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Mail 529 July 28 - August 3, 2008
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July 28, 2008
Hey Jerry I remember you got an iPhone, I recent just purchased one. I have noticed that unlike my old blackberry iPhone causes Gmail and most mail services to mark my emails downloaded when the iPhone retrieves them. This causes a conflict since outlook checks for emails and see they have already been downloaded so refuses to download my emails again. Did you have this problem at all? Oh by the way the whole idea of application on the iPhone is great. They may have not been the first to invent it, but they seem to have best executed it of all there competitors.
I have to confess that I don't do email on the iPhone. I intend to when I move more of my operations to OS X. Meanwhile I suspect the readers will know.
Now THIS is alternative energy!
I thought you might enjoy this.
The company I work for has a major project going on right now. We do water and wastewater treatment here, designing and building and installing all manner of equipment. One of these things is called a High Temperature Fluid Bed, or HTFB.
See, when you go flush your toilet, the poo goes down the sewer to the water treatment plant, where they separate out the solids from the water. The solids are put into a big tank to allow anaerobic bacteria to do their job and break it down further, more water is removed, and the remaining sludge is disposed of. (Sorry if you already know all of this and it sounds like I'm explaining this simplisticly, but it occurs to me that some of your readers may not know much about what happens after you flush, and the details aren't all that important for my purposes here.)
The sludge has traditionally been put into landfills, spread over fields as fertilizer, and so on. However, that sludge happens to be quite flammable- so the HTFB is basically a reactor in which to burn it to harmless ashes and some stench that the scrubbers filter out.
The big project I mentioned? They're going to build a really big one and use it to power a steam turbine for electricity.
Its official name is still the HTFB, but I've been calling it the shit-fired plant. "Gonna be a cold night, folks- we'll need lots of electricity. Everybody to Taco Bell!"
For a fact they'll never run out of fuel, and the infrastructure for gathering it is already in place. I think Washington DC alone could power half of the east coast...
We did a lot of work on energy from biowaste in the 1970's. There's considerable potential there, but it's distributed, and not so easily collected.
Of course what probably won't make sense is to convert manure to energy, then use the energy to make fertilizer.
I was reading your comments on the book about chemistry sets. I had a great time learning about chemistry when I was growing up, thanks to the chemistry set my parents gave me for Christmas one year. It's kind of sad that the experience is much less enjoyable today.
The main reason I'm commenting on this is that I
happend to run across something the other dya that shocked me, even though
it shouldn't. The state of Texas, and perhpas others, requires a license to
purchase and posess certain laboratory glassware, as explained here
Just as I can't buy sudafed without hassles. Minor inconvenience to the drug makers. Make all of us pay. Is there anyone left to speak for freedom?
going to DC-X
appears to have been hacked by a Turkish Islamicist group. Which might go along with your recent concerns about the problems going on there, I suppose...
Any road, I though you'd like to know that.
from work, Bill
Of the chief parts of the Ruling Passion, only this can be truly said: Hate has a reason for everything. But love is unreasonable.
-- V. Raiuhes Ahaefvthe
They must have repaired it. In any event it looks like I'll make it thanks to Henry Vanderbilt who's going to do all the work for getting me there.
Subject: SpaceShip Two (and hint on orbit) -
Branson and Rutan have announced SpaceShip Two - the mothercraft for the commerical launches.
The most interesting line is this:
"This vehicle is actually is large enough if you build a lightweight mercury capsule you can put a man in orbit."
Go Burt Go!
I don't think they have an engine that would get a Mercury capsule into orbit. Mercury was very much a 'get it done" system; you didn't ride it, you wore it. One really uncomfortable ride, too. But it would manage re-entry, assuming you had an engine to cancel orbital velocity. It was pretty rugged.
But it's an interesting idea.
July 29. 2008
In my FAA experience, aircraft maintenance was often the first thing to be cut back:
"All ... pleas of convenience, even if their factual base is sound,
are inadmissible in principle." (Russell 1993)
Nuclear waste is the biggest arrow in the eco-communist quiver. And, given the general state of scientific education in this country, explaining how subduction works will be a lifelong career, albeit without too much in the way of remuneration or benefits. Any disposal has to be simple to explain and (relatively) easy to implement.
I was granted US patent 6,846,967 in January 2005 on a method of nuclear waste disposal. I place solid waste in a short railroad tank car type container, top it off with contaminated water from the storage pools, close that end, move the container to either Barnwell, SC or Hanford, WA, mate the non-opening end to a heavy steel nose cone, place the containers on (ultimately) a purpose-designed ship, sail off to the southeast corner of the big island of Hawaii and drop them into the water in the path of the Lo'ihi volcano's lava flow. The container buries itself in the sea bed 3,000 ft down and the lava seals it in forever. It's quite possible to place a container every 50 feet, using GPS guidance on the ship, so a LOT of containers can be placed per square mile. The contaminated water is a symbol of the "dangers" and has to be addressed in any solution.
It's in the US EEZ and might even be used for friendly nations for their disposal problems. I took it to DoE's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management in March '06, where it promptly disappeared into the bowels of the bureaucracy. Just trying to track who might have it is frustrating. But it does offer a method that reasonable people might accept.
Glad you're feeling better.
I have no great expertise in comparative evaluations of nuclear waste disposal methods, but it's clearly a solved technological problem, particularly if you don't want to be able to recover the stuff. I have not seen explicit attention paid to the contaminated water in the temporary storage areas, and I don't know what that contamination might be. Just what does happen to that water?
Subject: Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency
Several Texas transmission owners have formed a
consortium to build a significant portion of the $5 billion in new power
lines needed to take advantage of the state's abundant wind generation, the
companies said in a regulatory filing Thursday.
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
July 30, 2008
WSJ on drilling in ANWR and other places
Apparently the recent defeat of the "Drill" bill was a good thing, according to this article.
What it demonstrates is that neither party intends to do a damned thing about the energy problem. Some people really do get rich of this crisis.
"Door Into Summer" comes alive...
You no doubt recall that the protagonist of Heinlein's "Door Into Summer" took as one of his first jobs after being awakened the smashing of unwanted cars which had been built and immediately turned over to the government as collateral for "loans". Really, the whole process had become a federal jobs program.
Now it looks like housing rather than automobile manufacturing has become the federal jobs program.
"Washington has practically monopolized the business of financing and refinancing home sales for willing buyers and sellers, but it does nothing about the homes going rancid on the shelf, souring the value of the nation's entire housing stock and mortgage debt.
"Maybe that explains why we're finally getting some takers for a demolition strategy as the least-cost route out of the subprime mortgage aftermath. The Economist, in its July 10 edition, endorsed a "wrecking-ball response." Bill Gross, the Pimco bond king, says in an ideal world Washington would "buy one million new/unoccupied homes, blow them up, and then start all over again." Even Larry Lindsey, the former Reagan economist, concludes that a larger bailout is nearly inevitable -- though his fanciful solution is to recruit 100,000 immigrants who would agree to buy $10 million worth of housing each."
" So far, Washington has put its political capital into trying to refinance salvageable homes for unsalvageable homeowners, when a relevant policy would consist of judiciously buying unsalvageable houses and demolishing them. Fannie and Freddie's strength is housing market software: They could be put to work devising a least-cost, maximum-bang strategy for demolishing unoccupied homes to preserve as much value as possible for the homeowners and mortgage creditors who remain."
Subj: Turks to build S Korean tank designs
>>South Korea has sold design and manufacturing technology, for its K1A1 and XK2 tanks, to Turkey, for $400 million. This will enable Turkey to build 250 of its own tanks. ...<<
Dr. Pournelle --
Dr. William Grahamn has testified before the House Armed Services Cmte. that Iran's recent test launches of Scud missiles from a barge in the Caspian Sea and their warhead detonation at apogee suggests planning for an EMP attack on the U.S.
Iran's current Shahab-3 missiles can't carry too large of a warhead (750-1000 kg) too far (1250-1600 km). However, there were those plans for a "compact" nuke found on the computers of the arms dealers in Switzerland. If Iran can get the right nuke small enough, they could do it. While an EMP attack isn't as visually impressive as turning a city into a smoking ruin, ultimately it could be more devastating.
Maybe we need to boost the ballistic missile defense research and then put it on Coast Guard cutters.
Space Based Solar Power
I question some of his numbers, but obviously I agree with his conclusions:
-- Stephen Fleming | Chief Commercialization Officer | Georgia Tech
I'm glad of your endorsement. I could not stomach the introduction and shut it down before anything of substance was said. I fear I don't need show business slick with my rational discussion, which is probably why I will never be any good at podcasting.
I have of course been writing about Space Solar Power Satellites since 1972 when I did a series of articles about "America's Looming Energy Crisis." There's more about them in A Step Farther Out.
Hello Dr. Pournelle,
For those -- like me -- who have had painful experiences with Real and don't want to go there, there is an MP3 version of The Ballad of Roger Young available here. -> http://dwrighsr.tripod.com/heinlein/ryoung.html. It is a little scratchy but still powerful.
The page also has some details of Roger Young's early life and the action that won him the posthumous Medal of Honor.
PS. Bought Exile - And Glory yesterday.
Real installs some kind of idiotic instant messaging in addition to its player, They are really obnoxious but if you deselect everything it's relatively harmless once you once you get it under control. Thanks. Incidentally, the link above takes you to a long text page; the direct link to the MP3 is here http://www.wegrokit.com/ryfla.htm and it's pretty scratchy. The West Point Glee Club version is much better.
Mr. Ing's letter would have been more valuable if we knew what units the numbers represented rather than having to dig through links for them. I guess that they are millions of tons, but I can't be sure.
My fault. Perhaps this will help.
I wrote about biomass in A Step Farther Out, too. The numbers have changed since then, but it can be a useful source of energy, including for centralized direct heating in northern cities. It won't save us, but it can help in waste disposal (which has to be done anyway).
Human Manure as Energy
Sewage sludge is sometimes used in the UK as fertilizer. The big drawback is that it may be contaminated with heavy metals which persist in the soil. Depending on the area from which it is collected it may be best to use it as energy and landfill the ash.
Collecting the feedstock is already paid for and there is a bonus as you don't have to someone else to take it away. Even a Government would find it difficult to lose much money in such circumstances
Still giving thanks that we don't get all the government that we pay for.
"There is no question about it: something seems to have changed since the 1950's. I find it hard to believe that 25% of the young men in this society suddenly developed some kind of syndrome requiring expensive drugs..."
I think what has changed is diagnosis.
My girlfriend tells of her grandparents in West Virginia having a fellow who was a farmhand, known only as "Mousy". He was apparently a little odd, and lived in the attic room of their house. When they abandoned the farm and moved to town, Mousy moved with them- and lived in that attic for the rest of his life.
Thinking back on it, I've heard a lot of tales about how almost every family had the strange aunt or uncle that lived upstairs and no one spoke about, and the kids were told to stay away from them. There were vast numbers of very odd characters, and a lot of activity that would now be considered illegal that was never mentioned because "you don't talk about such things".
My belief is that people are more open to talking about issues now, that the kids being fed Ritalin and antidepressants now would have just been considered obnoxious or mopey a couple of generations ago. Frankly, I think I'd rather have my kids on antidepressants that they may not need than have kids who genuinely need them not get them and have to live through the depression. Same with autism- the kids who had mild cases of it back then were just considered to be odd or problem kids. Now that we have something that will help them cope with it, we're very eager to feed it to them to smooth out their jagged edges.
My girlfriend's family is a classic case. Depression and bipolar disorder have been in her family all across the generations- her father dealt with his by drinking large amounts of coffee and smoking heavily, others in her family dealt with it by drinking alcohol, her oldest brother refuses to acknowledge that he has it and deals with it as their father did. Her other brother is on antidepressants, as is my girlfriend herself, and they can clearly see their siblings suffering the family curse. I can testify that they are genuinely needed- when she lost her job about two years ago and couldn't afford the meds she had been taking, she quit taking any meds. For a time she was fine- but then she had a major crash that landed her in the hospital as she had been threatening suicide. We've gone through over a year of hell trying to get her onto something that her insurance will cover and finally have her on a combination that works- but without them she's a much different person and would be unable to care for herself.
Mental disease hasn't increased, it's just recognized more these days and is getting treated more often. Some of it is, as you mentioned, false diagnosis to make money for the medical industry- but much of it is legitimate. People who needed the help in the 1950s didn't get it much of the time, or it didn't exist at that point. What has changed is not the people, but their willingness to be treated.
Well, I don't recall very many people having mad relatives locked in the attic. I do recall that a lot of boys were physically disciplined with the notion that learning to control yourself was one of the things taught in school; there were no drugs. I learned to sit still and pay attention because the alternatives were painful and inevitable. At Capleville the teachers and I learned from each other: they learned that if I were allowed to read books I would generally be quiet, and I learned that if I didn't manage to control myself I'd regret that. It worked pretty well, and I finished those lesson at Christian Brothers College in Memphis where the Brothers made it pretty clear what the alternatives are.
That doesn't mean that we are in fundamental disagreement except on numbers. Of course there are some people who benefit from medical attention, and there are plenty of drugs that will control them; but whether this is a good technique to use on younger people is not clear to me, since it is not clear to me that one learns much from taking drugs other than drug taking can be pleasant.
I don't claim to know everything. My graduate classes in psychology were in an era when the primary solution to a number of psychological problems was insulin shock, electro shock, and even lobotomy; when Freudian psychoanalysis was a seriously advocated treatment (but in practice was applied only to those rich enough to afford it or from states where there was tax money) -- but it was easily shown that the expensive Freudian analysis didn't have any greater cure rates than Rogerian unstructured therapy; and when Wilhelm Reich was taken seriously.
And all this was defended with great seriousness.
Now I am sure that the medicos have learned a lot since those times but what they have not learned is humility, and I while I am sure that some of their faith in drugs is justified, I would like better evidence that the need for drugs in young boys is as great as the numbers of drugs dispensed in schools indicates.
I never thought that growing up was easy, and it may even be harder for bright boys than for others. I have some experience at that...
Lakes on Titan
Yes, JPL says there are lakes on Titan. But they are a kind of lake that would be more at home in Dante's Inferno than on Earth:
Scientists positively identified the presence of ethane, according to a statement from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which manages the international Cassini spacecraft mission exploring Saturn, its rings and moons.
Liquid ethane is a component of crude oil.
Mental disorders and growing up
I have been working in jails for some time now, with adults and adolescents. For the past two years I have been asking every inmate I see the same screening questions about ADHD symptoms. Old and young, about 90% of the male inmates I see had ADHD problems when young - trouble sitting still, trouble paying attention, trouble getting to sleep a night, impulsivity. This is true for men and guys who grew up in the 1930's through the 1990's. Some of them will say straight out that it is the impulsivity that got them into jail.
An aside on "bipolar disorder": Lest Mr. Martin get fooled, the current wave of "bipolar disorder" should more appropriately be named "bipolar syndrome" and abbreviated BS. Back in the late 1990's drug companies realized that the patents on their miraculous SSRI antidepressants would be running out, and they had no compelling replacements. So there began a veritable Niagara of free Continuing Medical Education (we docs need 25-50 hours of CME per year to keep our licenses) on the subject of this BS. The best treatments, of course, are all still under patent and are all expensive (the less said about lithium, the best treatment for genuine bipolar disorder, the better).
Worse, they are shoving the diagnosis of BS onto children. A recent study estimated that about 8.75% of children and adolescents today would also qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD (I believe this is about right; I'll explain in a minute). A review I just read says that 60-90% of children diagnosed with BS have ADHD, where a study of carefully diagnosed adult bipolar disorder patients showed only 9.5% had also ADHD. Is this over-diagnosis of ADHD? Or is it mistaking ADHD symptoms for "bipolar disorder?" My jail experience says that it is the latter. Throw in cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, and you have kids and dudes who appear giddy and silly when they are not feeling down. Too easy for a shrink in a hurry to label with the BS diagnosis. End of aside.
I believe that ADHD is like tallness. Just as we vary from short to tall, we vary from slugs to hyper dudes. Why the increase in diagnosis? School used to provide longer recesses and lunches, more time to exercise, and more informal discipline. I was particularly impressed with one man's tale of how nuns used to hit his hand with a ruler to redirect his attention to his work. That man was not an inmate; but today he might get medicated, or expelled (this is how schools work with No Child Gets Ahead).
Davy Crockett set out on his own at 12. Daniela Boone had to be a restless dude. Babe Ruth's granddaughter describes him as having a bad case of ADHD. I read a story about the man who invented giant magnetic resonance - the innovation that gives us hard drives with enormous capacity. He would be a poster child for ADHD. He can't stay at a task for more than a few minutes; he has multiple projects running.
At bottom, the degree to which we diagnose ADHD is an indicator of how much leeway we allow for active kids.
Now, that said, you can measure the differences between people with ADHD and normal people. With CNS imaging, you can see how the frontal lobe cortex is thinner; how it grows more slowly initially and catches up (almost) later. OK. And I can measure your height with a ruler.
How to avoid medicating these guys? Ponder the single mom who cannot wedge out the time to escort her kids to the playground. How letting her kids go out allow is unsafe. How school keeps the kids hemmed in and under-exercised during the day. Ponder the upper middle class parents who believe that this restlessness their kid has is not a variation on the norm, but is a disease that must be treated. (On that note, do you remember a Gordon Dickson novel where this guy was medicated to keep him from growing too tall? He was stunted at eight feet; but then they ran into an extra-terrestrial branch of humanity where they were all nine-foot plus?)
Given our straited society, kids will function better with medications for ADHD. And from beating their heads against rigid boundaries, many will despair and some will benefit from antidepressant medication. And then there are those who have been abused and have PTSD (bipolar, right?). And then there are the substances which make adolescence feel less painful, but add to the psychological load because the kids are not learning to deal with their problems and heal from them (in Narcotics Anonymous, they call this "feel, deal, heal").
Kids have more choices and less firm guidance than kids had in the past. And not just kids: the cumulative rate of depression (the total of people who have become depressed, measured over decades and plotted as a slope) has increased, cohort by cohort since the beginning of the twentieth century. Civilization may be toxic. It certainly presents a challenge. We may have to think of it as "Evolution in Action."
I recall many years ago (about the time of the Manson murders) my friend Poul Anderson called and asked if I'd take him sailing for a week; he was in a fit of black depression and he couldn't shake it. We have a very good cruise of the Southern California islands going to Anacapa, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Barbara Island, and east to Catalina where we anchored on the far side of the Isthmus. It wasn't so crowded in those days and we sailed around the island and down to Avalon where we could anchor free in St. Catherine's Bay not far from the seaplane ramp.
It was a great sail and while we were sailing Poul was in good straits but the depression got to him again when it was over. He was eventually turned back into his old self by -- lithium.
It's pretty clear that my education in these matters is obsolete. I learned about manic-depressive psychosis and several neuroses that had similar symptoms, but in all of my graduate studies including 2 years of Abnormal Psychology I never heard the term "Bi-Polar". Of course there was no DSM in those days. My first encounter with the DSM was many years later when a colleague advising me on setting up a practice showed it to me and pointed out that it was a necessary tool, not for actual diagnosis or clinical work, but for filling out the paperwork to justify one's bills. (That and other such matters convinced me to be a science and science fiction writer even though a leading pediatrician in the Valley liked my notion of a practice devoted to bright kids not doing well in school and had a list of referrals.) I also never heard of ADHD until my excursion into the DSM, which I grant you is a marvelous source of ways to extract money from parents and insurance companies. I also saw "syndromes" that seemed to me indistinguishable from normal teen-age rebellion: I never knew how much money could be made from boys who wouldn't clean up their rooms and talked back to their mothers. (And I note there are entire Institutes devoted to precisely that; some people really got rich at it.)
In that sense, then, I am as much a student of these matters as anyone. I do have some perspective to add. I did grow up in an era when bright kids were prized but expected to behave themselves. I got away with some eccentricities when I got involved in the Whiz Kids radio show, but I didn't get away with much: there were rules for how one behaved with adult authority figures including teachers, and the consequences for breaking those rules were -- at least in Tennessee -- physical and painful, and therefore instructive. At least instructive to me; I certainly learned to control myself, which served me in good stead as a teen ager the night some Memphis PD officers caught us smoking cigars in an undeveloped area in Memphis; apparently we had been talking too loud, and the nearest householder (fifty yards away) called the cops. They were rude and arrogant, and I was much tempted to tell them what I thought of them, but my partner in crime was Professor Moore's son and terrified of scandal; so I said sir and spoke only when spoken too and our names never got into the police report. Not that we were guilty of being anything but teenage boys out talking about our rather innocent experiences on our rather rare dates -- and attempting to smoke White Owl cigars.
A good part of my youth was spent frustrating my parents, who were alarmed that at age 11 or so I saw nothing wrong with making half a cupful of nitroglycerine and detonating it, and other such antics. If there had been a plenitude of school psychologists and diagnosticians, God knows what might have happened (although my mother was not impressed with the psychologists who did get hold of me, and might have protected me). But I am certain that ADHD or Bipolar Syndrome would have been almost automatic. Now perhaps that might have helped: I did waste a lot of time in high school even with the Brothers determined to make me do work that challenged me (and they did understand that loading me with scut work was NOT the solution to the problem of this kid who did all the school work in half an hour and then thought up terrible things to do with tri-iodide's and other interesting chemicals).
Today's Los Angeles Times carried a small foreign news story toward the bottom of one of its pages, deep inside the front section. Since the piece appeared in none of the other major papers I daily read, I fear that exactly this sort of information will be lost in the future as news bureaus undergo budget cuts and papers consolidate.
It's often seemed to me that human societies are a bit like memory-plastic, which through brute force can be twisted into a variety of unnatural shapes, but which then rapidly return to their normal configuration once constraints are removed.
Biomass For Fuels
There are certain key principles associated with 'biomass'. The first is the 1/7th rule of thumb. You can expect on average about 1/7th the heating value of an equal weight of petroleum. The second is how 'biomass' occurs. It is very widely distributed horizontally. The First and Second Principles mean it doesn't stand much transport cost. In fact it's best used or at least processed at its point of origin. The third principle is Diversity. People who expect to highly 'scale-up' biomass systems have been and will continue to be thwarted by the Three Principles. The distribution of biomass fuel supplies represent a natural example of a multi-culturalist's ideal for human populations.
The fourth principle is Reliability of Supply. That fraction derived as a waste stream from another primary economic activity depends on the continuance of that activity to sustain its present cost and availability. A current example here are 'Green' pellet stove owners. These folk have made the nasty discovery that a) most wood pellets are really byproducts of mill waste and b) when the primary lumber mill closes because of real estate bubbles popping so does the secondary pellet mill operation. Stove pellets can still be made, but the energy and materials costs to turn trees into pelletized saw dust must now be carried entirely by the wood pellet.
Actually Southern California Edison was experimenting with using the entire sewage output of Oceanside CA (and perhaps Camp Pendleton) as a fuel source to see if they could make any profitable use of it. This was in the 70's when I was writing about this sort of thing. I believe they concluded that they needed a small subsidy from the waste provider but they would undertake ot get rid of it without further costs. The politicians had dreams of selling crap and getting revenue, but it didn't quite work that way.
August 1, 2008
We have mail on several topics. I'll try to group it properly.
The Ballad of Roger Young on YouTube
Hello Dr. Pournelle,
You are doubtless tiring of this, but I found that the West Point Glee Club version is also on YouTube. The value added is some interesting era photos in addition to the music. (And no Real involved!) http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=1MEJM0cboDg
"A man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies." -- Oscar Wilde
RealPlayer alternative -- Dr. Pournelle: I, too, found RealPlayer an obnoxious application that tried to snarf up the playing and presentation of everything from mp3 and *.wav files to JPEGS. Here is a small app alternative that is well-behaved and only does what you want. http://www.free-codecs.com/download/Real_Alternative.htm -- Pete Nofel
(Glee Club, 1956-58, soloist: William Webb '57) delivers the "Ballad of Rodger Young" in wma format (as advertised).
More links, a short bio, the CMoH citation, and photos (he resembles Cpl Walter "Radar" O'Riley of M*A*S*H) at http://www.medalofhonor.com/RodgerYoung.htm.
Live long and prosper
h lynn keith
Regarding your Real Plug-in comment in the Tuesday, July 29.2008 post.
You've probably already been e-mailed on this but there are open source alternatives to the Real Player program/plug-in.
For windows you can get 'Real Alternative' at:
[ http://codecguide.com/about_real.htm ] it's smaller, doesn't phone home about you, has no ads and does not take over your computer. By default it only takes over the Real Player formats and nothing else so you can ignore the installation screens.
For Linux there's the 'Helix Player' utility at:
Corn Ethanol Belt Report
A Mennonite friend of mine (he grew up Amish) just returned from his annual traveling summer vacation to the Corn Belt Midwest in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Folks' reactions up there can be summarized as, "There's an economic crisis?! When did this start? Why didn't we hear about it? Are you sure? Things have never been better!"
This particular Crisis is striking with the precision of a laser guided missile. It's striking urban and suburban America. Some of the largest wealth transfer in history is already flowing internally to other parts of America. It's going to those parts long derided as Flyover Country. I suspect both Coasts are now going to pay dearly for indulging in two generations of sneering arrogance.
Coastal Elitists should be aware their prestige and empathy levels in Flyover Country are at least as sub-prime as the mortgage backed securities they previously issued.
Yesterday I saw a cable TV show on mental abilities. The person was trying to figure out how a good fighter pilot was better than a poor fighter pilot, even when both had the same level of training (40% of kills are done by 4% of the pilots). He had a brainstorm and thought, "Is it possible that the good pilots can see a short distance into the future?" (Kind of like the movie NEXT, but only for a few seconds).
How to test for this?
His test process was as follows: He had a random slide show of both emotional pictures (babies, angry dogs, etc.) and non-emotional pictures (random patterns, a smooth lake shore, etc.) generated by a computer. The person would view the pictures when connected to a lie detector. He then plotted the responses (skin conduction, etc.) for the emotional pictures and for the non-emotional pictures on a graph versus time, starting the two curves from a point about 30 seconds or so prior to the time the given picture flashed on the screen. He did this again and again for each subject.
As expected, the two averaged curves over many pictures were very different, with the emotional pictures causing many stronger changes to the test point results than the bland pictures. The thing he found very strange was, for at least some subjects, while the two curves lay essentially right on top of each other at the start and for several seconds into the test prior to the time of the picture being displayed, THE DIVERGENCE BETWEEN THE CURVES STARTED A FEW SECONDS **PRIOR TO** THE PICTURE OF THE GIVEN TYPE BEING SHOWN!! The subjects already knew that the coming picture was bland or emotional in a way that was impossible unless they could see into the future a few seconds.
It is possible that the picture mix wasn't random enough and some pattern existed, but this can be eliminated by never repeating a picture and randomly loading the picture file using some random number generator and then scrambling them again and again using different methods each time, so that even the tester cannot possibly guess what is coming up each time. The tester in this case was not even in the room while the tests were going on to keep any bias from him from getting into the results.
If this works with "ace" fighter pilots, too, then no wonder they usually beat anyone else!!
Now, this is a rather simple test and could be done by virtually anybody, so I would hope that somebody else would either verify or refute his results soon.
I have seen some indications of this in other places. It's the mechanism that escapes me: what sends information into the past? Or is our integrative machinery good enough that it appears to be precognition? It can't be common or Las Vegas could not exist. At craps the house edge is 1.4% on the pass line (and zero edge-- i.e. you get true odds -- when you back up that bet!). It would not take much in the way of real precog to wipe that edge out and bankrupt the house.
I have heard elaborate theories based on quantum effects that are supposed to explain precognition, but like spacedrives one wants to see data rather than theory.
I'd be very interested in further efforts in this. Once again, if I had to bet I'd bet against confirmation of any precognition, but I would not bet the farm.
I was going through your linked "reports" page and came to the 1999 blooming of the corpse plant. The photos were interesting, but what struck me as more fascinating was your warning:
"Fair warning: some of these images are at Super High Quality which is 2 megapixels, and will take some time to download."
The photos loaded instantly for me, but then I thought back to 1999 when I had a "fast" 144kbps ISDN connection and lots of people used dialup.
A far cry from the 8-16Mbps I take for granted on my cable modem.
And then there's the comment of "Super High Quality" being 2 megapixels.
Digital cameras have come a long way since then, too!
I enjoyed your comments on Autism, and just wanted to share a small example with you. Autistic children are not usually the wild kids rampaging in a school classroom, though they are prone to temper explosions.
Our Meghan was diagnosed with "Pervasive Developmental Disorder" in the 80's, and we strong resisted the tag of "Autism" at that time, based upon the advise of our neurologist. He changed his opinion in the late 90's, when the definition of Autism changed.
It is very accurate to say that Meghan's perceptual abilities are both acute and "wired wrong" in her brain. While everyone perceives a stimulus somewhat differently, in general, we can all agree that THIS
color is at least a shade of RED, or THAT color is a shade of blue.
Or THIS sound is delightful and THAT sound is not.
Meghan's perceptions are way off. Touch, sound, taste, sight - all of them are different for her. Very different. That leads to her occasionally letting loose with a frustration powered temper tantrum, even today when she is 23. The result for Meghan, and for a lot of if not most Autistic children, is that they withdraw out of misunderstanding and fear. They simply cannot fathom that the racket the other kinds are making is fun - in Meghans case some noise sources like that are the equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. Imagine
*that* sound in your ears for hours at a time!
Anyway, I certainly don' t have the answers, but in the case of this Savage person- he is clueless to the real and difficult to deal with issues surrounding most truly autistic kiddos. He may be partially right about parents needing to control them, but I rather doubt he cares if he is right or wrong, so long as more people listen to his show. Just another example of your Voodo Science I think- and this time from an entertainer. <sarcasm> A *very* reliable source of information. </sarcasm>
One day I hope we can really find out how to heal minds like Meghan,
as well as minds and souls damaged by other things. The church used to be good at dealing with that- when I was a kid I would go talk to my pastor about subjects I didn't understand (when I wanted to talk to someone besides my parents that is.) Today, a very great number of pastors seem more interested in who wins the Presidential Election than in the well being of their flocks. Except of course, the few really bad ones that just want to fleece that flock of theirs. ;)
Anyways, you made a lot of good points, and tempered them with honest reason. I sure wish you could teach some of the rabid professionals out there how to do that.
I’m a master’s level children’s therapist and have been working with kids for more than 30 years. Over that period, I’ve spent considerable time arguing with psychiatrists about ADHD and Bi-Polar disorder. Reading Ed Hume’s comments in the mail was quite refreshing. Finally, a psychiatrist that seems to get it.
Thanks for that.
Port Orchard, WA
Dear Doctor Pournelle,
In high school I was undoubtedly a candidate for ADHD diagnosis/medication if such "treatment" had been fashionable in the late 1960s. I was a straight "C" average student, though measured as being in the top per-centile of IQ; one of those "C" students because they get either an "A" when the class/teacher interests them, or a "D"
if they do not.
The solution I discovered was simple.
During my Junior year I took Chemistry. I flunked out of the class in the first semester. I just could not seem to get the hang of the math applications or many of the basic concepts. Each daily hour in Chemistry class I would get right to the edge of comprehending something vital, and then it was time to go to the next class.
Since I needed the credits, I signed up for Chemistry in summer session at the end of my Junior year. I was scared, but determined to solve the mystery of Chem-1. The class ran for four hours daily, from 8AM to 12PM, four days a week. The teacher turned out to be from another high school in the district, a fellow who was a scoutmaster from another troop near my own (with whom I had once gone on a long cross-country hike). He knew a LOT about how to handle boys. Mr. Manley undoubtedly had forgotten more chemistry than most teachers ever knew. As an aside: I suspect such a teacher now would be viewed as "unprofessional", spending too much time walking about the countryside instead of taking more education courses to move up the ladder. Alas, Babylon!
I quickly discovered that with four hours in a block to devote to chemistry, I got it. It was just that it took me about an hour to get my brain "into Chemistry gear", and having that, I was able to "get it".
I went from flunking out miserably a quarter of the way into the subject to earning a solid "B".for the entire class. It was that simple. Give yourself the time you need, even if the system insists you only get an hour.
So my senior year I took Physics, and when the teacher (the great John Wozny, somewhat of a legend in some circles) offered to open the lab up at lunch for those who wanted more time with him, I was right there.
Brilliant and tough, his weekly Friday exams were legendary. Graded on a curve, typically you could get a passing grade if you managed to correctly solve three or four of the ten problems in the forty minutes allowed. Since we used slide rules in those pre-electronic calculator days, you can imagine how quickly we worked.
Mr. Wozny would scowl mightily when the half a dozen or so "jocks" in the class would occasionally leave class early for athletics practice.
He would turn to the remaining members of the class, as the door closed behind the departing jocks., and say "You are the Physics Team, I am the Physics Coach, and what you learn while they are jumping around will still be valuable when they are old and fat like me!"
The day we took our final exam, a group of students asked Mr. Wozny if they could come to the front of the class. With a befuddled smile, he nodded, and they sheepishly walked up. One of them (one of the two girls in the class, both of whom were brilliant AND beautiful, -sigh-!) held a cardboard box. She opened it, and handed "The Woz" (which we NEVER called him to his face... Somehow, now, I wish we had; it was a term of respectful, even. awed, endearment) a black tee shirt. On the back in large white letters was "Physics Coach". The Woz wore that shirt the rest of the day, even during lunch. I never saw a happier teacher than he was when that shirt was handed to him.
Then he scowled, and said "But I will still grade you all on the same curve!"
Time, discipline and patience. Those are the essentials. In our version of "Brave New World" we have lost this basic wisdom and seek in our hubris to solve everything with elixirs. Nemesis awaits, its' talons as long and sharp as ever.
Switzerland and Nukes
Living in Switzerland, I would be most interested in knowing the source of this.
I am certainly unaware of any such report, or who might have been searching computers in Switzerland...
Switzerland makes good money selling weapons (though nothing compared to the USA). But military contracts require governmental approval and the government is pretty strict. Switzerland sells trainer airplanes, tanks and armored vehicles, and many types of munitions. While I am not in any way involved with the government or the military industry, I find it extraordinarily unlikely that any sort of nuclear weapons technology is on the menu for Iran. This sounds like pure scare-mongering...
I don't know any more on this. At one time the United States CIA had agents in Zurich who would pay $2 million cash for a nuclear warhead or the fissionables to make one. That was long ago, and I understand the price went higher; I do not know if this activity continues today. The offer was cash, no questions asked, no identity required, we won't follow you; take your money and go in peace. As I understand it this was pretty effective. One could get more money elsewhere but there was a great probability that if you sold elsewhere you would never walk alone.
But I never heard of the Swiss selling nukes.
Haven’t you been saying this for years?
As noted by Pat Frank, Demetris Koutsoyiannis’ new paper has been published, evaluating 18 years of climate model predictions of temperature and precipitation at 8 locales distributed worldwide. Demetris notified me of this today as well.
The paper is open access and can be downloaded here:
Here’s the citation: D. KOUTSOYIANNIS, A. EFSTRATIADIS, N. MAMASSIS & A. CHRISTOFIDES “On the credibility of climate predictions” Hydrological Sciences–Journal–des Sciences Hydrologiques, 53 (2008).
Abstract “Geographically distributed predictions of future climate, obtained through climate models, are widely used in hydrology and many other disciplines, typically without assessing their reliability. Here we compare the output of various models to temperature and precipitation observations from eight stations with long (over 100 years) records from around the globe. The results show that models perform poorly, even at a climatic (30-year) scale. Thus local model projections cannot be credible, whereas a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported.”
Disconnecting from change does not preserve the past. It kills the future.
From another conference:
In discussing education, I said:
Jaime Escalante taught AP calculus in high school: he did it by drills and rote, mostly, and strict discipline. My wife spent some time discussing his methods with him. His students were not those you would have predicted would take state prizes in math.
And received this comment:
Jim I have a friend with some experience in Cuba. He believes that with Cuban methods (drills, rote, and strict discipline) America's inner city schools could be highly functional. He also assigns a zero probability to this happening.
Solar Energy, All Night Long
MIT professor Daniel G. Nocera has long been jealous of plants. He desperately wanted to do what they do--split water into hydrogen and oxygen and use the products to do work. That, he figures, is the only way we humans can solve our energy problems; enough energy pours down from the sun in one hour to power the planet's energy needs for a year.
Nocera's discovery--a cheap and easy way to store energy that he thinks will be used to change solar power into a mainstream energy source--will be published in the journal Science on Friday. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited--and soon."
Sure hope it works!
But then -- Something will. That is, if we try.
Nuclear plans in Switzerland
Just to clarify my comments about the possibility of an EMP attack on the U.S.:
"Blueprint for nuclear warhead found on smugglers' computers"
Blueprints for a sophisticated and compact nuclear warhead have been found in the computers of the world's most notorious nuclear-smuggling racket, according to a leading US researcher.
The digital designs, found in heavily encrypted computer files in Switzerland, are believed to be in the possession of the US authorities and of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, but investigators fear they could have been extensively copied and sold to "rogue" states via the nuclear black market.
I never meant to suggest that the Swiss were culpable in the matter. Switzerland is just where the plans were located. In fact, the Swiss government has reportedly destroyed the computer files to insure that they could not fall into the wrong hands. The concern is that the designs, described as "detailed" and "sophisticated", may have already been transferred to "rogue" governments.
"Begley Cloth" coming of age?
Interesting article popped up on CNN website this afternoon.
August 2, 2008
It's simple intuition based upon efficient integration and processing of experiential information combined with well-honed analytical skills, nothing more.
In my line of work, I've sometimes been cited as having some uncanny ability to divine what's taking place on large-scale computer networks and/or the global Internet, and as having predicted probable future occurrences with a high degree of accuracy which cannot be explained by normal means. Nothing could be further from the truth; I've just been doing this a long time, remember what I've done and observed, and am good at integrating those experiences with abstract knowledge using both inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as logical extrapolation.
This is merely what I consider to be a normal level of competence for someone who's into his third decade in just about any field of endeavor; given that critical thinking skills are no longer taught in the schools, and given the seemingly transitory nature of the modern work experience, exhibiting the level of competence in one's occupation which used to be expected of, say, the average master plumber, is deemed by our present-day Eloi as nothing short of miraculous.
The fighter-pilot scenario is just another example of this phenomenon, with stick-and-throttle adjustments as the outputs, nothing more.
Note that I'm not flatly saying that precognition, deja vu, et. al. aren't possible; I'm just saying that the fighter-pilot kill-curve is easily explicable without resorting to soi-disant extrachronological mechanisms.
History is a great teacher, but it also lies with impunity.
-- John Robb
This piece is about a service that allows you to dodge personal contact when you call someone and leave a phone message:
OK, this allows a woman to break off with a boyfriend without an ugly confrontation. And this kind of distancing certainly allows for another option in the spectrum of options we have in social interactions. But this quote caught my eye:
"Indirect communication, experts suggest, may be turning some people into digital-era solipsists more interested in broadcasting information than in real time give-and-take."
It reminded me of one of Isaac Asimov's last novels, where a society of recluses had developed, served by robots. They hardly ever interacted with other humans, and of course were down to the last human when the protagonists found him.
It wouldn't be the first time an SF author had identified a social trend.
r.e. MIT Professor Daniel G. Nocera's new "photosynthesis".
In the world-wide press coverage I still haven't found the one sentence I was hoping to see. It should read something like, "Professor Nocera's new process yields n% more oxygen and hydrogen per watt than existing electrolysis technologies." I don't belong to AAAS and can't access the Science article. The viewable free summary isn't encouraging on this idea
"This week, researchers report online <http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1162018> in Science a new water-splitting catalyst that works under environmentally friendly conditions; other groups report related advances on pages"
Lead-acid car batteries don't work in "environmentally friendly conditions", either. But we managed to proliferate them while also raising life expectancies.
The rest of the claims about a six-month old lab bench process being cheaper in the future than existing production electrolyzers struck me as faith-based.
However, such items always inspire me the daily Chemistry and Calculus sessions.
Multi Tab Bookmarks in Firefox.
In Firefox 2.x and 3.x, you can create a bookmark for all your currently open tabs.
Click "Bookmarks" on the toolbar and then click "Bookmark All Tabs" or just type <Ctrl><Shift><D> and give your new Bookmark a name.
You can then place that bookmark in the "Bookmarks Toolbar" at the top of the screen by typing <Ctrl><Shift><B> to bring up the Bookmark Manager and dragging your just created bookmark from the bottom of the "Bookmarks Menu" and dropping it in the "Bookmarks Toolbar".
You can create as many of these multi-tab bookmarks as you need and arrange them as you wish on the "Bookmarks Toolbar" by placing them where you want them. You'll only have to open all your tabs once and then once bookmarked, you'll be able to relaunch them all at will.
I wish you a speedy and complete recovery.
---- Josh Cockey
One of more than a dozen. thanks to all!
This paper by Dr. Thomas Reed is worth reading by people interested in biomass for fuels and energy.
"The heat FOR pyrolysis, hp,.. is an important value required for the science and engineering of biomass thermal conversion. Yet only a few scattered values exist in the literature and it is not a simple value to measure or calculate."
"A more useful quantity for engineers is the heat FOR pyrolysis, hp, the sum of the sensible heat required to bring the reactants to the temperature of pyrolysis...This quantity is required to answer the question "how much heat must I supply for pyrolysis in order to generate charcoal and gas in any given process of pyrolysis, gasification or combustion."
Table 1 on page 7 is instructive on the effects of embedded moisture in biomass on hp.
This doesn't mean "biomass" is bad or won't play a major future role. It does mean it requires the same level of science and engineering that was previously applied to developing steam turbines, internal combustion engines and petroleum refining.
Happy Birthday, J. K. Rowling, July 31, 2008...
"One day on a cross-country train trip, the idea of Harry Potter "came fully formed" into her mind. "It started with Harry," she said, "then all these characters and situations came flooding into my head."
"She planned out the entire Harry Potter series before she wrote the first book, and she says: "I wrote the story I meant to write. If I lost readers along the way, so be it, but I still told my story. The one I wanted. Without permitting it to sound too corny, that's what I owe to my characters. That we won't be deflected, either by adoration or by criticism."
"Her publisher thought young boys were her target audience and was worried that they wouldn't buy a novel by a woman, so they encouraged her to use initials instead. Joanne didn't have a middle name, so she took her grandmother's name, Kathleen, and made herself J.K. Rowling."
MIT solar energy storage announcement.
I'm sure you've already seen this, but I thought it might be of some interest:
Best wishes on your continued recovery. -- Richard Liggins
Jerry Pournelle wrote: > It's all bullshit to begin with. The stuff isn't particularly > dangerous after 600 years. And if we want to get rid of it, encase it > in glass and drop it in the Mindanao Deep. Not glass! *Leaded crystal*, dammit!
--Leslie <;)))>< www.lesliefish.com
Whatever for? To hold in radiation, which will make it hotter and the glass last longer? The purpose here is to encase it in a way that isolates it from the environment and drop it into a subduction zone. Assuming that you don't eant ever to recover it for recycling. If you do, stack it in the Mojave...
|This week:||Sunday, August
Greens: Abandon economic growth to beat CO2 offshoring
Well, you were right. And now the Greens admit it. They are calling on the UK to abandon economic growth to beat "CO2 offshoring:"
OK, everyone. Stay poor.
My old Survival With Style lecture I gave back in the Carter era of limits to growth, national malaise, and the general agreement of academia that we were all doomed and had no future had a slide taken from The Futurist: the headline was "WHY WE HAVE TO GET POOR QUICK"
The threats were the same sparked by the Club of Rome and the Models of Doom which predicted a massive die-off of humanity, but the remedy was the same. It usually is, and translates to a tenured professors saying "I got mine, now bugger off the rest of you."
Harvard needs help....
Corn Ethanol Belt Report II
And things aren't so bad in between the cornfields, either.
"Big demand boosts profit at U.S. Steel"
"United States Steel Corp. said Tuesday that its second-quarter profit more than doubled and that it expects continued robust growth in the third quarter because of surging demand and higher prices. The Pittsburgh-based steel producer also raised its quarterly dividend 20 percent, and the company's shares soared."
The entire group is doing very well. This includes Steel Dynamics of Indiana, which reported doubled profits earlier on July 22. SDI's co-founder, CEO and Chairman is Keith Busse. Mr. Busse is probably not an habitue of the Harvard or Yale Clubs since he graduated from a Catholic community college in Fort Wayne. This is St. Francis College, formerly located next to yet another corn field.
What a radical idea. Making and selling things besides worthless paper debts as a means to "wealth".
I can't say for sure, but if they were asked nicely St Francis would probably dispatch faculty advisory teams to the Harvard and Yale business schools to show them what to do. It would be like a Peace Corps or USAID mission.
Sumerians cracked world's oldest joke
The world's oldest recorded joke has been discovered:
Take my wife---
Why you should never talk to the police
Bruce Scheier has a great blog posting on why you should never talk to the police. It links to two video clips from a law professor / defense attorney and a police detective both saying the same thing. For any of your readers who don't believe your admonishments, this is quite enlightening.
We had links to those two here some months ago. I don't like the notion that it is unwise to cooperate with the police, but they are now working at being "them" rather than us.
And having said that, I would not cooperate with any federal investigator since anything you say is treated as if said under oath and under penalty of perjury. You dare not make mistakes, or misremember. Better to say nothing whatsoever.
----- Roland Dobbins
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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).
Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.
I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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