Jan 182018

Most Japanese anime leaves me with, at best, a raised eyebrow and a stern, judgemental scowl. It’s cultural differences, of course; what strikes me as often incoherently bizarre nonsense I’m sure makes sense to people raised with wholly different cultural mores and legends and fairy tales and such.

Still: I don’t care what you might think of “lolita fashions” and “catgirls” and “where is that tentacle going” and all that weird-ass stuff the Japanese put in their anime, you CANNOT watch this and not laugh your ass off:

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 Posted by at 12:44 pm
Jan 182018

Good luck, folks:

The idea certainly makes sense in that rural California is sufficiently different from urban California that putting them all under one domineering bureaucracy is a recipe for massive mismanagement. But the likelihood of it happening? Approximately zero. The government of California would have to sign off on this, the congress of the US would have to sign off on this, and I believe a majority of the other states would have to buy off on this.

From the standpoint of those on the right side of the political spectrum, this would be a net win. If California was split like this, the total number of Representatives would remain approximately the same and the political breakdown should remain approximately the same. But if California was split in two, the current two Senators would become four. The current two permanently Democrat Senators would remain in Old California, but New California would have two of their own who need not be permanently Dems. This of course makes the idea palatable for Republicans, libertarians, etc., but the Dems are *never* going to go for it.

In the exceedingly unlikely event that it happens, the door opens for the same thing to happen elsewhere. The two most obvious possibilities are for New York State to separate itself from New York City, and for Illinois to separate itself from Cook County. Obviously there are liberal cities in conservative states who would like to separate themselves… say, Austin wanting to go their own way from Texas. But in the case of CA, IL, and NY, the situation is that a relatively small urban area is dominating a massive rural state, and those cities are big and populous enough to make decent states on their own. And of course Texas could always split up into, say, five separate states; again the representatives would remain approximately the same, but two Senators would become ten. At the moment most would be Republicans, but demographic shifts indicate that before too long a lot of them would be Democrats.

So… if Puerto Rico were to be brought in as a state, that would tilt the board towards the Dems. Split California, it tilts towards the Reps. The only way to do either, it seems to me, would be to do both.

 Posted by at 12:02 pm
Jan 172018

The Soviet Tsar Bomb, dropped in 1961 and with a yield of around 50 megatons (backed down from the design yield of 100 megatons) is acknowledged as the biggest bomb ever tested. But is it the most powerful bomb ever designed, or ever built? I’ve discovered some snippets of evidence that the US *may* have designed, and even built, an even bigger bomb.

Several frustratingly unenlightening reports give bits and pieces of information on a bomb code-named “Flashback.” This device was apparently air-dropped near Johnston Atoll. “Flashback” was designed by Sandia Labs and flown from Kirtland Air Force Base to Oahu, Hawaii and then to Johnston Atoll. There are some Terrible Quality Photos:

The Flashback bomb was so big that it could not quite fit within the confines of the B-52 bomb bay, and required the removal of the bomb bay doors.

Of course, this could have been purely an aerodynamic shape. Or perhaps it was a large conventional bomb, a giant “Daisy Cutter.” Or perhaps it wasn’t an actual bomb as such, but just some sort of science experiment to be dropped from an aircraft. Lots of possibilities. But those possibilities drop away with some of the hints that are provided, such as:


This came from an electromagnetic radiation effects report, describing – seemingly – the effect of radio emissions from the B-52 upon the electronics of the Flashback bomb. Since the bomb projected well below the belly, it was subject not only to very cold temperatures but also to intense radio transmissions from the antennae below the B-52 fuselage, so it makes sense they’d test for that. You don’t want the B-52’s communications to cause the bombs fuzing to go screwy. In this particular test, the parachute was not packed within the tail of the Flashback; instead test instruments were fitted there. More tellingly, “All HE (high explosive) and nuclear components were deleted.” Emphasis mine. Additionally, “A simulator was used to replace the warhead.”

You don’t have a warhead in a science package. You don’t have nuclear components in a conventional bomb. and if this was simply an aerodynamic and mass simulator of a proposed bomb… you wouldn’t remove the nuclear materials, because you wouldn’t have installed them in the first place. You don’t fill a mockup full of jet fuel, after all.

Such details as the weight of the unit and the yield of the device are seemingly not given. But they can be guessed at. A report on testing of the tailfin has this:

I’m not quite sure how that load of 36,000 pounds would relate to any actual forces applied to an actual bomb, but it *may* indicate the weight.

Other reports list the sizes and weights of items to be shipped to Oahu (and then to Johnston Atoll) for the test. Some of them are intriguing… what is “EMPTV?” TV certainly means “test vehicle.” But does “EMP” mean Electromagnetic Pulse? If so, does that mean another bomb-like unit, or just a science package, meant to be *hit* with an EMP to see how it reacts? Or is it a specific EMP generator, to be dropped out of an aircraft? Whatever it is, it weighed 14,500 pounds and was around 221 inches long and perhaps 59 or so inches in diameter, and was quite classified (SRD = Secret Restricted Data… “Data concerning the design, manufacture, or utilization of atomic weapons; production of special nuclear material; or use of special nuclear material in the production of energy“).

And there’s 38,000 pounds of “test equipment,” which could be anything:

There was also this:

Here, the “BTV” is the “Big Test Vehicle,” 25,000 pounds, 309 inches long by up to 76 inches in diameter, also classified SRD. Big as this is, though, it’s possibly not the device hanging below the B-52’s belly; the BTV is referenced several times in a way that seems to make it distinct from the Flashback Test Vehicle. But perhaps they are the same thing.

The Flashback Test Vehicle, fortunately, was shown in a fair diagram of a wind tunnel model. Full scale, it was 297 inches long (not counting parachute pack or what appear to be antennae) and was ~96 inches in diameter. This makes it bigger, and presumably heavier, than the BTV. So 36,000 pounds is not unreasonable.

Other ill-described tests show the Flashback as a much smaller unit than the bomb. This, *perhaps,* is merely the “physics package” of the device. This test, illustrated with one of histories worst-quality photos, was carried out in a very cold high altitude chamber, and shows two more mysteries: the “Companion Test Vehicles,” or CTVs, which are unexplained. Speculating wildly, they might have been designed to have the same ballistic properties as the Flashback, so if you drop them from the B-52 along with the Flashback, they’ll fall along with it, following the same trajectory and staying reasonably close. Perhaps thy had cameras. perhaps they had sensors. Perhaps they had transmitters. Who knows.

And there was also the “UTV.” No further data.

Perhaps the Flashback, BTV, EMPTV and UTV were all different sizes of new gigantic bombs…?

Code names generally have no relationship to the subject, but are chosen essentially at random. One would never know that “Copper Canyon” was a program to develop a scramjet SSTO. Similarly, “Operation Paddlewheel” tells nothing. But perhaps, just barely, “Flashback” might have some meaning. Comparing the Flashback to the Tsar Bomb, it it remarkable how similar they are in terms of both size and shape. One might be forgiven for wondering if Flashback was the end result of someone trying to design a Really Big Bomb based on nothing more than a verbal description of the Tsar Bomb, given, perhaps, by a spy or defector. So *perhaps* this project was a “flash back” to the earlier Soviet design. If so, what was the purpose? Was it to give the United States the same insanely pointless capability? Or was it just to find out what the capabilities and limitations the Soviets had gifted or saddled themselves with?

Using the wind tunnel model diagram, I’ve reconstructed the Flashback to scale with the Tsar Bomb:

As can be seen, the Flashback had much the same configuration, but was substantially “fatter.” Impossible to say if that was because the US designers needed the extra diameter to get the same yield (theoretically 100 megatons), or if Sandia Labs went head and designed themselves an even bigger bang. What use is a 200 megaton bomb? Not much. But then, neither is a 100 megaton bomb, especially one so big that the carrier aircraft essentially has to *lumber* to the target all the while carrying the worlds largest bullseye.

As always, if anyone has any further info, I’d love to see it.

PS: I’ve taken the Flashback model and have turned it into 2D CAD diagrams, including scale comparison with the Tsar and showing it stuffed into the B-52’s belly. This diagram will be one of this months rewards for Patrons of the APR Patreon. A simplified version will be included at the $5 level; the full diagram will be in the $8 level rewards package. So if you’d like access… sign up for the APR Patreon.


It’s good to get a fresh perspective. Sadly, the perspective emailed to me was that the Flashback sure looked like a missile nosecone. So I pulled up the Flashback diagram I made from the wind tunnel model diagrams and put the RV from the Titan II ICBM on top of it. It’s not an exact match, but it’s distressingly close. If it wasn’t for the noticeably larger radius of the Flashbacks nose, I’d say it was spot-on… the outer diameter and angle are incredibly close matches.

So…what would be the point of that? Some sort of science experiment, clearly, rather than a weapons test. But what point would there be in dropping a Titan RV from a B-52? Why dangle it from a chute? Why add the heavy tail & fin assembly?

If it turns out that this was an experiment with the Titan RV, that would be less interesting than the revelation that the US developed a 50 to 100 megaton nuke. But it’s still interesting. Just not *as* interesting.

 Posted by at 8:33 pm
Jan 172018

So close:

USGS confirms meteor over Metro Detroit, causing magnitude 2.0 earthquake

Imagine if the meteor had plowed into Detroit proper and gone off with a sizable and city-trashing “bang.” What would Americas response to that have been? Well, there’d be those like myself and, presumably, a good fraction of the readership of this blog, who would say to whoever would listen: “See? I’ve been telling you for years that the United States has needed a robust Space Force, preferably powered by Orion engines or something even better, out there in GEO and beyond, on the constant prowl for threats to the nation both from foreign powers and incoming impactors.”

But you *know* that there’d be another, louder contingent of people who would scream that “the cis white supremacist patriarchy” caused the asteroid to hit Detroit. The end result of that would be further demands that science and engineering be dumbed-down even more. In the end, the result of a  “falling star” would be that the fields of endeavor that could actually prevent more such disasters would be turned into little more than ineffectual horoscope analysis and navel gazing aimed at making practitioners feel good about their over-inflated and undeserved self esteem.

So, strange as it may seem to say, perhaps it’s best that Detroit *wasn’t* blown up by an impactor. Huh.

 Posted by at 4:38 pm
Jan 162018

Just stumbled across some *terrible* quality photos from circa 1967 showing a B-52 with its bomb bay doors removed and a bomb stuffed in and partly protruding since it was too big to actually fit within. This was the “Flashback,” best as I can tell, and seems to have been designed as an actual nuke, and perhaps built as an actual nuke. It was apparently tested somewhere near Oahu without the nuclear bits. The reports I have are stunningly unenlightening, but this seems to have been a full-up weight & aerodynamics & instruments/electronics test for a bomb that was just way too damn big. Currently working on putting together diagrams, because why wouldn’t I.

This seems new to me. But is it just something I seem to have missed in my reading, something everybody always knew about?

 Posted by at 9:38 pm
Jan 162018

The richest, most taxy-spendy state  in the Union turns out to be the poorest. Surprise, surprise.

Why is liberal California the poverty capital of America?

California, with 12% of the American population, is home today to about one in three of the nation’s welfare recipients.

I moved to California in 2000, and out of California in 2004. When I moved in, I had to live an hour and a half away from work (each way), because I couldn’t afford anything closer. When I left, the housing prices had skyrocketed to a stupid degree… there was no way I could have afforded my own 1,200 square-foot dinky domicile. The weird thing was… when I moved into that neighborhood, I was one of many homeowners who lived there; when I left, I was the *last* homeowner who actually lived there. Instead, every house had been bought by landlords who rented out the houses to low income people. Shortly before I left I spoke with the new neighbor, who was paying about 1/4 what I was per month to rent a clone of my house, which the new property owner had paid much more for than I had for mine. The reason why this insane system could possibly make sense for the landowner was because the state shelled out vast sums to people who rent out “low income” housing, making up the difference paid by the renters and allowing the owners to make a profit. Where did that money come from? Local property tax payers.


The war on booze led to… lots of booze. The war on drugs led to rampant drug use. The war on poverty? Led to poverty. California is leading the charge to the victory of poverty. It’s racing towards turning into a real Haiti-hole.

 Posted by at 12:37 am