Feb 202018

The Daily Caller points out something obvious:

According To The FBI, Knives Kill Far More People Than Rifles In America – It’s Not Even Close

As could be expected, after the Parkland school shooting the Civilian Enfeeblement Movement has been freshly reinvigorated. Kids are being used to emotionally agitate for the latest round of gun control, showing once again why we don’t allow children to vote. Conveniently left out of the anti-firearm debate that’s been stoked by the left and their allies, the school-shooting psychos, is this little detail:

According to the FBI, 1,604 people were killed by “knives and cutting instruments” and 374 were killed by “rifles” in 2016.

The psycho-political theater here is obvious, and comes in two parts:

  1. Not everyone has a semi-automatic rifle but nearly everyone has a knife, even if it’s only a steak knife. Those behind the Civilian Enfeeblement Movement would thus have a much harder time banning knives than rifles so they start with the easier one, even though if their true purpose was to get rid of dangerous weapons For The Children they’d go after knives first.
  2. Knives kill one at a time, generally. But dozens killed in one go makes for a bigger, splashier headline, just as one hundred people killed in one hundred separate car crashes is less newsworthy than one hundred people killed in one plane crash.

So rather than go after the more dangerous weapons, the Civilian Enfeeblers go after the “scarier” ones. And of course, they ignore the elephant in the room… the giant, stanky, psychotic and enraged elephant: deinstitutionalization. Starting in the 1950’s and accelerating due to JFK’s influence (apparently due to guilt over his sister being lobotomized because his father was a horrible monster who bred a whole dynasty of horrible monsters), the loony bins of the United States were emptied out. A lot of this was due to the rise of drugs that did fantastic things for people with Entertaining Brains, and while that’s good when everything works right and the drugs are taken appropriately, drugs aren’t always taken appropriately. And by getting rid of the nuthouses, society has made it difficult to lock up the truly wacko except in prisons. And that requires that the crazy actually break things and hurt people before they are locked away, and by locking them into prisons they not only receive minimal proper mental health treatment, they are locked into a criminality training ground.

The Parkland shooter was apparently seen as a clear and present danger by a *lot* of people. In earlier decades he would have been institutionalized in some way; and locked in an insane asylum he would not have had access to firearms. A modern nut house would of course be a far better one than one in the 1950’s, with better practices and pharmaceuticals. He might have been “fixed” so that he could be returned to society as useful and minimally dangerous citizen, but since it is now seen as “wrong” to lock up people who manifestly nuts, he will spend the rest of his life at taxpayer expense in the prison system. A lot of kids died for that, and the rest of us may well lose some of our rights. One might wonder if that is at least part of the reason why there’s not so much interest in re-institutionalization… keep a sufficient number of dangerous whackjobs roaming at will in society and you keep people afraid and willing to surrender their rights to a more over-reaching government.

There is a rational solution: end the ridiculous War On Some Drugs and use the money wasted on that to build modern psychiatric institutions… and lock up people who are clearly nuts.

Note: I fully expect that some people might read this and be more incensed by my use of terms like “loony bins” than the fact that hundreds of thousands of clearly dangerous mentally unstable people are left to roam at will. This is indeed one of the great problems in modern society: the prioritization of politically correct speech and making sure the easily offended aren’t offended over actually fixing the damn problems.

 Posted by at 4:12 pm
Feb 202018

“Black Panther” seems like it makes some people a little passionate.

Oddly, even though I’m not exactly a Marvel comics fanboy, I’ve caught every Marvel comics movie since “Iron Man” on opening day. Until “Black Panther.” Somehow I seem to have missed that one so far. I think perhaps the excessively matronizing Admiral Holdo in “The Last Jedi” stepped on my very last nerve and has made me annoyed enough with SJW messaging to flip my movie enthusiasm switch to “meh.”

 Posted by at 11:08 am
Feb 192018

The NERVA nuclear rocket, studied throughout the sixties into the early 1970’s, would have been a great way to propel spacecraft. But a nuclear rocket is not the same sort of reactor as is generally designed for use in space to generate electrical power. A NERVA can produce *gigawatts* of thermal energy, energy which is carried away with the high mass flow rate of the hydrogen propellant. Power reactors, on the other hand, are generally designed for several orders of magnitude lower thermal power… a few thermal megawatts, perhaps, to produce a few hundred kilowatts of electricity.

However, the fact remains that a nuclear rocket *is* a nuclear reactor. For most missions it would burn for a few minutes, at most perhaps few hours, out of a mission lasting perhaps years. It is thus a bit of a shame to waste all that potential. So over the decades many studies have been made for using a nuclear rocket as a power generator .

One such study was reported by Aerojet in 1970. The abstract is HERE, the direct PDF download if HERE.

In this study, the NERVA would pump out 1,500 thermal megawatts during the propulsion phase(producing 75,000 pounds of thrust), dropping to 250 to 505 thermal kilowatts during the power generation phase, enough to create 25 kilowatts of electricity. This would be a very low-power, low-temperature use of the reactor, reducing system efficiency… but still, making use of a reactor that was already there, and not noticeably using up the fission fuel in the reactor. The reactor would be run at very lower power levels and hydrogen would flow through a closed loop built into the reactor; the warmed gaseous hydrogen would flow through a turbogenerator to create electricity; the warm hydrogen would then pass through a radiator built on the outer surface of the hydrogen tank itself.

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 Posted by at 3:26 pm
Feb 172018

So last year at a “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, James Fields drove his car into another car, which hit another, and in the process 19 people were injured and one killed. At the time it seemed like a deliberate attack. However, it has come to light that an Antifa “revolutionary,” an anthropology professor and stereotype of all that’s wrong with modern academia, had actually chased Fields with a rifle immediately prior to Fields jumping in his car.

Fields is hardly a sympathetic character; anyone who thinks the Nazis were just neato-keen loses that option. But running in fear of ones life is the sort of mitigating circumstance that might well make the upcoming trial rather more complex than the originally envisioned open-and-shut case. And if it’s proven that Fields was in rational fear of his life – not a difficult challenge given that Dixon has admitted to threatening Fields with a rifle – I have to wonder if *Dixon* could wind up in legal trouble. It seems unlikely, but I do wonder if a really skilled lawyer could actually get Fields off the hook here.

Like many Internet Tough Guys, Dixon talks a big game when he’s surrounded by the rest of his merry band of misfits. But catch him in a hallway and point a video camera at him and his manliness evaporates. Note also how this communist anarchist suddenly becomes terribly interested in private property and calling the cops when he is threatened by being asked a few questions.



 Posted by at 9:33 pm
Feb 172018

There are two things at work here:

  1. Toys have in general improved in artistic quality and detail
  2. The target audience back in the day was 10. The target audience remains the same people, who have grown older and generally more wealthy in the intervening decades.

The Vintage Collection Jabba’s Sail Barge (The Khetanna)

Hasbro has set up their own form of Kickstarter. If they can get 5,000 people willing to pony up $500, they will produce this “toy” of the Sail Barge slight over *49* inches in length. If they don’t reach the goal, those who signed up won’t be charged. As with Kickstarter, this seems like a fair way to test the market for something that could either be a winner or a disaster.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Sail Barge, but I hope they do well. If this works, it seems like they might go to the next obvious step and do a proper scale version of the Millennium Falcon. And if that works… a Star Destroyer. That would only be, what, 293 feet long.

Back when Star Wars came out, *I* was the exact target audience and boy howdy did I want one of the die cast Star Destroyers. And man, those original toys were *garbage* compared to what they’re able to produce today.



 Posted by at 6:12 pm
Feb 162018

A sci-fi ponderable.

Let’s say easy personal time travel exists. Let’s further say that you can go back in time and change history however you like, then come back to a changed present (but still be the original “you”). At what point do you, or the Time Cops, or whoever, decide that tinkering is not to be allowed?

As an example: let’s say you could go back in time a few days and stop the Parkland school shooting. Would you do it without ethical qualms? Pretty sure most people would say some form of “yes,” because from the point of view of *right* *now* as I type this, the only changes in the timeline would be positive ones. But let’s say you were given the option of going back in time and popping a cap in Hitler or Lenin or Stalin or Mao or Castro or Proxmire or LBJ before they rose to power and caused a ruckus. Would you do it, even if you could see the rough outline of the new timeline and everything was awesome? This seems like it would be trickier. Because if you did, you would be committing a kind of genocide on a scale never imagined in human history.

Let’s say you whack Hitler just as he’s taking over the Nazi party, say, 1925. Let’s further suggest that the whackage is of such entertainingness that the rest of the Nazis get whacked with him. Huzzah! No Nazis, no Holocaust, no WWII. Assume that, somehow, this leads to an era of peace and prosperity never before imagined; the Soviets give up that Socialism nonsense and become free market capitalists, the Japanese skip past the Rape of Nanking and go straight to tentacle porn; FDR not only never gets elected and thus doesn’t turn a depression into the decades-long Great Depression, but instead goes down in flames such that he drags the Democrat party down with him and from then on US politics is split between the Republicans and the Libertarians. Huzzah! Everything is awesome! Star Trek goes for eleven seasons, Reagan wins three terms, Orions to Pluto by 1990. Huzzah indeed!

But here’s the thing. Unless you buy into nonsense like fate, destiny, predestination, the universe having some sort of plan… virtually *nobody* who was born much after 1926 or so in the “prime” timeline is actually born. By changing politics in Weimar Germany, you’ve set in motion a cascade of changes that lead to a “prime” mother and father not meeting, or meeting but not doing the deed on the specified date, or doing it thirty seconds later, or sperm #1,452,355,343 rather than #1,452,355,342 being the one that succeeds at the egg. And when that kid isn’t born in 1927, that kid can’t have the Prime offspring in 1952, who can’t make a kid in 1983, who cant reproduce in 2018. You will have eliminated from the timeline something along the lines of ten billion people. Granted, you will have created ten billion *other* people, but for the most part judicial systems are underwhelmed with the argument, “yes, you honor, I murdered my infant…but hey, I got right on to making a replacement, so… we’re cool, right?”

So: how does whoever has the power over time travel decide what changes can be made? “No changes allowed” is the easy answer.

 Posted by at 4:47 pm
Feb 142018

OK, we’ve seen this story a bunch of times.

  1. Mr. Moneybags donates a bucket of money to Candidate A of Political Party 1.
  2. Mr. Moneybags is found out to be a scumbag… a harasser, a rapist, a  murderer, athief, whatever
  3. Candidate A and Political Party 1 disavow Mr. Moneybags. They express shock and sorrow and all that.
  4. Candidate B and Political Party 2 try to make political hay out of the relationship between Mr. Moneybags and Candidate A.
  5. Included in that is a call for Candidate A to “give the money back” that Mr. Moneybags donated.

It’s at step 5 when I get lost. I have just enough empathy in me to kinda be able to pretend to understand what it’s like to be a politician who has found out that a financial supporter is a bigger dirtbag than most high-dollar-value political supporters. But presuming that the politician was honestly unaware of and uninvolved with the specific scumbaggery… *why* should the politician “give the money back?” To stretch the metaphor, let’s say someone came along and decided that my work on this blog, or my work with aerospace history or fiction writing or *whatever* was of sufficient value that they decided to gift me a million dollars. Go on, let’s say that. Let’s say that until it happens (I take PayPal, people).

And then let’s say that that benefactor is found out to have been a member of the Communist party, or is a Columbian drug lord, or a human trafficker, or a Chinese chef specializing in puppies and kittens. In that case it would certainly be valid for me to talk smack about said benefactor (though perhaps unwise in the “Columbian drug lord” instance), but how many people would make the demand that I “give the money back” or donate it to some charity or other?

As with most things political, I suspect the demand to “give the money back” is less about a demand to do the right thing, and more a cynical way to stick-to-to-’em. But it seems to happen all the time. It’s as old and moth-eaten as the claim of a suddenly retiring politician that the reason for the evacuation from public life is to “spend more time with family,” rather than hiding from that shiny new allegation hitting the press tomorrow.

 Posted by at 9:11 am
Feb 132018

OK, yeah, they don’t actually do “food stamps” as such, but debit cards. The government gives recipients money (essentially) that the recipients are supposed to spend on food. And of course, not only are there all kinds of inefficiencies in the system, there are all kinds of opportunities for fraud. So, gotta say this sounds promising:

Trump wants to slash food stamps and replace them with a ‘Blue Apron-type program’

In short: rather than giving people debit cards to procure food with, the plan is to just… give people food.

Those foods would include shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned meat, fruits and vegetables, according to the USDA. The department estimates that it could supply these goods at about half the cost of retail, slashing the cost of SNAP while still feeding the hungry.

Since this is the sort of thing I have proposed here before, I gotta say this is a good idea. Make the staples free – free and nutritious and bland – and there will be little opportunity for a black market or fraud. Plus by going straight to making cheap food available directly, you can skip over whole reams of bureaucracy… and bureaucrats.

There are of course questions needing answering and problems needing resolving. Would food be delivered directly to recipients, or would they have to go pick them up? Would there be a single “box” of food for everyone from children to old folks? Would a box include food appropriate for a wide range of people leading to wastage, or different types?

Yes, yes, the ideologically pure libertarian/conservative standpoint would be to say that the only acceptable solution is to get rid of government food handouts entirely, since they are not constitutionally mandated. While that’s true, it’s not a pragmatic solution. Do that, and you will hand the proglodytes a permanent electoral majority.

 Posted by at 12:10 am
Feb 112018

Cape Town rejoices as rain falls on drought-striken city

When it finally came, restaurant diners rushed outside mid-meal to see the deluge for themselves.

A Deluge? Sounds like good news, yes?

South Africa’s second-largest city and its surrounding areas received between 2 millimeters and 10 millimeters of rainfall Friday night, according to the Cape Town Weather Office.

Ummm… averaging less than 1 centimeter is a “deluge?”

The city can expect 2 millimeters to 8 millimeters of rainfall Monday evening and into Tuesday morning — less than an inch

Holy crap! Eight millimeters is less than an inch! My whole world view has been turned upside-down! Thanks, CNN!

Later after claiming this slight drizzle to be a “deluge” the article finally mentions that it will have approximately zero impact on the actual dire water situation.

Come Day Zero, just a few short months from now, pretty much all the taps in Cape Town will be shut off. This is of course a nightmare for the city. But once again, though, Cape Town sits right on the ocean. And while the big desalination plant is still years from completion, I gotta wonder: if even a quarter of the population built themselves some solar stills, could that make a difference? From the wiki on solar stills:

In 1952 the United States military developed a portable solar still for pilots stranded on the ocean, which comprises an inflatable 24-inch plastic ball that floats on the ocean, with a flexible tube coming out the side. A separate plastic bag hangs from attachment points on the outer bag. Seawater is poured into the inner bag from an opening in the ball’s neck. Fresh water is taken out by the pilot using the side tube that leads to bottom of the inflatable ball. It was stated in magazine articles that on a good day 2.5 US quarts (2.4 l) of fresh water could be produced. On an overcast day, 1.5 US quarts (1.4 l) was produced.

2.4 liters per day is not a spectacular amount, but that’s 2.4 liters per day from a single portable solar still 24 inches in diameter. A rooftop 20 feet by 30 feet could support at least 150 of these stills, producing a theoretical 360 liters per day. In order for this to work, there would of course have to be ready access to sea water; easy enough if you’re on the beach, much less so if you’re up hill. But at this pint it seems like it would be easy enough to build some Big Ass Pumps to shove a couple hundred tons of seawater uphill every day to collection points where solar stills could turn it into a combination of fresh water and highly saline brine.

A quick check online finds the “Aquamate” inflatable solar still that sounds a whole lot like the military one from the 50’s. At $270+ each, it’s insanely expensive for this purpose, but since it seems like a  simple enough device, you’d think that an order of One Point Two Bajillion of them would serve to drop the per-unit price down to… well, not much. It’s just some plastic after all, seemingly not much more complex than a beach ball or a poncho.

I’m not picking on Cape Town here. It’s just that that town is currently in the news about a dire humanitarian crisis that seems like it can be solved, or at least greatly lessened, with the application of some STEM. And where Cape Town is now, other places will be sooner or later. If Cape Town can get it together and use science and engineering and sheer force of will to smack mother nature around and show her who’s boss, then that’ll be a sign that humans can conquer nature all over.

 Posted by at 3:29 pm
Feb 102018

If’n ya want details of the Tesla Roadsters orbit…


The resulting wall-o-data is below the break. Useful for astronomers, but not very enlightening for the layman. Anybody know of a site that cranks out orbital trajectory plots, showing the arrangement of selected elements for whatever date in the future? The JPL Impact Risks site used to be really good for that sort of thing, but it requires a Java applet that makes my computer security system just go “nope.”

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 Posted by at 10:48 pm