite record started in 1979... many investigators have tried to explain the cause of the disparity while others have denied its existence.

So, which record is right, the U.N. surface record showing the larger warming or the other two? ...In two research papers in the July 9 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, two of us (Mr. Douglass and Mr. Singer) compared it for correspondence with the surface record and the lower atmosphere histories. The odd-record-out turns out to be the U.N.'s hot-surface history.

This is a double kill, both on the U.N.'s temperature records and its vaunted climate models... Neither the satellite nor the balloon records can find it... Now we have a quarter-century of concurrent balloon and satellite data, both screaming that the U.N.'s climate models have failed, as well as indicating its surface record is simply too hot.

Some Convergence of Global Warming Estimates By Roy Spencer TCS 11 August 2005 T0 CS In.. new global warming papers in Science, Mears & Wentz (2005) address what they consider to be a large source of uncertainty in our (University of Alabama in Huntsville, "UAH") satellite estimate for global lower tropospheric ("LT") temperature This discrepancy between the UAH satellite LT trends and the surface thermometer trends has caused some consternation

... since the satellites do not have on-board propulsion... what began as early afternoon observations ... drift to later in the day over the several years of each satellite's lifetime. This causes a spurious cooling trend as the Earth observations are made later in the afternoon to the evening.  The UAH method for removing this drift depended upon the spacecraft roll attitude...The new research paper presents ... corrections based upon a climate model estimate of the daily (diurnal) cycle of temperature... Their final estimate ... is +0.19 deg. C/decade, very close to the surface thermometer estimated....

Mears & Wentz were additionally able to demonstrate to us, privately, that there is an error that arises from our implementation of the UAH technique. This very convincing demonstration... made it obvious to us that the UAH diurnal correction method had a bias that needed to be corrected.

In a paper accompanying the Mears and Wentz paper, a new analysis of radiosonde (weather balloon) data by Sherwood et al. also obtains larger levels of warming than have been previously reported... At a minimum, the new work shows that weather balloon data... (which have traditionally supported the much smaller satellite trends from UAH) results in trends much closer to the warmer surface thermometer trends.   The third paper (Santer et al, 2005) takes a more thorough look at the theoretical expectation that surface warming should be amplified with height in the troposphere. The convergence of these newly reported satellite and radiosonde estimates ... provides better agreement with climate models' explanation of how the climate system behaves"

Russell Seitz

Better models and more data will be all to the good. Before we do expensive things to fix future problems, it helps to know which problems need fixing. For collected items on this subject, see the Global Warming discussion page.


>>Which is not to say that a less partisan source will not be found; but >>until it is, I'm not revising my views on global warming.<<

The problems with the entire debate as it has been framed so far are:

a. The instant leap to claiming Global Warming (if it exists to a signficant degree) is caused primarily and even only by human activities. There is still limited evidence for this two-part joined at the hip proposition. There is a vast amount of evidence that Global Climate has always been variable in the past. As has the chemical composition of the atmosphere for that matter.

b. The unstated assumption of the current Global Warming Prophets of Doom is the public policy goal should be climate stasis at all human costs because any increase in average temperature or other ecological change will only wreak evil results. Is it possible to conceive of a more reactionary outlook? The entire mindset is left over from the failed environmental hysterics of the 1970s. Does anyone else remember back when we were going to be gassed out, frozen out and starved out by 2000? The current hysteria was intially propagated by many of the same people whose previous prophetic records would cause even mediocre race track touts to lose their jobs. It is essentially anti-human in nature.

Siberia, Alaska and the major part of Canada were all far more temperate in past times, and geologically very recent past times at that, judging from the geologic record and vast numbers of frozen carcasses. Will it really be such a catastrophe if millions of square miles of land area change from uninhabitable tundra to something more humanly usable over a period of one-two centuries? This will more than offset minor adjustments in the shorelines elsewhere even if all of the Arctic melts. So what if the forest line advances north in Canada, as some say it is now doing? Make up your minds, kids. You can't credibly complain simultaneously about trees being cut down in one spot and more trees growing in another where they weren't growing previously.

The Sierra Club mindset failed completely, as was predicted at the time. As a group its adherents have only bred themselves out of the human race, leaving the way open for others to fill their now-emptying ecological niche. Demographers now confidently predict that North America's population will hit 400 million and more by mid-century, assuming no change in immigration policy. I personally think it's too late to change immigration 'policy' without profound racial and cultural conflict. In these circumstances the prospect of most of Canada (and Siberia) becoming far more habitable than now is not necessarily an unmitigated disaster. Reactionary attempts at maintaining climate stasis are the surest and swiftest path to Armageddon at the current time.

What is the most likely time horizon of 'change', if it in fact occurs? If it's anywhere close to 40 years or more, the construction and real estate industries can handle the necessary adjustments in the normal course of business. If Change is upon us now, can't be stopped and will wreak real havoc in a few years, then the information is interesting but useless. It's like seeing CNN announce the Yellowstone Caldera will explode in an hour when you're living in Wyoming, or another Dinosaur Killer will strike early next week. FYI, these are other stories that were popular recent past themes in the Guardian. The Guardian, like other British newspapers, has to compete against daily 'Tabloids' similar to our beloved National Enquirer. The Guardian and other British newspapers thus indulge in a bit of respectable tabloidism themselves whenever they can find a credible hook for a 'tab style story.



Subject: Islamic Democracy on the march

The Kuwait Times April 28. 2005 “Why is our government trying to create problems out of nothing?” former oil minister Ali Ahmad Al-Baghli asked the Minister of the Interior in an address to the majlis today.

“The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for implementing death sentences by hanging, recently started importing ropes for this purpose from Egypt, after England stopped manufacturing them. The rope is specially made for hanging, and not only the executioners, but also the men who tie the rope around the neck of the con-demned man, are carefully trained for the job."

According to the former Minister problems began three months ago, when the last public hanging was held in Kuwait City, and the neck of the criminal who was hanged was badly cut by the rope.

That is why the Interior Ministry sent a delegation to buy new ropes in Egypt. They personally examined the rope before signing a contract worth 16,000 Dinars. The problem is that, after it was brought to Kuwait, they found that this expensive rope wasn’t good enough for ‘human use.’

“This raises a very pertinent question" according to former Minister Al-Baghli . "How can these expensive imported ropes not be good enough for hanging, when every day we see weak Asian labourers hanging themselves from tree branches with ordinary Kuwaiti ropes used to dry clothes? He suggests the Interior Ministry assigns the task of hanging criminals to Asian labourers living in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, as in his opinion :

" It appears that they have more experience in such matters, and what is more, their ropes can be bought cheaply from any cooperative society.”

A spokeman for the Interior Ministry will reply by letter in a subsequent edition of the Times.



Subject: More on panspermia.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: The Nanny State in Action? : County evicting homeless man who dug his own underground home in Thousand Palms

Too bad he didn't *patent* it...he'd be set for life! <sardonic grin>


Doug Hayden




----- Roland Dobbins

The New Model... (and see below)


Subject: No Fly babies

The TSA is stopping babies on the no fly list from flying.

I won't bother commenting.

R Hunt

They are only following orders. It is probably a task not beneath their abilities and skills. We should all feel safer.


Letter from England

This should have been up near the top; for some reason one of the filters went mad today and put a lot of trusted mail into the doubtful category.

Subject: Letter from England

There are a number of interesting stories in the news today.

The London Times has one on the possibility that terrorists might hijack fuel tankers and use them to attack petrol stations: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22989-1735701,00.html>  My reaction is that this would be higher-profile than the recent attacks and so less likely. The Washington DC area has had a number of similar incidents in the last few years, all resolved with relatively little fuss.

A second story on how A-level marks keep increasing, making it hard for universities to be selective. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1735660,00.html>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Education/alevels/story/ 0,16085,1549263,00.html>  I suspect this is an example of teaching to the test plus the Flynn effect. What I would like to see is elimination of the A-level system and its replacement with a diploma so that students are not required to decide at sixteen or before what field they want to work in for the rest of their life. That way, they would have a broader educational foundation at the time they enter university. The current system does not produce enough competent generalists to take the UK into the twentieth century.

My youngest son got caught up in the wildcat strikes at Heathrow, spending three days there before getting a flight out to Dulles. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1735673,00.html>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/ba/story/0,13772,1549347,00.html>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4150030.stm>  This is getting to be a summer tradition, and BA has just hired a new CEO who has a reputation for not tolerating this sort of thing. If I were in his shoes, I'd cancel the contract with Gate Gourmet, since they obviously can't manage their workforce professionally, but I'd also pass the word that respect for the worker is predicated on the worker's respect for their employer and their work.

Don't you love it when law enforcement campaigns get out of hand? <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1735413,00.html

There's more to this story than has emerged so far. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13509-1735385,00.html>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/cyprus/story/0,11551,1549327,00.html>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4151398.stm>  Apparently the plane had been deadlined a month ago for problems with its air system.

Finger-pointing about the reasons for the poor match between the UK housing market and the desires of home buyers. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1735220,00.html

There _is_ a problem with smoking in Europe... <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4145402.stm>  At least UK smokers generally follow the rules. On the continent, no smoking rules are completely ignored, and you can't find non-smoking establishments to stay at. Even when hotels advertise non-smoking rooms, when you complain about the smoke smell in them, the management explains that they can't keep people from smoking wherever they want.

More on NHS targets. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4729015.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4149124.stm>  There was a story during the week about how the NHS would eventually have to abandon the free at point of service provision if it was to avoid being overwhelmed by demand.

-- "The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened."

 Harry Erwin, PhD http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her


Subject: LISA - A Boondoggle?

Mr. Pournelle,

This is my first time to write to you though I have followed your writings (fiction and non) for years. A lot of my opinions on SDI and defense were formed during the years the "There Will Be War" series was being published and I appreciate the contribute you had to that.

This month's issue of Discover has an article by Michio Kaku on testing string theory and one of the ways discussed to test string theory was NASA and ESA's Laser Interferometer Space Antennae (LISA). I don't know if you're familiar with the project, but I looked at the way the system is supposed to operate and I can't see any way that it will work. I'm a licensed control systems engineer working in industrial facilities, so maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like there is no way for the instrument packages to be sensitive enough to measure the particular gravity waves they're looking for without being susceptible to noise from unknown sources (uncharted asteroids, fluctuations in the solar winds, etc.).

However, that doesn't bother me as much as the fact that there has been no other evidence confirming string theory(s). Oh sure, the math looks good, but so did the math Ptolemy used to describe the motion of the planets. Just like Ptolemy (all of the great minds of his day agreed with his model of the universe) most of our present day "experts" have bought into string theory. I just can't seeing spending the resources the project will cost on such "iffy" science. If there were some confirmed terrestrial results (the article even notes the lack of experimental support for the theory), I would agree that we should go to the next step and look further, but without that, this project just seems like an extreme waste of money (especially in light of the current state of the future of manned space flight). I'd be very interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks,

John Miller <jamiller_62@bellsouth.net>

I am not sure I have any qualifications for having any thoughts on the subject. If it can't work -- and I have no way to know that even -- then the experiment needs redesigning. I don't know enough about string theory to know what unique hypotheses it generates. Perhaps one of our physicists will know more. And see below.



This week:


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Tuesday,  August 16, 2005

Beginning a discussion on what's wrong with NASA and what might be done to fix that broken institution

 Delta Clipper

Dear Sir,

I am very confused, recently I was on an internet forumn complaining (yet again) about the cancellation of the Delta Clipper program. Someone replied to my post by saying (in part)

"It's purpose was to demonstrate the quick turn-around operations on the ground. The follow-on space vehicle, the X-33 was pursued but eventually cancelled when logic finally won out that single stage to orbit was a pipe dream, at least without significant advances in technology."

"that single stage to orbit was a pipe dream"?

Sacrilege! Burn the heretic! I had already typed up a vociferous defense of my most beloved government project but before I posted it I read the users profile- "Occupation: Aerospace Engineer for NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. Currently working in the Space Shuttle Main Engine Project Office."

Holy Tamoli? A real live "Rocket Scientist" said that! :( My faith is shaken. Now I know how one of the Branch Davidians would have felt if David Koresh had told them, "No, no, just kidding! I'm not God, I just like having sex with your daughters".

Nothing I have ever read anywhere ever said the Delta Clipper had any significant problem other than funding. But the priesthood has spoken. Oh Father Pournelle, has my faith indeed been misplaced lo this last decade?

Rob Johnson

The X-33 was a boondoggle wired to Lockheed, and doomed from the beginning. It was to be horizontal landing, not the simple vertical takeoff vertical landing of Delta Clipper DC/X. The DC/Y which would have cost about 1/3 of what was spent on X-33 (and we would have got 3 tail numbers and some flights out of it too) would have been 600,000 lb Gross Liftoff Weight Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing. The projected payload to orbit would have been between negative and about 6,000 pounds. By negative I mean it may well not have been able to make orbit. We wouldn't know until we had flown it.  We need the flight data. Then, as Max Hunter put it, we nickel and dime it to orbit: bore holes in overly strong structures, look to improvements in engines, altitude compensation and drag, and the sort of thing one does with X vehicles.

X-33 despite having an X designation was not an X vehicle. On the other hand, NASA didn't really want a competitor to Shuttle. They do now, of course... But X-33 proved nothing except that Lockheed is very good at extracting money from the public treasury and not delivering much for it; and that NASA is very good at making sure that no one challenges their supremacy.  That latter statement is not so true now as it was then.

And see below. NASA's reaction was predictable and predicted. They wanted to kill DC/X and they did that. Now they say it couldn't work. That's NASA, and Marshall, and von Braun's spinning corpse... (Continued below)


Subject: What if Google (GOOG) wanted to give Wi-Fi access to everyone in America?


Big Brother? Try GoogleNet - free WiFi nationwide:



It would make sense. Of course the phone companies will hate it. Interesting times.


String Theory

Dear Dr Pournelle,

There was a recent complaint in Current Mail that experts had bought into string theory in the absence of physical evidence; however, there are a variety of other approaches, such as spin-networks and twistor theories, aimed at reconciling quantum mechanics and general relativity, and explaining the origin of particle mass (It would be nice if they also got rid of the excessive energy levels associated with free-space quantum fluctuations and explained why toast always falls jam side down). The great difficulty is that the quantum mechanical and general relativistic approaches have proven so successful in their particular fields as to leave little room for alternative theories.

It seems clear that experimental data is needed to provide the insights required for the development of an effective theory (c.f., Einstein's analysis of the photoelectric effect). One place where clues may be found is in the analysis of gravitational waves; however, no one has yet built a successful gravitational wave detector. Projected ground-based detectors have problems with baseline limitations, seismic noise and interference from other human activities; in consequence, it seems reasonable to complement them with space-based systems, which will suffer problems, but should also provide valuable space engineering experience.

The benefits of a workable theory of quantum-gravity are difficult to predict. The work of Faraday and Maxwell was pure research, but the resulting theory provided the foundations for major technological developments; it is not too far fetched to suppose that comparable advances will result from the unification of quantum-theory and general relativity. Given the problems of shielding astronauts from solar and cosmic radiation, it may be that extended operations beyond the earth-moon system will require such technologies.


Peter D Morgan



LISA is nominally up my alley and I have the Discover in question. Unfortunately, I'm on deadline and cannot give a full response. I'll add it to the list.

Briefly: the LISA scheme looks daunting, and even at the level of glancing at the article, I wondered about pointing and control. (And these people are the ones most concerned about hitting a several square meter target at mere thousands of kilometers). Not to mention the real-time "torsion" on the three (immaterial) 5 million kilometer long arms on their differential orbits. It would be a marvelous technology development opportunity, and I think Mr. Miller is right that it might be as sensitive to, e.g. inner-solar-system asteroids as to gravity waves. (Humm, it might be worthwhile on that basis alone).

As to String Theory, it has famously been so-far untestable because many of the predictions it makes are at such small length scales (4.051E-35m, or 0.000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,04051 meters) and such correspondingly high energy densities (5.62E+112 J/m3, and don't expect me to write that one out) that only highly indirect, very high order effects can be expected to have any practical consequences. It is popular precisely because, even at that small scale, it assumes that elementary particles have a finite extent, instead of being mathematical points that impose so many formal infinities in quantum field theory, which then have to be removed in an ad-hoc fashion (Feynmann's renormalization prodecure).

I personally remain convinced that it is a step in the right direction, but no more than a step; and that the final theory will be a combination of string theory (or it's generalization into M-theory, which allows more realism through multiple-dimension particles) and any number of other developments.

For example, I'm yet to be convinced that Mr. Heinlein wasn't up to something with his six-dimensional, signature 0 (equal number of space and time dimensions); space-time in "The Number of the Beast," but I've so far seen only one paper, a little known Ph.D. dissertation by a colleague, who passed away far too early, which addressed that as a serious academic proposal, but he got superluminal electrons for his trouble. And I also recall from the late Mr. Anderson's article, "Our Many Roads to the Stars," in the October 1975 Galaxy that Bergmann got velocities of 10E21c out of an analysis using the original Kaluza-Klein electromagnetic theory, the precursor of modern developments in String Theory.

Jim Woosley


Re: Meteor Impact Antipodes (See above)

Another possible link between the Chicxulub crater in Mexico and the Deccan Traps is that proposed by the Verneshot theory, named after the concept of a ballistic projectile escaping the Earth's gravity in Jules Verne's novel From the Earth to the Moon. When an empty magma pipe collapses, a shockwave at hypersonic velocity might generate a force equivalent to 120 gigatons of TNT. This could launch up to twenty billion tons of debris into the atmosphere while lava fills the hole left behind. The verneshot impactor (the largest lump hurled out) then impacts earth elsewhere.


Connection with mass-extinctions According to the Department of Marine Geodynamics at GeoMar, Kiel (Morgan et al.)[1], such an event could be triggered by an explosion caused by a mantle plume under a craton in an area of continental rift. Verneshots are one possible cause for extinction level events.

The four major mass extinctions that may have been caused by verneshots are:

the Frasnian-Fammian extinction event 364 million years ago the Permian-Triassic extinction event 251 million years ago the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event 200 million years ago the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event 65 million years ago

Best Wishes

Paul Dove


Tube steak, anyone?


Researchers Aim To Grow Meat In Test Tube

<snip>Researchers in the U.S. say the technology now exists now to produce processed meats such as burgers and sausages, starting with cells taken from cows, chickens, pigs, fish or other animals. <snip> Growing meat without the animal would not only reduce the need for the animals -- which often are kept in less than ideal conditions -- but may also address a number of environmental ills blamed on meat production.

Cultured meat could also be tailored to be healthier than farm-raised meat, while satisfying the increasing demand for protein by the world's growing population, proponents say.<snip>

(From Jim Woosley)


Subject: Frozen Mammoths -


I too have heard the stories of quick frozen mammoths. This turns out to be one of those stories that everyone knows but it doesn’t match the facts. It turns out that the mammoths were not quick frozen but they simply died and then froze. Below are a couple of links giving more information

http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/mammoths.html  <http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/mammoths.html

http://www.skepticfiles.org/evolut/mammoth0.htm <http://www.skepticfiles.org/evolut/mammoth0.htm

Mike Plaster


Subject: The Frozen Carcasses

I've heard Martin Wobst discuss some relevant evidence in the context of the development of paleolithic art and culture. The periglacial region was prone to the sudden occurrence of massive ice storms that could wipe out both humans and any large fauna in the area--the frozen carcasses might be the remains of those.

I've modelled subsistence, and no human population can tolerate fluctuations in yearly food productivity in an area of greater than +/-20% without social control mechanisms to prevent overpopulation. The larger the fluctuations, the smaller the population size that had to be enforced. Wobst was talking about random fluctuations in food supply that were probably on the order of 50-90%.

-- "The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened." Harry Erwin, PhD http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her


Subject: Another resignation, this time from a US Climate Change Science Program Committee

http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu/blog/?p=30 <http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu/blog/?p=30>

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Sat, 13 Aug 2005 01:14:59 +0000

Dear Dr. Mahoney (with copies to Richard Moss and the CCSP Committee)

I am resigning effective immediately from the CCSP Committee “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere-Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences”. For the reasons briefly summarized in my blog ( http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu/blog/ <http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu/blog/>  ), I have given up seeking to promote a balanced presentation of the issue of assessing recent spatial and temporal surface and tropospheric temperature trends. The NY Times article today was the last straw. This entire exercise has been very disappointing, ....

....This sort of politicking has no place in a community assessment.....

Roger A. Pielke Sr. Professor and State Climatologist


A few months ago a leading U.S. hurricane researcher at NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Dr. Chris Landsea, resigned <http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/
science_policy_general/000318chris_landsea_leaves.html>  from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. http://www.techcentralstation.com/011905F.html <http://www.techcentralstation.com/011905F.html

-Joe Hennessey

The references are to the recent flurry of claims that there are now no objections to the view that greenhouse gasses are warming the earth. It's not entirely easy slogging through his blog, but it's informative. The politics here are interesting...


Subject: quick note from my trip to DC

Hi Jerry,

Just got back from DC and the Smithsonian. Went to the Annex at Dulles as well as the main A&S museum. The first thing that hit me when I walked into the Annex was the layout. Right in front was the SR-71 and right behind it was the shuttle test vehicle Enterprise. I wonder if they knew what they were really portraying. The SR-71 is the height of jet powered flight engineering and the shuttle the same for rocket planes. And they were both designed >45 and >30 years ago. We have done nothing since that comes close. What an awful statement of where we are.

At the main A&S facility, I saw both the J1 and RJ10 engines. I can see why you wanted Goldin to buy 1000 RJ10's. They're pretty simple, especially compared to SSME's. But, again, RJ10's were designed in the early 60's. I could only groan. And, of course, right nearby is a fully flight rated Sky Lab. I used to like to go to the A&S, I loved the little plack near the side entrance. It says "This museum is dedicated to all those who have devoted their lives to the exploration of air and space". Where the hell are they?

On another topic, David Warren has a very good comment in his essay titled "Should we despair?". About 8 paragraphs down, he talks about the rot of our western civilization and the cowardice that underlies it. I realized the Liberal Left's core of Vietnam war protesters were cowards. They were not able to overcome their fear and go to war. TV elevated them to the status of heroes for their bravery in protesting the war. However, the worst they had to fear in doing so was a little tear gas, maybe a rubber bullet, or a police baton - not in the same universe as a high velocity rifle bullet or other weapons of war. Cowards, plain and simple. That was when we sowed the wind.

Phil Tharp

Dan Goldin used to tell me how he'd go to the Air and Space Museum, look at the Skylab, and cry. He tried to save NASA but the culture ate him. I doubt anyone can turn that place around.

We need X Programs. Real X Programs. Not monstrosities like X-33.


Subject: NY Times: 'The Other Army'


If you had asked me to intentionally devise the best way to demoralize young grunts, I'm 100% certain I wouldn't have come up with anything nearly this effective. It would have lacked credibility to me.

Just picture yourself driving out the compound gate in a tissue thin HMWWV, maybe not even armored at all, to search for IEDs by driving down the streets to see what goes bang. You are stuck there for at least 12 months, plus any unit tour extensions mandated by 'current conditions'. You are 50% likely to be a reservist, sometimes a small business owner facing financial ruin because of your deployment. And this deployment may be your second tour within three years. Official policy limits you to 15 days of mid-tour leave, which leave may even be denied because of unit operational commitments or manpower shortages.

And what's the last thing you see driving out the gate (maybe even ever see?). You see civilian gate guards from America who are paid 5 times what you get and who enjoy 8 times as much leave.


You know it.


Atlantis Again?


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: "Patch that system, now, now, now!"

They all should have listened to you. I did.


Tom Brosz


Subject: Gender Representation by Profession

Now the rallying cry is, "There's too much choice! MAKE girls take math and science, and the gender gap will vanish!"


Hmmmm, haven't I heard words about the essential *rightness* of 'choice'? <evil grin>

Doug Hayden

p.s. I'm much of a choice fan, personally, so no flames, please? I just have a problem with the PC types telling people what they should do "for their own good". Was it RAH who is associated with the phrase, "Yer freedom stops at my nose!" ?


Jean Jacques Rousseau thought that people might have to be "forced to be free". Clearly the girls must be forced to give up their dolls and study algebra in 4th grade...




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Subject: Brazilian gunned down in London was not running from police


You wrote "Arming police who are not usually armed is often not a good idea; at least not without considerably more training than these seem to have. An NYPD officer who shot a man five times at close range while he was restrained by other officers would be in a heap of trouble."

British police who carry arms are trained to do so and are usually armed. But my understanding, based on what has been reported previously in the news, is that these police officers are usually only brought into play to deal with specific situations usually after an unarmed officer has identified a need for them to be there. So I suspect that - Don't send British armed police on surveillance - might be closer to the truth.

I decided to reserve judgement until we knew more. I honestly expected that when the CCTV footage was released it was going to match witness statements, or at least be close enough to allow me to understand how the police could have made this mistake.

But the news today has more than confirmed my worst fears. From thisislondon "Early accounts of the shooting described him vaulting over the barriers to the tube station, running to a Tube train and tripping over before being shot. A document from the investigation into the death, obtained by ITV News, said that CCTV footage from the day tells a different story. It captured Mr de Menezes entering the station at a normal walking pace, even collecting a free Metro newspaper, and slowly descending on an escalator."

And not only did they shoot an innocent man who was doing nothing suspicious, but they didn't reveal the truth immediately. In the words of the BBC report "Metropolitan Police did little, if anything, to disabuse the media of the notion Mr de Menezes was wearing a bulky jacket; had vaulted the ticket barrier at Stockwell; and had failed to obey a shouted instruction from officers to stop".

The emergency services', including the police's, handling of the events of 7/7 boosted confidence in their ability to deal with terrorist activities, but now my opinion of London's police is at an all time low.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/articles/PA_NEWA10001041124213637A00?source=PA%20Feed&ct=5 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4159412.stm

Best wishes

Paul Dove

I find the truth of the situation nearly unbelievable. Surely there will be a Parliamentary Inquiry? Or perhaps the Queen could take a hand in looking into what was done in her name? And see below.


Subject: Strange impacts


 The first was on the morning of October 22. Seismometers in Turkey and Bolivia recorded a violent event in Antarctica that packed the punch of several thousand tons of TNT. The disturbance then ripped through Earth on a route that ended with it exiting through the floor of the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka just 26 seconds later - implying a speed of 900,000 mph.

The second event took place on November 24, when sensors in Australia and Bolivia picked up an explosion starting in the Pacific south of the Pitcairn Islands and travelling through Earth to appear in Antarctica 19 seconds later.

According to the scientists, both events are consistent with an impact with strangelets at cosmic speeds. In a report about to be submitted to the Seismological Society of America, the team of geologists and physicists concludes: "The only explanation for such events of which we are aware is passage through the earth of ton-sized strange-quark nuggets."

Professor Eugene Herrin, a member of the team, said that two strangelets just one-tenth the breadth of a hair would account for the observations. "These things are extremely dense and travel at 40 times the speed of sound straight through the Earth - they'd hardly slow down as they went through."

Charles Butler


Subject: Worse than freon


In your "climate and Global Warming page, one of your readers remarked about the banning of R12 and R22. I can go him one better.

When I worked with high power pulsed magnetrons and klystrons, the high power waveguides were often pressurized with "freon" to prevent arcing. When freon was outlawed, they typically converted to Sulpher Hexaflouride.

Not only is SF6 much worse to the lungs if you inhale it, but it's contribution to the greenhouse effect is calculated at 24900 times that of CO2.

This is a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences. That and the example that science is so compartmentalized and specialized that ozone hole scientists evidently doesn't know beans about greenhouse effects.

Go figure

-- Frank R Borger
Senior System Engineer

Radioactive Cats have 18 Half -lives

Freon was outlawed just after the Du Pont patent on it expired. By a curious coincidence.

But we were born free.


Subject: FYI....

I don't know about this, Dr. Pournelle, but my BS sensors are tingling....


Even more amazing, if that's the word, is this eBay listing offering the same item at an apparent $50.00 premium over the OEM's price:


Wonder how many folks don't believe there is a Supreme Being (aka God, Creator), but do believe in miraculous powers for chunks of metal and rock?

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Stampede in Virginia to buy used iBooks

Heaven help me, I know it's probably the wrong response, but when I read this:

Va. Laptop Sale Turns Into a Stampede

Associated Press RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede Tuesday, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair and nearly driven over. One woman went so far as to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line. "This is total, total chaos," said Latoya Jones, 19, who lost one of her flip-flops in the ordeal and later limped around on the sizzling blacktop with one foot bare.

An estimated 5,500 people turned out at the Richmond International Raceway in hopes of getting their hands on one of the 4-year-old Apple iBooks. The Henrico County school system was selling 1,000 of the computers to county residents. New iBooks cost between $999 and $1,299....

...Jesse Sandler said he was one of the people pushing forward, using a folding chair he had brought with him to beat back people who tried to cut in front of him.

"I took my chair here and I threw it over my shoulder and I went, 'Bam,'" the 20-year-old said nonchalantly, his eyes glued to the screen of his new iBook, as he tapped away on the keyboard at a testing station.

"They were getting in front of me and I was there a lot earlier than them, so I thought that it was just," he said.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

...my first thought was of the old Saturday Night Live skit about Apple. It ended with the tagline (original spelling intact): "McIntosh Jr.: The Power To Crush The Other Kids." Here's a link for those in a nostalgic mood:



Tim Elliott

Roberta read me this from the morning paper at breakfast. Who were these people? No Virginians I ever met acted that way. A bunch of foreigners? Aliens? Liberal democrats trying to assert the rights of the poor?


Subject: Unintended consequences

This UK government-funded study shows speed cameras actually increased accidents 31-55% on freeways. Oops. They hid the results from the public for 18 months. http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/06/602.asp

Richard Diamond


Subject: Of course, nobody's been fired, much less charged.

Of course, nobody's been fired, much less charged.


--- Roland Dobbins

Which I find astonishing. I guess I had more faith in the Mother of Parliaments

Subject: Police "shoot to kill" story continues to unravel

It's beginning to look like an incredible screw-up...


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



Subject: Re: This will make you proud


Copy and Paste. It will make you proud!!!




On the Copyright Front:

Dear Jerry:

Here is a link to the first two entries on The Fight For Copyright blog. Hopefully people will find them of interest. Thanks for your help and support on this.


Francis Hamit




The demise of Department 1127.


- Roland Dobbins

Judge Green the human race thanks you so much...


Fair warning, the following is long and rather far out...

Subject: intelligent dinosaurs

Jerrry, the recent discussion of the Chicxulub crater reminded me of one of my pet musings.

Consider the dinosaur Troodon, which doesn't seem to get a lot of press. It is widely regarded as the most intelligent dinosaur, based upon the brain case size vs. body size. It had opposable thumbs, certainly both a rarity and a matter of note. And it was around five feet tall, roughly human sized.

Now, scientists will tell us that, based on the brain case size, Troodon was no more intelligent than a modern bird; but, when prodded, they will admit that there is large variation in that guide. It is a general, rough, rule of thumb; nothing more than that. Indeed, it is widely noted that humans use very little of their brain in conducting their day to day affairs; and there are actually cases on record - accident victims and such - who have lost large portions of their brain, and gone on to live normal lives.

And I have sometimes wondered: could Troodon have been as intelligent as a human?

Wild speculation takes us even further: could Troodon have been civilised? Large cities? Perhaps even significant technological achievement?

Possibly even space flight?

Oh come now, you say. If Troodon achieved all of this, where are the artifacts? The tools, the buildings, the roads... the rocket launching pads? Could a civilisation so advanced be wiped so cleanly from the planet?

Jerry, I suspect it could. We have trouble identifying artifacts as little as seven to twelve thousand years old; and when we find them, they are usually in such an advanced state of erosion that it's sometimes difficult to determine if they're a purpose-built tool, or just an interesting geological anomaly. Troodon disappeared from the planet sixty five million years ago; that's six thousand, five hundred times further back than our archeological record goes, if you'll accept a ten thousand year figure as 'roughly' as far back as we can trace civilised man. I think that's ample time for even the most sophisticated structures to have collapsed into dust.

So: on the basis of brain case size alone, we cannot eliminate Troodon as being intelligent, civilised, and space faring. And regarding artifacts, "the absence of evidence, is not evidence of absence"; there's been enough geological activity, and opportunity for erosion, over the last 65 million years to wipe the slate pretty clean.

Now, let me take you one step further: the lunar maria.

The 'seas' of the moon: where Armstrong and Aldrin (and others) planted a flag. Jerry, call up a picture of the lunar seas. You'll notice that, although they are irregular in overall shape, the edges of the seas are composed of circular arcs; overlapping circles, if you will.

Exactly the kind of arcs you'd get if you dropped an awful lot of bombs.

(Oh, stop coughing. Need some water? No? Fine. Hang on: it gets wilder yet.)

Now, the lunar seas are all on one side of the moon: the side that faces Earth (there's one exception to this, which I'll get to in a moment). Science has no good explanation for the formation of the lunar seas, and indeed the whole matter has been rather ignored by science, partly due to a lack of good data and partly because there are many interesting things to work on that have better data attached to them. So, we just don't know how the seas formed, or why they're only on the side that faces Earth. We don't even have any coherent theories.

But there's one interesting data point: the soil samples that were returned from the lunar seas showed elevated levels of Titanium; similar soil samples from the lunar highlands didn't show that. Where did the Titanium come from, and why is it only found in the lunar seas? Again, we simply don't know.

But, we can speculate.

Imagine a space faring, Earth based civilisation that chose to explore and colonise the moon. Imagine large structures, possibly covering many square miles. For ease of communication, you'd put your settlements on the side facing Earth; that way, you could always get a radio signal to some point on Earth, and from there it could be routed to any terrestrial location required.

You'd use as much local lunar material as you could to build your cities. But you'd need some structural beams to start with; and you obviously wouldn't use steel girders, due to the cost of lifting them to the moon. You probably would have wanted to use glass fibre reinforced plastics, had you known of them; but the oil fields which jump started our plastics industry, hadn't formed sixty five million years ago. There was no naturally occurring oil, hence the invention of plastics never took place. So what would you use? Well, you'd want the strongest material possible for a given weight; and one good choice would be Titanium.

The same Titanium that Armstrong and Aldrin brought back to Earth in the soil samples, sixty five million years later.

Oh, yes - the singular lunar sea on the far side of the moon. If we look at the location, it is pretty much the ideal location to place a deep space radio telescope; you have the entire bulk of the moon shielding you from stray electromagnetic interference from both the Earth and the lunar colonies on the Moon.

So, let's take it from the top.

Troodon achieves intelligence, civilisation, cities and space flight. Troodon colonises the Moon, and a sizable lunar colony develops. Most of the colony is on the near side, but one small outpost - a deep space research facility - is deliberately placed on the far side. Eventually, the colonies decide to separate from Earth rule, as colonies are wont to do. War breaks out, and the Earth based Troodon government decides to annihilate the entire lunar civilisation with the troodon equivalent of thermonuclear carpet bombing. But the lunar colonies have barely enough time to launch their doomsday weapon: a large meteor, which strikes Earth in a location that - sixty five million years later - will be known as Chicxulub...

And so ends intelligent life on Earth, for sixty five million years.

Ah, but is any of this true? Possibly; but we don't know. And we won't know, until we go back to the Moon in earnest and in numbers, and carry out a decent ground based exploration. The communication relay towers and cables that would lead from the research lab on the far side to the main civilisation on the near side, should still be there. There may be other artifacts as well. We won't know until we go look; and that's what we need to do.

Go back to the Moon, and look.


Charles Worton

Long ago Niven and I were paid to develop a story rationale and bible for a renewal of the awful series "V" in which humans and sauroform aliens have fertile offspring, and other such. We came up with a notion: the dinosaurs were here, left the planet to explore the universe, and they are coming back to reclaim the Earth from the pet monkeys they left in charge. The original wave of invaders was so incompetent because, well, that ws the kids who rushed ahead. Now the adults are coming.


And from those who want to make the universe safe for robots:

From: Robot-Bastard Subject: Re: "We can't do that now!"

Phil Tharp's message is shot through by a whingey tone. "Forty years ago we flew at Mach 3 and walked on the moon, and where have we gone since then?" Well, where we've gone is to make desktop computers that can simulate universes at any level of detail, as realistically as you please. Telephones that can call to anywhere on the planet, _from_ anywhere on the planet, and yet they are so simple that barely-literate toddler can use them. Disease is so rare that the pharmaceutical industry has been reduced to cosmetics and recreation. The car in my driveway is more fuel-efficient and cleaner than the cars of the sixties, and yet it's more powerful. Manned combat aircraft will, within a decade, be a thing of the past. Space is so crowded that current programs must take care to avoid debris and are admonished not to create more of it, and competition for orbital slots is fierce.

Sure, if you focus on the area of manned space flight, there has been little technological advancement. But the fact of the matter is that we found better things to spend the money on, and we always had many of those things. If someone managed to resurrect the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and John F. Kennedy, then perhaps we could create another Space Program. But that combination of nationalism, paranoia, and idolatry is unlikely to be repeated. "So many things that we did so long ago, and we can't do them now!" Yes; but so many things that we _did_ do since, and _couldn't_ do _then_!

Yes, someone is going to point at my examples and smugly claim that they were derived from space-program technology. Perhaps; but there is no reason that these things would _only_ have evolved from a space program. Ballistic-missile targeting and intercontinental interceptor networks had as much to do with computer development as the space program. Indeed, one could make a strong case that the push for man-rated rockets _slowed_ the development of space technology. Other than consumable-recycling systems, no significant developments in fifty years of space operations have come about solely as a result of manned spaceflight.

Would I like to spend a week (or even a weekend) on an orbital platform? Sure! But I realized a long time ago that I was never going to get the chance to fly in space. You'd be amazed at how quickly one's ardor for manned spaceflight dies. Space is unique in many useful ways, but at the end of the day it is just another place to put things. It's no more a Final Frontier than the bottom of the ocean; a place that's difficult to get to and hard to live in. If there is something useful to be done there, and only men can do it, then men will be sent. There is not.

Mike Powers

You pay to send the robots. If people can't go, I find there are plenty of things worth doing here. Not that planetary probes are worthless.

Also send your robot to fix Hubble, and tell Pete Conrad how useless he was on Skylab.


Antipodes effects

You are running a discussion about what happens directly opposite a giant meteor impact.

An article I read a long time ago was from a sixties issue of Analog magazine called "Mercury's Missing Divot". Part of the article tried to associate Mercury's "Weird Terrrain" area with interference effects when the surface waves met after passing around the planet.

I don't know whether I first encountered the "Vernshot" hypothesis at your site or if this is new to you. After a mantle hotspot runs one of the giant volcanic outpourings for a while (such as the Deccan Traps or the Siberia equivalent) and subsides, you are left with a multi-mile-deep hole in the earth. Some people claim that the collapse of this hole could happen in such a way to launch a big chunk of semi-molten rock into space. Such an orbit would obviously impact the earth on its return, though not precisely at the antipodes. I do not know enough about high-pressure rock physics to judge the hypothesis.

I think that the generally accepted timing places the Deccan Traps BEFORE Chicxulub.

 -- Greg Goss

No data. I don't know enough either so I don't speculate. Glad someone will since it gives something for idle daydreams. One of these days one of our experts will chime in. I am convinced that my readership collectively knows everything with considerable confidence...





I know people probably are very grateful for your Windows worm/virus/ malware warnings but I'm really getting to the point, when I see a headline like today's on CNN Online "WORM HITS WINDOWS 2000", of asking that the implicit footnote (that is: "Macs unaffected") be made explicit. Maybe OS X will get cracked some day and I'll be laughing out of the other side of my mouth, but really: if you want a secure, reliable, attractive OS get (and use) an Apple!

All the best,

Tim Loeb


He forgot to add:

- Arrogant and almost non-existant after-market customer support.
- Software (what there is of it) that costs 5 times what it is worth.
- Third party hardware (what there is of it) that costs 10 times what it is worth.
- A user community mindset that condemns everything that is not Apple as inferior.
- A requirement of 2 college degrees and 10 years experience to make any changes to default settings.
- Sun Solaris is also secure, reliable, and attractive, but who wants it at home?
- Why write viruses, or other software for that matter, for only 5% of the computers?

Wintel machines are junk, but they are junk that gets the job done for a price most people want to pay. Yes, I can do wonderful art compositions on a Mac - if I were an artist with a degree in computer science, that is. Yes, I can make beautiful music files on a Mac - if I were a musician who has also worked as a computer software engineer, that is.

I can buy artistically designed rulers for $3000 that are virtually unbreakable, but they don't draw a straight line much better than the $2 ruler I just bought at Wal-Mart - cracks and all.

Braxton S. Cook

Let's you and him fight.

>> For now, at least. It is not inevitable. Linux has been hit (not as hard as Microsoft, but hit). Apple will not be safe forever. Alas. <<

Someone reading that might believe you mean that Linux is nearly as vulnerable as Windows, which isn't the case by several orders of magnitude. Can you name even one person running Linux who has ever been victimized by a virus? I can't. Sure, there have been a (very) few Linux worms, but they've infected essentially no systems and had zero impact. Compare that with Blaster or Code Red or Slammer or Zotob.

Apple OS X, which your statement seems to imply is less likely to be exploited than Linux, in fact has had more and more serious vulnerabilities than Linux, although still so few relative to Windows that it's not worth considering.

The fact remains that Linux and OS X are, for all intents and purposes, not vulnerable to the types of exploits that occur every day on Windows systems. It has nothing to do with the relative popularity of the operating systems, as Windows fanboys would have you believe. If that were true, markets where Linux has a significant or majority presence would have many Linux exploits. Instead, Microsoft is always the target, regardless of how small a percentage of Microsoft systems exist in a particular segment.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson thompson@ttgnet.com

Let's you and them fight.

But while we are at it, it remains true that not one properly updated Windows system has been hit with an infection not requiring cooperation by the machine's operator.

Keep your systems up to date, do not try to get rich overnight by participating in schemes that are too good to be true, do not open unexpected email attachments even from people you think you know -- but then I have said all this before.


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, August 17, 2005

Subject: NASA says "it's too hard"


Regarding that NASA Marshall rocket engineer one of your correspondents reports as claiming X-33 proved Single Stage To Orbit was too hard without oodles more expensive new technology development, well... That reaction was both predictable and predicted, over eight years ago.

From Space Access Update #71, May 6 1997, I quote: "X-33 we see as in real danger of failing - failing first flight, or turning into a "NASP II" technology playpen and never flying at all - in part because it was poorly-conceived (too many new bleeding-edge technologies included, too many Shuttle-replacement expectations tacked on, more a premature operational prototype "Y" vehicle than an experimental "X" ship) and in part because as best we can tell, the contractor top management has no urgent incentive to ensure that X-33 succeeds. Make no mistake, we'd like to see X-33 succeed. But if it does fail, we don't want to be hearing any nonsense about the failure proving SSTO can't work."

Alas, we've been hearing nothing but that from NASA since. For far more about the history, technology, and politics of X-33 going down the tubes, see Updates #71, 84, 91, and 98. (If www.space-access.org is still down, try googling the sci.space.policy newsgroup archives for them.) Bottom line: NASA, predictably and predicted, screwed the pooch to the tune of nearly two billion dollars and most of a decade's time wasted.

Worse, all they seem to have learned from the debacle is to give up even pretending to develop cheaper space transportation - their response to the President's "Vision for Space Exploration" challenge seems to be to use surplus Shuttle components to essentially duplicate the Saturns 1 and 5, forty years and much of a trillion dollars later. Assuming, of course, they're even capable of doing so. This plan still has to get past the White House and Congress; I suggest anyone with any influence there push for NASA *not* being allowed to develop their own space transportation ever again.

Henry Vanderbilt Space Access Society

The obvious remedy for an outfit that wastes a trillion dollars then says the job was too hard is to give the job to someone who will do it. How do you know if they can do it? Do not pay until it is done. Announce a ten billion dollar prize for a lunar colony. Announce a 5 billion dollar prize for true reusable space ships and engines. Don't award a nickel until the job is accomplished, then pay. NASA says it can't be done: why do they opposed prizes for those who might do what NASA can't do? The scoundrels.

See below


Jerry P:

The UK speed zone thing is interesting. Kind of reminds one of "Liars, damn liars, and statisticians". It would be interesting to see real information rather than summaries like that. Who decided where to put the speed cameras? Maybe it was a place where there was a higher likelyhood of accidents anyway. Etc. Is the conclusion that the cameras cause accidents? Maybe the drivers were watching their speedometers too closely and rammed into the car ahead? Did they put cameras on lonely roads with little traffic; and so on. Taking anything printed in the news media as in anyway factual is always a mistake without corroboration.

Charles Simkins


Subject:  "This Will Make You Proud!"


unfortunately, this web site didn't make me proud. The actions of that young Lieutenant DID make me proud, but the base use of his actions the way that site did makes my skin crawl. Just as I hate the use of casualties as a device for those who oppose the war (I also oppose the war), I loathe this as well. This isn't a "good news story", even though it is a story of heroism. That Lieutenant had to kill many people, up close and personal, and that is a tragedy. The fact that that is his job, and he did it well doesn't translate this into a "war success" story, just as the fact that soldiers are killed doesn't translate into a "war failure" story.

The greatest generation had heroes, as we do now. But, ask Audie Murphy about his heroics. He lived his life suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after the war, but no one can deny his heroism.

Celebrate the marine, his heroism. But he was a hero before that happened, it's just that more people know it now. His heroic triumph is not "good news" about the war.

I see much made by the supporters of this war about Mrs. Cindy Sheehan, and how terrible it is that she is allegedly using her son's death as a political tool. I have much sympathy for that woman and what she's doing, but little patience for those that are using her as a tool. I see this website in much the same way. Proud? No, very little about our actions in Iraq make me proud, but I'd serve beside that Captain any day, and I'd give my life for him and his marines. Of course, I knew that before.


Of course I get This while in an airport with pen. It requires a longer reply than I can give here. I do invite all to think on the proper attitude toward heroes & heroism in a faithless age. A nation that cannot honor or take pride in deeds of glory will have other and more serious problems. Those who have seen the elephant have their lives changed, some more than others; but that is Not the essence of The problem. Acts of war are done in the Name of us all.  We must take responsibility, for we sent them to do their Work. Shall we eat the guilt yet  have No share in the glory?

Liberals would say yes.  There is No glory. But can we  live that way??

 For Some reason I am reminded of a line from Scott's Bonnie Dundee. "With sour-visaged Whigs the Grassmarket was crammed, as if half the South had set tryst to be hanged."

 The Joyless Whigs were a well known feature of Revolutionary Scotland . Dundee rode to glory with a Song, with trumpets and kettle drums. Was this wrong? Should men fight and die with the sour visage of the true Whig? I ask but I have no final answer.

(see below)


Subject: Windows invulnerability

>> But while we are at it, it remains true that not one properly updated Windows system has been hit with an infection not requiring cooperation by the machine's operator. <<

Jerry, that simply isn't true. Fully-patched Windows machines by the millions have been infected by worms *before* Microsoft has even issued a patch. But it's worse that than, because merely issuing a patch doesn't solve the problem.

Zotob is just the latest case. Sure, Microsoft says they issued a patch and that all anyone had to do was apply it. But issuing a patch one day for a worm that arrives the next is no solution.

Put yourself in the position of a corporate IT manager with a thousand (or ten thousand) WIndows boxes. Are you going to apply the patch to all those systems immediately? Of course not. In the first place, it takes time to get the patch rolled out to all your systems, even if you're foolish enough to trust Microsoft that the patch won't break anything. If you want to keep your job, you're going to test the patch first, which again takes time.

Microsoft's whole patch strategy is a bandaid solution. The problem is that Windows is fundamentally insecure by design. The only real solution would be for Microsoft to rewrite Windows from scratch, and that isn't going to happen.

Meanwhile, those of us running secure operating systems like Linux and OS X can only sympathize with those unfortunate enough to be running a piece of garbage like Windows.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

For The first part of your statement Need to defer to Microsoft who say otherwise.

Apparently though, all those corporate it people are fools or crooks or very likely both, who waste their  employer substance on worthless dross instead of buying ample, or teaching their minions Linux.  Such arrogance! They do not listen! or perhaps there is a case for Windows and it is valid? I use Windows because  OS/2 was worthless in actual use although great in theory. I do not use Linux because  much of the software does not integrate seamlessly.  I admit that my early experiences with Linux discouraged me. On the other hand I see No great Advantage  to using Linux here.  That may be because I have not been bitten by worms or viruses other than an e-mail vectored Melissa a long time ago.

. IF all I did was to write  books I might use a different system. Joel Rosenberg has  changed to Linux and loves it.


 Apple is a different story. We will see; but I can afford any Thing I like. Many  readers cannot.

The security story is not over.


Subject: Update Your Mac

Dr. Pournelle:

For the "My Mac is Better than yours..." crowd, this notice at the Internet Storm Center http://isc.sans.org (and other places), emphasis added:

"Apple released patch set #7 for this year: http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=302163

"A number of critical issues are fixed by this patch sets. Highlights include Apache2, Bluetooth and zlib. It is recommended that OS-X users apply these patches expeditiously. For some of these issues, exploit code is available for other platforms and may be adapted to OS-X.

"Make sure you use version 1.1. of this patch set. Initially, Apple released 1.0 but it was missing a critical 64 bit library and broke some applications."

Doesn't matter what OS you use, Windows, Linux, Mac, Sun, whatever ... updates, patches, firewalls are important. "I tell you three times..."

I go to a lot of places on the "Interweb" with my fully patched/virus protected/firewalled Windows XP system, and no problems with my computer.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

is comment needed?  I don't have problems-yet- either.


Subject: Latest Microsoft worm raises questions of support


(First, thanks for your books, especially those that you and Larry Niven work together on. I often get libraries and book stores to order them for me if they're not already there in the English language sections. I noticed one stocked up on all the ones currently in print after I ordered Gripping Hand from them. However, the following is somewhat more related to your technology columns. Something strikes me funny about the way the news has been reporting the lastest MS worms so it may not just be technology but politics.)

The latest Microsoft worm raises two questions of support again, but none of the main news sources are asking them yet. I think the second question is far less controversial than the first and several magnitudes easier to solve:

1) Can MS simply not keep up or is it actually neglecting older products again to drive sales of newer ones?

Though Windows 2000 is still supported, only XP and later where actually patched. Why? All three use NT-based kernels and the service in question is available on all three. Perhaps this is a possible preview of what current XP users will also experience a few years from now, just as their NT predecessors did. More and more it appears that Microsoft is falling behind on patches even after going to a monthly cycle. The question is, why?

2) Why has MS chosen not to release actual security patches and instead used the opportunity to force unrelated changes?

Though MS has generated a multitude of "service packs", "patches", "roll outs" and "upgrades", none of these actually address security and security only. Instead these have all been bundled with changes in both configuration and functionality, sometimes unpopular ones, creating a situation which often forces customers to choose between skipping the patch or breaking mission critical applications. Competitors have long been able to separate upgrades in security from upgrades in functionality, in some cases for longer than MS has been on the Internet. For some, that has even been their ongoing strength. No one has called out MS for not providing actual *security* patches for its own products. Why?

-Lars Lars Nooden

And see below


Subject: NASA says "it's too hard"


Substantial prizes for results (not one cent for "but we tried real hard!") is one good approach. An alternative that might be a bit easier to sell to Congress is good old-fashioned competition. From Space Access Update #98, March 8th, 2001, written in the context of X-33 finally getting a well-deserved stake through its heart while NASA's chosen followon "Space Launch Initiative" (SLI) already looked like nothing but more of the same:

"The real lesson here is NOT to give NASA massive new funding and another five years - that would be pouring money down the same old NASA RLV monopoly rathole. The lesson of X-33 is, next time give the job to people actually willing to go at the problem in a manner that gives them a chance of solving it with the wide array of advanced technology that's already practical and available.

"This means letting multiple other agencies take a crack at the problem, in competition with each other, so "it was too hard" after a half-assed screwed up effort is no longer a safe excuse. Multiple competing outfits, possibly inside NASA (Ames and Dryden, Glenn, or Langley Centers come to mind) but certainly outside (DARPA, AFRL, NRL, NSF, and DOT are some possibilities) should now get a chance.

"Slice up the SLI budget a half-dozen ways, set a half-dozen agencies loose on the problem, encourage them to take chances with streamlined procurement and non-traditional vendors, and tell them that every four years, the two most successful among them get 50% of the budgets of the two least successful. Then stand back and watch the RLV's fly!"

Four years later, it's still good advice. I look at NASA's current drunkard's walk towards reinventing Apollo because they've failed at all they've tried since, and I wonder if we'll ever learn. Thirty years and most of a trillion dollars...

Henry Vanderbilt Space Access Society

Competition works only when there are competitors. Tthe aerospace industry is a Conspiracy to divide the Spoils among the existing Companies. They will not Compete! They will lobby. Adam Smith described it. Barriers to entry. No Capital investor will take on the Established.  Prizes at least allow the possibility of New Companies. Contracts to the big guys assure the oligopoly will Rule forever.

I can support X programs but USAF no longer knows how to manage X programs or even What they are. NASA knows and hates them. Aerospace Corp once knew what X program are but I doubt does Now.  Your Competition will be a race to the lobby. Depend on it. Industry does not Want to Compete.

Perhaps I despair prematurely, but I do not think so.

 Small programs, tens of millions at most, spread widely to encourage new companies. That may work.  But big  contracts to the giants feeds the beast.

Still on plane with pen, excuse  the errors. (Continued below)


Subject: William E. Odom: What's wrong with cutting and running?

Hello, Jerry,

"Everything that opponents of a pullout say would happen if the U.S. left Iraq is happening already, says retired Gen. William E. Odom, the head of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration. So why stay?"


Powerful arguments.


John Welch

Actually, that's a decision well above my pay grade. Above General Odom's for that matter. The problem is this: if the enemy perceives that we will not stay the course, then that is a great incentive to continue, to throw in the last reserves, as the North did in Viet Nam. Had they been convinced that the US would never leave, and that every invasion from the North would end as the 1972 invasion ended, with 100,000 casualties at small cost to the US, it is likely that the North would have given up; or that the Soviet Union would write off Viet Nam as an expensive rat hole into which was poured the wealth that might have been used to build up the USSR. But so long as the NV polit buro thought they could win, they were willing to sacrifice the lives of their young men to the fight.

I am not privy to the discussions among the terrorists and Islamic jihad councils, but I would guess that some of that logic prevails there. The last struggle between the West and Islam took hundreds of years, and was not really ended until Suleiman was defeated at the gates of Vienna; some would say it was not really decided until a hundred years after that. The West was divided then, and endured the 30 Years War prior to the final defeat of the Turks. From the Islamic point of view it was a near thing.

Is that the case here? I don't know. I would as soon declare victory and bring the forces home and use technology to make America safer; let Europe look to its own defenses, such as they may be. But again such decisions are made in places other than my study. And the worst of it is, if enough in America waver, the effort is surely lost.

Does that mean one continues to throw two or three troopers a day into a meat grinder?

But yet -- more die on the highways and we are not going to take the cars off the road.


Subject: Retro-chic.


 - Roland Dobbins


Subject: Microsoft and Patches and Worms and Linux

Dr. Pournelle:

I respect Robert Thompson's expertise in things computerish. I've been reading his blog for several years (through the "Daynotes Gang", of which I am proud to be a member). But each time he mentions Microsoft, I just know he is going into another 'rant' against them as the "evil empire".

I take exception to many of his statements posted on your mail pages this week (and similar rants on his pages). For instance, "Fully patched Windows machines by the millions have been infected by worms *before* Microsoft has even issued a patch". I have previously stated that my computer, which is fully (and timely) patched, has *never* been infected with a virus/worm. That is not only because of my policy of automatic updates, but because I practice "safe computing" (even though I do, as part of my job, go to some 'dark places'). It's my responsibility to compute safely.

But it's not just my experience. There is research that verifies that patching is important, even if you *do* go to 'dark places'.

Example: An interesting research paper from Microsoft and their "HoneyMonkey" project. The paper is here ftp://ftp.research.microsoft.com/pub/tr/TR-2005-72.pdf , and is described by Microsoft as:

"Internet attacks that use Web servers to exploit browser vulnerabilities to install malware programs are on the rise. Several recent reports suggested that some companies may actually be building a business model around such attacks. Expensive, manual analyses for individually discovered malicious Web sites have recently emerged.

"In this paper, we introduce the concept of Automated Web Patrol, which aims at significantly reducing the cost for monitoring malicious Web sites to protect Internet users. We describe the design and implementation of the Strider HoneyMonkey Exploit Detection System, which consists of a network of monkey programs running on virtual machines with different patch levels and constantly patrolling the Web to hunt for Web sites that exploit browser vulnerabilities.

"Within the first month of utilizing this new system, we identified 752 unique URLs that are operated by 287 Web sites and that can successfully exploit unpatched WinXP machines. The system automatically constructs topology graphs that capture the connections between the exploit sites based on traffic redirection, which leads to the identification of several major players who are responsible for a large number of exploit pages."

(For more information on the Strider Honeymonkey research project, visit http://research.microsoft.com/honeymonkey, including the PDF of the article here: ftp://ftp.research.microsoft.com/pub/tr/TR-2005-72.pdf . It's a bit technical, but interesting.)

Note that they tested various levels of unpatched WinXP systems. They found that a patched system is much more protected. From an article at SecurityFocus:

"Among the researchers other findings is that even a partially patched version of Windows XP Service Pack 2 blocks the lion's share of attacks, cutting the number of sites that could successfully compromise a system from 287 for an unpatched system to 10 for a partially patched Windows XP SP2 system. A fully patched Windows XP SP2 systems could not be compromised by any [of these] Web sites, according to the group's May-June data. (The zero-day exploit of javaprxy.dll happened after this data set.) " [See Table 1 in the Microsoft report.]

***No exploits on a fully patched XP system.*** And those systems went to very dark places.

Linux is not perfect, and needs to be regularly patched. Does that make it a less secure product? Firefox/Mozillia has vulns that needs regular patching. Open-source apps (large and small) have vulns that need patching. Several open source blog/diary-type sites (PHP-based) have vulns that need patching. One big exploit last year was the attack on web-based advertising servers running exploitable Linux OS. Just by visiting a high-profile page (news or entertainment sites) and getting an ad from that compromised ad server infected computers.

So you say to "change to Linux". How are you going to keep your Linux computers updated? Shouldn't you? There are lots of vulns for Linux computers; lots of patches to install. I see dozens of Linux-based bug reports every week on the "BugTraq" mailing list for open-source software large and small.

I believe that Microsoft has made great progress in security. You can see how the security folks at Microsoft are working hard to protect their systems (there are lots of MS staff writing blogs related to security and malware).

A chef knows that he needs to keep his knives sharp, and the gas bill paid. Without the proper tools, the chef is out of business (a "Denial of Service").

A responsible corporation knows that the tools they use have to kept current. Or they can be out of business. (Oops... I didn't pay the phone bill. So it's the phone company's fault my phones don't work.)

A responsible corporation can keep their computer patched, and quite easily. At my "large municipal government agency", we use the *free* Microsoft Update Server (now called "Windows Software Update Server) to automatically keep the workstations and servers current. MS releases a patch, a couple of checkmarks at the WSUS update interface, and workstations are updated.

Yeah, it requires a server. Yeah, it took a bit of effort to set up the user's computers (we just pushed down registry settings). Yeah, the user's computer may restart.

But our 2500+ Windows computers are protected and updated.

Responsible corporations (and users) with Windows computers can be protected against malware. Automatically, with minimal effort once everything's set up.

No matter which tool you use, you need to do updates. If you don't, then don't complain when your tool doesn't work. And don't blame the tool manufacturer. It's your fault. *You have to take responsibility*. ("I'm sorry that you ejected through the windshield during the car crash. The seat belt was there; you chose not to wear it. Must be the car's fault." "Oops, cut yourself again, didn't you. Must be the knife's fault." "Phone doesn't work? Didn't pay the bill? Must be the phone company's fault." "Didn't change the oil as often as you should have? Must be the engine's fault that it seized up.")

(Sorry for the length ... thanks for your patience.)

Regards, Rick Hellewell, Security Guy

Let's all of you fight, it's too late at night for me. (But clearly I have great respect for Mr. Thompson, but in this instance I am far closer to Mr. Hellewell.) (And see  below)

================  g

Subject: Spear Phishing Buffy Willow

Dr. Pournelle,

Found via Rand Simberg <http://www.transterrestrial.com>  ,


Not only can you no longer open unexpected email attachments, but you better call your boss or the IT department to confirm this.


Bruce Jones



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  August 19, 2005

Subject: Problem with mail

I noticed it last night, but it's fixed now. I suspect it was an error or bug in your service provider's web server configuration.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

I am glad it's fixed. I never could duplicate the problem here.


Continuing a discussion begun earlier on what's wrong with NASA and what can be done to fix a failed institution and make America a space-faring nation again.

Subject: Competition for NASA?


No argument here that the established major aerospace outfits are experts at avoiding real competition while sucking down vast sums and delivering little. LockMart and Boeing merging their EELV (Atlas 5 and Delta 4, the government-sponsored "competitive" expendable launchers) operations is just one example. LockMart's persuading Vandenberg AFB to evict the startup SpaceX from the Falcon launch pad they just invested $7 million in is another.

Certainly any government effort to set up centers competing with each other to fly space-transport X vehicles would have to be set up with this in mind, and would have to be run by people ready to fight the NASA-Industrial complex every step of the way. Certainly a big part of this would have to be to divide the funding and authority enough different ways that the Big Two (Big Three now that Northrop-Grumman is getting back in the game?) couldn't easily suck up all the contracts - this is why I suggested a half-dozen different centers, this is why (elsewhere) we've said the money should be spread among lots of smaller projects and that non-traditional vendors and simplified procurement regs are essential.

(Who knows, one of the majors might even get nervous enough to let some of their remaining talent actually organize sensibly and do something useful. Unlikely but possible, if genuine competition starts arising.)

I don't know where the next Kelly Johnsons and Dutch Kindlebergers and Ed Heinemans will come from either. That is why I'd like to see as wide a net cast as possible, with every little outfit that thinks it can given a shot. You've said many times that flying X-vehicles is a natural responsibility of government, given the large but diffuse and long-term benefits. If we don't tell them what they ought to be doing, who will?

I don't see that multiple government agencies doing X-projects inherently conflicts with prizes. Neither will be easy to achieve, both could be hugely beneficial. Yes, we've been pushing both for a long time, you longer than I. But there are at least glimmerings of both ideas beginning to catch on lately.

Despair is not only a sin, it's premature, in my 'umble opinion. Don't give up on X-vehicles, please.

Henry Vanderbilt
Space Access Society

I have not given up on X vehicles, I just don't see that anyone knows what they are. If anyone seriously thinks that X-33 was an X program, or that it proved anything other than the ability of corporate fundgrabbers to absorb public money while delivering nothing, we are in trouble -- and many do think that it was a real X program and that it "proved" that Single Stage to Orbit and for that matter reusable ships won't work (look, they tried it with Shuttle, they tried it with X-33, it didn't work, say the makers of Delta and other expendables). And we paid for the rope to hang us. Of course the Shuttle was a doomed shitepoke from the beginning, and X-33 started with a hopeless design -- 'free form' tankage rather than cylinders? Run a 4 minute mile before learning to walk?

I am becoming convinced that any program larger than say $50 million is a mere subsidy to the monsters who eat the dreams, and will produce nothing but paper documenting failures, as was X-33. And now the incompetents who set it up to fail use it as a "lesson." I must continually remind myself of Napoleon Bonaparte's aphorism: "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

 Prizes at least require that they DO SOMETHING to get the money. A series of small contracts to build the teams would be useeful.

Heck, I would press for a firm payment on delivery contract to build 1,000 RL-10 (preferably RL-100) engines with stated performance characteristics at $2 million for the first engine and a descending price scale to about $300,000 for the 1,000th engine. That would encourage a production line and would allow private companies to buy engine 1001 at under $300,000. As to what to do with the engines, sell them at public auction for a loss; getting them built to spec would be the purpose of the contract, and worth every damned penny. As to a first shot at specs, say methane or propane rather than hydrogen, expander engines, with thrust to weight say 10 - 15% better than the RL-10 (bonus payments for better thrust/weight ratios, say 5% payment increment for each 1% T/W improvement (don't take any of those numbers as gospel I am making them up for examples) ==  That would do a lot of good. Anything that will cause them to develop actual capability to build things that work would be good. But no payment until the product is delivered, in spec, on time...

Then give the engines to Universities and Rocket Clubs.

But the government won't do that, and the Big Boys will fight it to the last. Deliver hardware made  to spec? Better to deliver paper, like X-33.

And for your amusement:

If NASA lets the SRBs sink, EPA gets over them, but if they try to recover them OSHA gets them.


Why not?


Act of War?

If true, this sounds a lot like the Mexican government has declared war on the USA, Dr. Pournelle.... At least most people consider government-sponsored invasions to be acts of war. Seems a number of times the USA has sent troops into Mexico for similar activities.


To quote:

"The Mexican staging area for illegal aliens that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson demanded this week be bulldozed is among hundreds of similar sites along the border sponsored and maintained by the Mexican government."

"Many of the Mexican aid stations are maintained by Grupo Beta, a Mexican government funded humanitarian organization founded in the early 1990s. Driving through the desert regions south of the border in brightly painted orange trucks, Grupo Beta's job is to protect migrants along the border, not arrest them. "In April, Grupo Beta worked with the Mexican military and the Sonora State Preventive Police to move would-be illegal aliens out of the desert areas just south of the U.S. border to locations east and west of Naco, Ariz., to avoid the Minuteman Project volunteers holding a vigil on the border. "A branch of Mexico's National Migration Institute, Grupo Beta also helped pass out fliers warning migrants that the Minuteman volunteers, whom they described as "armed vigilantes," were waiting across the border to hurt them."

Charles Brumbelow


Bulwer-Lytton's Book "Vril".


You recently referred to the book Vril. As you said it contained some interesting ideas and because Bulwer-Lytton is one of those authors that I knew of but had never read, I did a web search. You and your readers might like to know that Vril has just been reprinted in America.

John Edwards


Subject: 3rd grade math

i haven't been able to confirm this, but a friend of mine back in Minnesota (known for good schools in the past) told me that the the school standard in some districts requires only that multiplication tables be memorized up to 5 x 5. I can't believe it's true. Could anybody do that? The rationale for this was to leave more time for "teaching to the test" type stuff for the big assessment done in that grade.

how could anybody learn division if they never memorized the basic multiplication tables?

this couldn't be happening, could it?


Jay R. Larsen
MBA, CNE, MCP Sportsman, Tax Protester
"All your base are belong to us"

Why wouldn't it be true? I am sure there is a good theory. There always is.

Addition and multiplication tables are the way your computer works, they are easy enough to learn and if learned to 12's they teach principles to those who can infer them, and are useful to those who only memorized by rote. Read, write, and cipher...


Subject: About Spanish

Hello Dr. Pournell:

I am a usual Chaos Manor reader and today you posted some comments on education and about the importance of learning a foreign language, which I agree with you until you mention

Begin quote I'd still keep one year of a foreign language as long as it is one produced a sufficient quantity of important literature (this excludes Spanish). End quote

I find myself somehow confused on what do you mean by important literature?, are you referring to technical content literature or just literature in general?

Nevertheless, now days I guess, we have become a little too sensible.

Take care and looking forward to your comments

José-Job Flores-Godoy

If you will look closely you will find that I did not write that. I certainly would have no objection to literary Spanish as a foreign language; indeed one of the languages for my Ph.D. qualification was Spanish.  I wouldn't much care to see TexMex as a language subject, but that's a view not cast in stone. In Tennessee when I grew up the college prep curriculum required two years of a foreign language in high school. Mine was Latin, but Spanish was offered as well.


Subject: climate change scientists bet $10,000 earth will cool next decade

Dr. Pournelle, Sorry for the long subject, but I thought this (from Drudge...) would be an interesting tidbit to add to the ongoing Global Warming discussion.

Robbie Walker Atlantic Printing




Re Microsoft being fundamentally insecure by design:
Jerry, I've messed with computers since the commodore 64 days.  I achieved my MCSE certification in 1999, and my A+ certification in 2000.  I've never failed a certification exam, either; and for those who have actually written an MCSE certification exam, that statement ought to open a few eyes.  I regularly program in both VB6 and Visual C++.  Most recently, I've worked as a Dell technical support engineer; and currently, I run my own consulting firm.  Given these qualifications, I believe I am entitled to comment on this issue.
All operating systems are 'fundamentally insecure by design'; no commonly available operating system has an advantage over another.  In fact, there have been a small number of viruses released that affect the Macintosh computer platform; Norton even has an antivirus product available for it.  You can read about it here: http://www.symantec.com/nav/nav_mac/
Microsoft is the odds on favourite for attack, simply because they are the operating system found on the majority of the worlds small computers.  Some claim 90% of computers run Microsoft operating systems; others claim a different percentage.  No matter how you slice it, if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, you write a virus that will attack a Microsoft OS.
One of the things that Microsoft has done to ensure their dominance, is to write a lot of hardware emulation routines into the OS software.  For example, virtually all 56K modems work on windows platforms only; this is due to the fact that much of the hardware has been emulated within windows, thus making the manufacturers job much easier and less expensive.  Currently, a 56K software modem sells for around $30.  The reason is partly due to the fact that much of the hardware and engineering has been done by Microsoft.  Hardware modems are still available, as they are required by Linux machines; and they sell in the $120 range.
A similar situation exists within the printer arena.  Check the systems qualifications on inexpensive printers, and see how few of the inexpensive machines will work with Linux.  There are reasons for that, and they have to do with Microsoft working diligently to ensure that the market doesn't escape them any time soon.
I have no quarrel with Mac machines, or their users; competition is a good thing, and the Mac is a fine computer.  But it is wrong to believe that simply changing operating systems will eliminate the virus problem; for it simply will not.
As long as we have vandalism, we will have viruses.  Microsoft is simply the target du jour.
Best wishes, Charles Worton, MCSE, A+
Constelar Computational


Subject: Microsoft and Patches and Worms and Linux


Mr. Hellewell mentioned "I see dozens of Linux-based bug reports every week on the "BugTraq" mailing list for open-source software large and small."

I don't doubt that he has, but I'm not certain about his point. The Linux distribution that I use (Slackware, version 10.1 at the moment) has had 29 bugfixes in the last year. ( http://www.slackware.com/security/list.php?l=slackware-security&y=2005   contains all but one of the fixes.) I have yet to have been hit by a virus or worm either at home or at work over the past 7 years of running Linux. Slackware isn't known to be a "bleeding edge" Linux distribution and I certainly haven't had to bleed to use it.

What I've observed on my work colleagues' Windows machines is that the tight integration of Outlook and the rest of the OS is a major weak point. And we *do* have an automatic patch push scheme at work. Sometimes it isn't enough; this week 3 out of the 15 folks in our team got hit with the worm.

-- Mark A. Flacy
Any opinions expressed above are my own. Any facts expressed above that you could detect means my weasel wording needs work. "No one gets too old to learn a new way of being stupid."





This week:


read book now


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Subject: All Modern OSes are indeed flawed!

Hello jerry, I've been following your recent "let's you and them go fight it out" discussion on computer security, worms and viruses lately with great interest. I was wondering if someone would mention the point brought up by Charles Warton, that all modern OSes are indeed flawed in their security design.

He is indeed correct, and here's why (note that I am currently a Math with Computer Science major after a 15+ career in consulting and security):

30 years ago, there was a branch in the road taken between what are known as principal based versus capability based security architectures. Current OSes, Windows, Unix, Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, Mac OS Classic, the lot of them, use a principal based security model with what is known as ambient authority. In an ambient authority system every process a particular principal (or 'user') runs on their login has all of their authorities, and can write to any file they can access. Capability security systems create unique keys for each computational object that you can hand out to processes ('write ability on C:\my documents\term_paper.doc') dynamically with a file selector dialog. In a capability system 'designation equals authority' and programs by design obey the Principle of Least Authority (POLA), and can do nothing they were not designated to at installation or in a selection dialog.

Various hacked on kludges have tryed to limit or reduce the granularity of authority handed out to programs on ambient authority systems (elaborate ACL schemes, process jails, heavy virtual machines), but they all rest upon a foundation of sand. It is true that capability systems (in use or under design) use a principal ID for initial login, but that is used generally only to start up a users "powerbox" that hands up all capabilities to programs and has a secure interface.

Current research at HP is working on commercializing an add-on POLA layer to Windows, and it has stopped most virus/worm problems already, even without solving all of the theoretical difficulties of the underlying ambient authority design.

For reference, see: http://www.canonical.org/%7Ekragen/3-sec-arch.html or the stuff at erights.org or google up 'Norm Hardy', 'ambient authority', and the e-lang and cap-talk mailing lists.


David Mercer Dept. of Mathematics Univ. of Arizona

"Nothing I say represents the position or opinion of the University of Arizona or the Dept. of Mathematics, so there!"


Subject: Declining numbers of computer science and engineering grads


Bill Gates is disturbed by the trend of declining enrollments in computer science and engineering. You say the schools are at fault. Yet (as far as I know) no one is reporting problems with attracting students to careers in medicine, another career path that requires a strong background in science and math.

I suspect that declining enrollments stem largely from student's perceptions that technical careers have significant downsides. These downsides include: modest salaries when compared to successful MD's, lawyers, or MBA's; career instability with frequent job changes; and a significant risk of a short career due to technological obsolescence of your skill set and a bias on the part of companies for hiring young and cheap.

CP, Minnesota

The half life of an engineer was 7 years when I was in aerospace back in the 60's. Medicine is unique, and not the proper standard. But you have a point.


Subject: TSA lies to Congress, public

Bruce Schneier, known for his security work is involved with an investigation concerning the TSA's "Secure Flight" program. Here's an excerpt from the monthly newsletter he publishes where he reported on the progress of this investigation:

"During the course of our ongoing review of the Secure Flight program, we found that TSA did not fully disclose to the public its use of personal information in its fall 2004 privacy notices as required by the Privacy Act. In particular, the public was not made fully aware of, nor had the opportunity to comment on, TSA's use of personal information drawn from commercial sources to test aspects of the Secure Flight program. In September 2004 and November 2004, TSA issued privacy notices in the Federal Register that included descriptions of how such information would be used. However, these notices did not fully inform the public before testing began about the procedures that TSA and its contractors would follow for collecting, using, and storing commercial data. In addition, the scope of the data used during commercial data testing was not fully disclosed in the notices. Specifically, a TSA contractor, acting on behalf of the agency, collected more than 100 million commercial data records containing personal information such as name, date of birth, and telephone number without informing the public. As a result of TSA's actions, the public did not receive the full protections of the Privacy Act."

Got that? The TSA violated federal law when it secretly expanded Secure Flight's use of commercial data about passengers. It also lied to Congress and the public about it.

Much of this isn't new. Last month we learned that the TSA bought and is storing commercial data about passengers, even though officials said they wouldn't do it and Congress told them not to.

Secure Flight is a disaster in every way. The TSA has been operating with complete disregard for the law or Congress. It has lied to pretty much everyone. <snip>



The purpose of the law is to make business for itself. The purpose of "security" organizations is to make business for themselves. The purpose of government is to hire and employ government workers. There are no surprises here except for the young and naive.

I do not think any intelligent person who  has given five minutes thought to the situation supposes that the TSA has done anything to make it more difficult for someone to hijack an airplane and fly it into a building. They may have made it less likely that someone sitting next to me will have a box cutter. I hardly care. Meanwhile they make business for themselves. They are to air transport as parasites are to a healthy organism.

But we all know this. All of us, including the Congress that created this silliness. We know it but we can do nothing about it.

Subject: Natural Climate Change

Hi Jerry,

BBC has an interesting article on comparatively recent natural climate change in sub-Saharan Africa.


"The periods of wet weather in East Africa might reflect fluctuations of the Earth's climate as a whole. At the time when the lakes grew - roughly 2.6, 1.8, and 1 million years ago - glaciers and the atmosphere were also going through major transformations. "

Bob G

Subject: Intelligent Design


From near the end: <snip>

I realize that not all scientists reject the idea of an intelligent creator. Nor am I saying that microevolution and ID are mutually exclusive theories. Natural selection, to a point, is entirely compatible with ID -- and with Biblical creationism, for that matter. It is the Darwinists' unsubstantiated leap that all forms of life began apart from intelligent causes that is incompatible, obviously, with ID.

It is neither ID proponents nor Christians who have created an artificial divide between science and faith but dyed-in-the-wool Darwinists. Many of them -- not all -- have chosen to define science in such a way that excludes the supernatural.



Scientists when acting as scientists must stay with the data and explain all of it.  The miraculous and supernatural are generally unrepeatable phenomena, which makes them a form of data not amenable to the usual methods of science. (Indeed the central question is, if they cannot be repeatable, how can they be data at all?) This is not to say they never happen. Most of us have experiences that cannot really be explained by any known scientific principle, but which cannot be repeated. In this age most dismiss them: science is our religion, and phenomena outside science cannot be studied with science and therefore we must not think about them at all; to do otherwise marks us as foolish.

Yet the one question science cannot answer is, "What is the purpose of the universe?"

Of course it may have no purpose; in which case the next question is, "Why do we nearly all of us think that some actions are 'good' and some 'bad', when, if it is all meaningless and a dance of the atoms, it cannot matter at all what we believe?"


Subject: Rise of the machines?


>> Student held over online mugging

Police in Japan have arrested a Chinese student over the use of a network of software "bots" to steal items in an online role playing game (RPG).

Players were attacked in the game, Lineage II, and their items were then sold for cash on auction sites.

The attacks were carried out using automated bots, which are difficult for human game players to defeat. >>

I fear this is only the beginning!

Kind regards, Nick Peach.

When they implement player vs. player in Everquest II it will be interesting to see how long it takes to generate bots to do this...

Automated highway robbers. As you say, perhaps only the beginning.


Heroes revisited:

Subject:  Heroes


My statements may have not been clear, re-reading them I see that perhaps the central point wasn't put forth too well. It's not that we shouldn't celebrate the heroics, we should. I find little more moving that stories like this. My point was only that this LTs heroics shouldn't be a tout for the war, it's not a "good war story" in that sense.

I hate to see success held up as if it were the opposite of the position of those that oppose the war. This was a good story, and should make you feel good, but instead it was prefaced with a lot of crap about how we don't see the good news, and implications that the war is going just swell, we just never hear about it. That preface and the tacky comments at the end cheapened this story. My point regarding heroics and the real consequences was to try to tone down the cheerleading from those not in the mix. It was surely heroic, but it was still war. He'd probably have rather never had to do such things.


 Well, I have to agree that we do not see much good news; some because it isn't easily found, but some because when it is found it is not often reported. None of us see the entire elephant; we can only guess at its nature. I have better sources than most, and I don't know what is happening. I do not know if that is light at the end of the tunnel or an oncoming train.

Can we all agree: if a more open society can be established in Iraq, it is worth having? Whether that be possible or no is very debatable; my view would have been "no" from the beginning, but I am not under the delusion that I am infallible. If it be possible, I do not want to do anything that undermines our success. At the same time, I do not want to prolong the agony if our efforts are doomed from the start.

And those decisions are well above my pay grade. There comes a time in a democracy when one must simply shut up and soldier. I am sure there were many who thought the Athenian Expedition to Sicily would be a disaster. Yet they picked up shield and spear and marched aboard the ships, to end in the mines or dead outside Syracuse.

As to the "exploitation" of heroic deeds, perhaps the message was not meant for you?


Subject: Worm in fully patched version of Windows

Dear Dr Pournelle,

My job and studies no longer leave me much time for correspondence but one issue in the Current Chaos Manor needs to be addressed:

"...it remains true that not one properly updated Windows system has been hit with an infection not requiring cooperation by the machine's operator..."

You mention Microsoft as the source for this assertion. Can you point me at a link? I ask because as far as I'm aware Robert Bruce Thompson is correct to say that "Fully-patched Windows machines by the millions have been infected by worms *before* Microsoft has even issued a patch." In fact, such exploits have a name, "zero-day exploits", as I'm sure you know. Zotob itself was not zero-day, but its derivatives are since MS can't issue a patch for them till they are found in the wild.

As for cooperation by the machine's operator, the whole point of a 'worm' as distinct from a 'virus' is that it does not require any operator interaction. Presumably you mean something slightly different - visiting a web site which takes advantage of the active scripting turned on by default in XP SP2? Low-grade administrative passwords?

Representative recent examples - note that these did NOT require positive user interaction:

(1) One that hit Yale: "A variant of the Gaobot worm ... strongly resembles the W32.Gaobot.UM strain ... can affect W2000 and Windows XP machines that are fully patched..." <http://www.yale.edu/its/security/Gaobot_like_outbreak.html>

(2) "...What was causing the damage was unclear, although experts pointed to a new worm called worm-rbot.cbq ... may have been derived from the Zotob worm, which was first reported over the weekend." <http://edition.cnn.com/2005/TECH/internet/08/16/computer.worm/index.html>

I don't want to get into any kind of argument about the relative merits of Windows or Linux or Macs - I'm just the poor sysadmin who copes with the machines chosen by others to best meet their needs. On the one hand, I use Linux by default. On the other hand, I use Windows more than half the time to cope with staff problems, occasionally OS/X. Actually the very latest Windows on my workstation is the 64-bit version which is extremely cool and I think very secure - I'm kind of impressed.

On the gripping hand, I have not the slightest doubt that the world's vulnerability to such attacks would be reduced by orders of magnitude if MS made more effort to comply with what some regard as sensible OS design and complied with W3C web standards. It's hard to blame them for striving for maximum commercial advantage, but it's driving the security professionals spare, including this famous quote from Allen Paller of the SANS institute to the Washington Post:

<http://seclists.org/lists/isn/2004/Aug/0084.html> "The idea that the technology people at these schools view this update as a threat to their operations is absolutely accurate, as most of these folks consider forced security upgrades a threat to reliability and uptime... This is really a problem of Microsoft's own design ... because they delivered such unsafe computers in the first place."

While I understand your point and those of Rick Hellewell, we operate in a real world where such acts have real consequences and it does not help to blame the end users.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator, OU Physics

I am going to let you and Mr. Hellewell fight this one out. I have a lot of experience as a user; not much as systems administrator even though I maintain a more complicated network than I need just so that I will have some of the problems that readers face. One thing I am sure of: Microsoft employs smart people who are not part of a vast conspiracy to make systems vulnerable so they can collect more money.


Subject: defining "good and bad"


My materialistic answer, which with few exceptions gives reasonable correspondence to my religious answer:

Evil behavior is that which intentionally, maliciously, or selfishly increases the thermodynamic or information entropy of the universe beyond that necessary for self-preservation or defense of the family, tribe, or species.

Corollary 1: Murder, which removes a genome (a tremendous amount of information) from the species, is one of the highest forms of evil.

Corollary 2: Theft, which is a selfish increase in the thermodynamic entropy of the universe (though the net loss of the victim's work which allowed creation or purchase of the item stolen), is evil.

Corollary 3: The admonition to "honor your parents" is based on the protection of the information represented by their memories and preservation of related memes, as well as being a form of payback for the thermodynamic and information entropy which they invested in your upbringing.

Corollary 4: Adultery in this view is evil because it increases the uncertainty that the husband's genome is in fact the one preserved in offspring, and a form of theft in that a person other than the actual father may become responsible for protection of that different genome.

Corollary 5: False witness is, by definition, increasing information entropy by providing incorrect information.

Corollary 6: Coveting increases the coveter's thermodynamic and information entropy by virtue of being a waste of energy that is better devoted to acquisition of the coveted items by proactive means, and also is an invitation to murder, theft, adultery, and false witness.

Ancillary observation: Every "supernatural" aspect of most religions and belief systems is devoted to an assumption that the second law of thermodynamics can under some circumstances or through some means be violated.

And here's 90 cents so you can get the cup of coffee at McDonald's that goes with that.



Must we refight the Tet?


DEBKAfile says: Osama bin Laden Looks Like Heading for Iraq -



Very interesting if true. Impatience is a problem for both sides.



CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Subject: Just a Suggestion

I noticed a lot of chatter about Single Stage to Orbit options in your column. I find it very interesting that little or no effort is directed towards doing the calculations that would make the options comparable.

Have you considered getting your subscribers together to pool their various computer resources to do the calculations. You (the general one) would have to establish the parameters for the calculations and someone would have to coordinate the distribution of calculations but it sure would do a lot to bring a great deal of computing power to play and, perhaps, some general comments could be supported when it comes to discussing the problem with persons.

Also, the exercise could result in a new sense of camaraderie amongst the readers do Chaos Manor.

Allan Mason

I like to encourage camaraderie among readers, but there are no meaningful calculations left to do. The rocket equation tells exactly what mass ratio is needed with a given ISP. The ISP values for most engines are known to three significant figures. There remain actual drag and the difference between sea level and vacuum ISP, and various means for compensation for altitude (actually for lack of altitude) but those are not matters of calculation: the needed values are known and it's a matter of  building hardware that meet them.

Similarly, Project HAVE REGION tested strengths of materials and concluded that it was possible to build a system strong enough to do SSTO with existing materials.

But all these numbers vary in the third decimal place, and we don't have more than second decimal place data. That is, for a 600,000 pound Gross Liftoff Weight (GLOW) ship, we know that a bit more than 90% of that weight must be fuel and oxidant; of the 10% left we know that about 90% will be structure, pumps, tankage, etc; and that about 1% will be actual payload. The payload to orbit thus will be from negative to about 12,000 pounds (negative meaning the ship can't make orbit; fortunately you can fly this kind of ship partially fueled with no intention of making orbit and do some incremental flight tests to get actual ISP and drag numbers). There is a fair amount of calculation indicating that the payload will be about 6,000 pounds, but note that's a guess given the actual physical data we have.

We need to guild SSX (the original 600,000 pound ship of which DC/X was a scale model) to see just what king of sea level ISP we can get, what we can do at altitude, what the real structural weights will be, etc. Then we fly it, bore holes in the parts that are too strong (we will not know that those are without flight tests) and see if we cannot nickel and dime it to orbit. Whatever we do, if we build something we can FLY (unlike the X-33 shitepoke) we will learn things and have new data.

It's not calculations we need now. It's flight test data.

But thanks for the suggestion.


"The Whore Lived Like a German"

Another article on the same subject "The Whore Lived Like a German"

This article was distributed as "German spam" back in May. Several U.S. news sources claimed the piece was "racist" based on its title. Obviously they never read it. The intro follows

"In the past four months, six Muslim women living in Berlin have been brutally murdered by family members. Their crime? Trying to break free and live Western lifestyles. Within their communities, the killers are revered as heroes for preserving their family dignity. How can such a horrific and shockingly archaic practice be flourishing in the heart of Europe? The deaths have sparked momentary outrage, but will they change the grim reality for Muslim women?"

Thank you



Italy's gross debt peaked at 124.3% of GDP in 1994. The peak for the 1980s was 95.4%. After 1994, Italy's debt fell because of Maastricht and the global economic upturn. See http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2004/02/data/index.htm  for the raw data.

Quoting Mr. Lachman

"The most striking similarity between Italy and Argentina, other than the Italian origin of many of the protagonists, is the extremely rigid currency arrangements in which the two countries managed to lock themselves. As a reaction to its harrowing mid-1980s experience with hyperinflation, in 1991 Argentina nailed its currency to the Convertibility Plan cross. It did so at the "immutable" exchange rate of one peso to the US dollar. This was supposed to usher in a period of low inflation and to force upon the country the fiscal policy discipline that it had never known before.

In a similar effort to impose macro-economic discipline, Italy has also supposedly given up forever any room for exchange rate flexibility. It did so in 1999 by abandoning the lira in favor of the euro. Gone were supposed to be the days of high inflation and periodic lira devaluations. In were supposed to be the days of fiscal discipline and structural reform that were to allow Italy to thrive inside its exchange rate straitjacket.

Like Argentina before it, by abandoning the lira, Italy has given up all macro-economic policy flexibility to stabilize its economy. No longer having its own currency, Italy cannot engage in periodic exchange rate devaluations as it did in the past to rectify losses in international competitiveness. No longer having its own central bank, Italy has to accept the interest rates set by the European Central Bank. It has done so even though the interest rates set by the ECB might not necessarily conform to Italy's particular circumstances."

Basically, the Euro locks Italy into an overvalued currency that Italy can't sustain. Exactly the economic path that did so much good for Argentina.




The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


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