Click to get your own widget

Saturday, March 20, 2010


The AfPak war is going well, from the western side, for a reason which has had virtually no coverage in our media.

This is a shame not just because it means we are, as normal, being kept in the dark by our media but also because we are seeing a major change in the nature of warfare, arguably as important as the invention of gunpowder.

The Americans are using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) not just as observers but to kill Taliban. There have been some amazing successes here, with many of the leaders dead. This is not nice because that is the nature of war. It is, in many ways, the high-tech equivalent of the Taliban's remotely operated booby trap bombs which have also been the major killers of western forces.

This is just the start. Technology makes things smaller & easier to control from a distance. If current UAVs are invisible to the locals because they fly at 20,000 feet future ones will be the size of medium sized birds & able to track individuals. This ability to hit and run before being seen was a large part of what made the 20thC the century of the guerrilla, most of the rest being their willingness to take casualties that conventional western forces hesitated to do. Casualties in UAVs are hardly a factor.

This is not a matter of approving this - reality doesn't stand aside if we refuse to see it. A world where the military advantage lies with the organised high tech state is not automatically better or worse than one where the balance lies with the guerrilla/terrorist/gangster but it is different.

"Americans are cowards," the 42-year-old said. "They are afraid of fighting man-to-man in a battlefield and that is why they hit from the sky and run away."

"Many people who did not support the Taliban previously support them now because the Americans are killing innocent people," Khan said by phone from South Waziristan, one of the restive tribal region's seven districts.

It was not clear whether the government of former US president George W Bush took these risks into account when it stepped up drone attacks in 2008.

But it had little choice after realizing that Pakistan was doing little to eliminate Taliban fighters attacking NATO forces in Afghanistan or al-Qaeda operatives planning attacks in the West.

The strategy paid off.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden remained untraceable, but the US drones killed several second-tier al-Qaeda operatives, including the mastermind of a 2006 trans-Atlantic aircraft terrorist plot, Rashid Rauf.

US President Barack Obama continued to use the drones as a critical tool in the revised policy on Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, which also focuses on militant hideouts in neighbouring Pakistan.

A report by the New America Foundation, a conservative US think tank, said last month that there had been 45 drone attacks during Bush's two terms, compared with 51 during the first year of the Obama administration.

Altogether, the strikes have killed more than 1,200 people. more
What happens when it is possible to build UAVs the size of insects, because it will happen.

Note also that to control such things without interference requires satellites in direct line of sight. In yet another way we see that space is becoming the dominant arena of human development. It is now virtually impossible to conceive of a major technological war being won by a nation that does not have free access to space, in the same way that in Renaissance Europe only armies big enough to afford their own artillery train could conquer - which meant the end of invulnerable castles & the feudal system.

This was a prediction Harvey Kurzweil had made for last year, discussed previously, which he claimed had come largely true.

By the bye the fact that these planes have found no trace of bin Laden supports the unreportable belief that the NATO countries favourite hobgoblin, Osama bin Laden is long dead, as I previously reported.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 19, 2010


This report, care of WattsUpWithThat & the Guardian of all places, finds that far from being nice altruistic people devoted to bettering mankind, they make "environmental sacrifices" simply as an excuse for being lying, thieving bastards in other things.
Because purchasing green products affirms
individuals’ values of social responsibility and ethical consciousness, we predict that purchasing green products will establish moral credentials, ironically licensing selfish and morally questionable behavior...

[part of the 3rd experiment] Ninety undergraduate students (56 female) from the University of Toronto volunteered for this experiment in exchange for five Canadian Dollars. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions (store: conventional vs. green). Upon arrival they were seated at desks equipped with a computer and one envelope containing $5 in different denominations. Participants were informed that they were going to engage in a number of unrelated tasks. In the first task, they were randomly assigned to make purchases in either the
conventional or green product store as in Experiment 2. Afterwards, they engaged in an ostensibly unrelated visual perception task in which they saw a box divided by a diagonal line on the computer screen (Mazar & Ariely, 2009). Participants were told that on each trial they would see a pattern of 20 dots scattered inside the box. The pattern would stay on the screen for one second, and participants had to press a key to indicate whether there were more dots on the left or right side of the diagonal line. Participants were paid 0.5 cent for each trial identified as having more dots on the left and 5 cents for each trial identified as having more dots on the right.
The dots were always arranged such that one side clearly had more dots than the other side (15/14/13 vs. 5/6/7); thus it was fairly easy to identify the correct answer. We emphasized that it was important to be as accurate as possible because the results would help design future experiments...We found a significant difference in performance in the dots task, t (79) = 2.26, p = .027, prep = .913. Participants who had purchased in the conventional store identified 42.5% (SD = 2.9%) of trials as having more dots on the right side, which was not significantly different from
the actual 40% (t (37) = 1.66, p = .106, prep = .811). Participants who had purchased in the green store, however, identified 51.4% (SD = 2.67%) of trials as having more dots on the right side – suggesting they were lying to earn more money...

Together, our studies suggest that social and ethical acts may contribute to a more general sense of moral self than previously thought, licensing socially undesirable behaviors in distant domains
pdf in full
Not so surprising. Basically Greenism involves people saying that the taxpayer, ie other people, should provide vast amounts of money to satisfy their hobbies. Almost every Green I have met insists onn his right to such extortion/theft whereas the few rich people I have met have generally been courteous & thoughtful though tough minded. The lying to promote false scare stories has now been partially exposed & one result is that almost all "environmentalists" have, to a greater or leser extent justified the frauds. They have, of course, continued with purely ad hominum & dishonest attacks on decent sceptics.

I have yet to hear a single member of the movement personally apologising to any of the people they have slandered. Clearly such behaviour is consistent only with the entire movement being not only corrupt liars but immoral, theiving liars. Of course i am willing to accept there are individuals in it who are not wholly dishonest scum - all they have to do is show they have publicly disociated themselves from the liars, thieves & parasites.

Even then Heinleins division of the human race into those who want to control others & those who have no such desire clealry puts the eco-fascists in the former category. Green activism, even in theory, involves controlling what people are allowed to do & in practice consists of little else., apart from the demand they get paid for doing so. That would make even honest & decent members of the Luddite movvement pretty nasty people, though far nicer than most Greens.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 18, 2010


The supporters of the LNT theory, that radiation, even at low doses, is dangerous admit there is no evidence for it but that they might as well go for it anyway because there is no evidence, or at least not enough evidence to convince them that the opposite theory, hormesis, is true.

If one takes a very high standard of counter evidence, stronger than the level of evidence needed to convince that smoking killed, then that may be true - for human beings. After all mass experimentation on human beings to see if they die is not well thought of so all evidence on humans is going to be merely statistical measurement.

However if hormesis hasn't been absolutely proven on humans it has been on animals & plants.
One of the first studies in radiobiology (1898) found that X-irradiated algae grew faster than unirradiated control groups. Stimulated growth was noted in trees (1908) and increased life span in invertebrates (1918) and insects (1919). X-Rays stimulated seedlings (1927), plant growth (1937), along with guinea pigs, rabbits and mice (1940's). Increased life span was the rule in low dose irradiated rats, dogs, and even house flies (1950's). In a 1981 monograph (CRC Press), T. Luckey revived the term "hormesis," but this time with ionizing radiation and backed it up with a review of over 1250 articles from 85 years of experimental biology.
These are all classic & repeatable experiments & nobody seems to dispute that they have repeatedly proven true.

This leaves the LNTers saying that, though there is no evidence they are interested in either way human beings must be completely different from all other animal, vegetable & microbial life in suffering from low level radioactivity.

This could just about be defended if the mechanism supposed to be causing this effect did so in a unique or almost unique way with human beings. Psychology is not controlled, though it is affected, by animal experiments because only human being s have human sized brains & that is what psychology is about. However for alleged radiation damage the process claimed to cause it is radiation particles (or gamma rays which are completely different) hitting ordinary living cells. The living cells of a human being, a monkey, an elephant or a mouse are, at the molecular level, constructed the same. Even the cells of plants & algae aren't much different.

To claim that humans react entirely differently from the rest of lifekind is similar to a creationist saying, as some do, that evolution may have created the algae, insects, dinosaurs, mice, anchovies, orangutans & chimpanzees but God uniquely created humans. If anything the creationist case is much more credible because the visible differences between us & chimpanzees is greater than the difference between our meat cells.

For a theory to be accepted as scientific it has to be testable. I have previously said that I think most "untestable" theories aren't actually untestable it is just that their proponents refuse to look at contrary evidence. Nothing could prove this more completely than the LNT/hormesis theory since hormesis researchers have repeatedly done such research & it has indeed proven, to them, that the theory is sound. The LNTers simply refuse to accept it while proposing no evidence of their own. One is the method of science - the other of quackery.

The undisputed animal evidence makes it worse. If there were no evidence it would be impossible to claim either theory correct & more research would have to be done. Where there is evidence that hormesis applies in closely related fields Occam's Razor or the Principle of Parsimony absolutely requires that the default position of anybody doing science must be that hormesis applies to human cells as it does to animal ones.
We can therefore say without any question that anybody claiming that the LNT theory is in any way valid is not a scientist & any politician who, in opposing nuclear plants, claims as fact that low level radiation is dangerous is wholly & completely corrupt & dishonest.

Occam's Razor applied to them says we can't trust them if they give their word they aren't lairs, thieves & murdering, parasitic, child raping, Nazi war criminals too (though it is possible further evidence might, at least partially exonerate some Green activists of being child rapists).

Manhattan Project expected large amounts of radioisotopes ...first experiment, raising mice in an atmosphere of uranium dust, showed exposed mice living longer than controls ... proving that mice in radiation fields ten times the "Maximum Permissable Dose" lived longer than controls.
This next one really offends me because what the "scientists" did here is the deliberate destruction of scientific data to maintain a false theory - the only worse scientific crime is completely making up false data
In 1964, the cows exposed to about 150 rads after the Trinity A-Bomb in 1946 were quietly euthenized because of extreme old age.
The normal lifespan of a cow is 7 years. This may be because they cease giving milk then & the farmer gets rid of them rather than natural causes but even so 18 years, for cows that were not newborn is an impressive statistic.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


With the election coming up the government has said that they are going to build a high speed train from London to Scotland. Well actually they have said that starting in 2016 they, well actually the government after next, will start on the bit between London & Birmingham.

Although Scottish big statist politicos are keen to inform us that "the economic & environmental benefits speak for themselves" this is complete nonsense.

Network Rail (who support it, at least as long as they aren't asked to raise the capital to get them build it) based its decision on a 12-month study involving 20,000 hours of work and more than 1,500 pages of analysis.

The firm said that the line would account for 43.7 million journeys per year by 2030, which would result in 3.8 million fewer vehicle journeys and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.

"If, as research suggests, up to three times as many passengers will be travelling on our railways by 2020, then it is important that we move quickly in planning today for the rail network of tomorrow," said Scotland's Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson. ctd

So at a cost of £34 bn (maybe) with a 10% return on investment & say an extra 50% for actually running the trains we get [34bn X 10% x 1.5 / 43.7 million } £117 per singkle ticket> £234 return. That is best possible in all cases. Nobody really believes the price won't go up, the carriage of 120,000 a day, 5,000 an hour, each & every hour, looks optimistic to say the least. Yet it still comes out far more expensive than the plane. Of course if you price it that high people use the alternatives & the price has to go up higher for the remaining passengers - or else we just keep subsidising till doomsday.

John Redwood has blogged on why it was far easier to go to Manchester by plane than train (basically the train depends on making a whole range of connections, any of which can be late & lots of inconvenient waiting. I commented:
This exactly explains why a fully automated rail service would work. With driverless single carriage units leaving main stations every few minutes rather than 6 carriage units every half hour, waiting time is drastically cut & the risk of missing a link removed.

We could have tickets printed out at the monorail stop (like a bus stop but overhead so no congestion) for your destination in Manchester – the monorail takes you to your the Underground; hence to Euston: a carriage takes you to Manchester; a monorail takes you to within 1 bus stop of your destination. None of this is complicated compared to the computer systems that run a Wii. It is just that (A) we have so many in government able to stop anything being done & (B) rail drivers unions (I am convinced B is much less powerful).

A High Speed Train may take a short time of the actual travel time but it is the waiting for connections that wastes it. An automated system, because there are carriages leaving every couple of minutes ends that waste (& the worry about missing a connection). By going for a faster conventional train rather than an updated process we are making the same mistake government made over Concorde, when the future was in the cheap mass transit 747. Going for the fastest/biggest conventional process rather than real process innovation is one of the regular failings of government since it is politically more defensible to be certainly wrong in a conventional way than possibly not fully right in an unconventional one.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The Mohole was an early 1960s government project to, purely for scientific purposes, drill to the Moho layer deep under the Earth where crust turns to magma. A mention of it & the scandal attached on WattsUpWithThat caused me to check it out & find this article. It shows both genuine scientific enthusiasm being overwhelmed by political cronyism:

"In the fall of 1958, which was already a year of scientific wonders, plans were announced in the technical and popular press for what promised to be an amazing undertaking. A group of American geophysicists were going to drill a hole several miles beneath the sea floor all the way to the remote interior of the planet—the vast nucleus of dense, compacted rock known as the mantle...

an article in Life by John Steinbeck, who had been an amateur oceanographer as well as a prominent novelist. His perfervid accounts of the first exploratory drillings did much to increase public support for the scheme, which reached its peak in 1962, when Congress voted to back it with an appropriation of more than $40 million. And then, abruptly, there was silence...

History is full of examples of technological accomplishments that looked impossible when they were started. The 1940s and 1950s abounded with such triumphs, and by 1958 it was reasonable to think that no problem existed that couldn’t be solved if enough smart people put their minds to it. However, most of the great advances of that era were made possible by inventions that had not been around a decade or two before: radar, controlled atomic fission, jet engines, lasers, computers. Mohole, by contrast, would have to make do with incremental improvements in existing technology...

The basic equipment devised for the experiment surpassed all expectations, and the expedition returned in triumph to be feted by scientific organizations all over the globe...

Preliminary grants and corporate donations had paid for CUSS I, but a ship capable of actually drilling the Mohole would require an entirely different level of funding. Estimates of the cost kept going up, but even in the earliest stages it was clear that it would be at least $15 million. By 1962 the price tag had passed $40 million, and when the project was finally abandoned, in 1966, it was more than $110 million. Government financing would obviously be needed.

Many Mohole advocates, mindful of the importance of public support, wanted to go right ahead and drill to the mantle, with no more exploratory missions to eat up funds. Others, including Bascom, privately wondered if the available technology was equal to the task. Bascom suggested that the project proceed in stages, like the lunarlanding program.

The ostensible reason was to let participants get used to the novel equipment and perhaps improve it, but in fact Bascom doubted that the Mohole would ever be completed and may have wanted to do as much geological research as possible before the money ran out. In a recent interview Bascom said that the entire Mohole venture was misguided and technically unfeasible and that a better goal would have been to drill many shallow holes in the ocean floor and examine the sediment they yielded—which was in fact done several years later...

Whatever Bascom’s motives at the time, his plea for a phased approach failed, and his own bid for a government contract was rejected (and in characteristically reckless Bascomian fashion, he had mortgaged his home to set up a deep-sea drilling company). Instead, in March of 1962 the NSF signed a preliminary contract with Brown & Root, a giant Texas construction firm. From that point on, none of AMSOC’s original Mohole committee —Ewing, Hess, Munk, and Bascom—played any significant role in the project except to complain about how everybody else was screwing it up.

Brown & Root had very little experience in the construction of oil platforms and none whatever in the field of floating derricks, but it did meet one very important qualification for government funding: It had bankrolled Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson throughout his political career...

By 1964 the project had become so bogged down in internecine disputes that it dropped from public attention. Early in 1965 the NSF announced plans to revive Mohole at a new site off the Hawaiian Islands, but as costs kept rising with nothing to show, the public grew weary of tossing money into the ocean. In January 1966 a House subcommittee recommended cutting off funds for Mohole. That spring LBJ, now President and ever loyal to his friends, urged Congress to restore the money. But then it came out that the family of one of Brown & Root’s principals had just given $25,000 to Johnson’s campaign fund
. The ensuing row damaged the President’s credibility, and in August Congress voted against any further appropriation. Mohole was dead...

In contemplating the high hopes and failed aspirations of the Moholers, one is tempted to ask, What if? What if the $60 million swallowed up by Brown & Root had gone into basic research on deep drilling? Could the Moho have been reached?


And that shows both what is wrong with direct government funding of "preferred bidders" compared to putting up general prizes & why it is done. It is incredibly wasteful & often does not achieve to official purpose but, on the other hand, it does increase the power & money available to the politically powerful.

The purpose of government spending to to pay government employees & their friends. The nominal purpose comes, at best, second.

It is quite likely that the Mohole Project was, at the time, technically impossible. However had an X-Prize of $40 million been put up one of 2 things would have happened. Either somebody would have achieved it, at the $40 million cost or they wouldn't. If the latter either the amount would have been revised in line with inflation & growth) (nearly $1 bn now) & it would have been achieved or if niot updated it probably now wouldn't have been achieved. Alternately prizes might have been dolled out for the incremental achievements Bascom suggested & something would have been achieved at a far lower cost.

But LBJ (& other politicians of that ilk wouldn't have got their cash.

I think that fully explains why X-Prizes aren't pushed despite, or rather because of, the fact they either work or cost nothing.

Labels: , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

British Blogs.