On “Meet the Press” yesterday, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt said he was voting for Bernie Sanders—in the Virginia Democrat presidential primary election on March 3rd, 2020. Virginia has an open primary, where voters can vote in the primary of any party. He went on to say he was not engaged in “calculated voting” but preferred an “authentic, traditional socialist” to “all the people who are just pretending to be”.
There is a curious subculture on YouTube of exploring and, sometimes at great personal risk, taste-testing military rations, sometimes from wars fought long before the tester/taster was born. Big Clive was motivated to contribute to this genre, and posted this taste test of one of the last MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) prepared by the Scottish Army before it was assimilated into the British armed forces. All of the major food groups a proper Scotsman should require are provided: sugar, alcohol, carbohydrates, nicotine, and plutonium.
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Tomorrow, SpaceX is planning to conduct what promises to be a spectacular test flight of the crew escape system for their Crew Dragon spacecraft. If successful, this should clear the launcher for the first crewed flight to the International Space Station later this year. The launch is scheduled for a four-hour launch window which opens at 13:00 UTC on 2020-01-18. At this writing, there is a 90% probability of acceptable weather for the test. Update: Saturday test scrubbed due to high winds and rough seas in the recovery area. Now re-scheduled for a six-hour launch window beginning at 13:00 UTC on Sunday, 2020-01-19.
If all goes as planned, the flight will be brief. At the moment of maximum dynamic pressure (when the combination of velocity and air density produces maximum stress on the vehicle [“max q”]), the capsule’s Super Draco thrusters should fire to carry it away from the booster, whose engines will be cut by the abort system. This is expected to occur around 84 seconds after launch.... [Read More]
Back in May, 2018, we had a post here about rice cookers. That was about a very high-end unit, but the bottom of the line products often used a remarkably clever means to cook perfect rice every time, regardless of variables such as the kind of rice, altitude, initial temperature of the water, and the exact quantities of rice and water (within reasonable limits) put into the cooker. Here is a Technology Connections video about how they did it.
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The television series Mars, produced by National Geographic and originally aired on their cable channel in 2016, is a curious mix of present-day documentary and fictional story of the human settlement of Mars, with the first crewed landing mission launching in 2033. The first season is set in the years 2033–2037 and chronicles the establishment of the first settlement and its growth into a fledgling base, similar to scientific research stations in Antarctica. The series cuts back and forth between the present and the fictional future, with the present-day segments interviewing figures such as Stephen Petranek, author of How We’ll Live on Mars, upon which the story is based, Robert Zubrin, creator of the Mars Direct mission plan, Elon Musk of SpaceX, Andy Weir, author of The Martian, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. The mission is mounted by a fictional international consortium called the “International Mars Science Foundation” (IMSF), which has all of the squabbling and politics you’d expect for something with such a name. The fictional part of the first season is pretty good, and in line with capabilities expected to exist in the time in which it is set.
The second season is something else entirely. Set in 2042, it chronicles the arrival of the first private venture on Mars, “Lukrum Industries”, aimed at resource exploration and development. Lukrum has negotiated a deal with IMSF in which it will produce solar mirrors from in-situ resources which will be employed in IMSF’s terraforming project, which hopes to warm the planet to release water trapped as ice below the surface. This veers immediately into the “corporations bad, government agencies (especially multinational ones where all of the minions speak perfect English with suitably exotic accents) good” trope. The present-day segments are almost entirely about human despoliation of the Earth, with a concentration on “climate change”. This feeds into the fictional future story, where the evil corporation (eventually in cahoots with the Russians, who were too tempting to leave out as villains), is simultaneously thwarting the noble goals of the taxpayer-funded scientists, while using its lucre to manipulate IMSF back on Earth to acquiesce in its evil schemes.... [Read More]
Starting in January 2001, I have maintained a list of every book I’ve read, and since the mid-2000s I have reviewed almost every book I’ve added. There are currently more than 1200 books on the list. In mid-2019, I began posting reviews, one almost every day, to book’s pages on Amazon.com. Previously I had only occasionally posted my reviews there, mostly when I knew the author of the book or had reviewed a pre-publication manuscript.
As of January 2020, I have now posted a total of more than two hundred book reviews at Amazon and have noticed a curious phenomenon which may reveal how the responsible staff at Amazon view the world. Ever now and then, when I’d post a review, it would show up in my profile with a subdued grey background with the legend, “review hidden by sensitivity filter”. I had originally assumed (as do many reviewers, based upon my research into the issue) that this meant that, for whatever reason, my review had been hidden from public view for having stepped on some tripwire or other, but it’s actually more complicated and subtle than that.... [Read More]
Edward Dutton is one of the most fearless, iconoclastic, and “just the facts” social scientists working today. I’ve started calling him “Charles Murray on acid”. I’ve reviewed two of his books here: At Our Wits’ End and How to Judge People by What they Look Like. Today, he posted a video on his “Jolly Heretic” YouTube channel titled “Why Iran, and other Islamic Countries, Will Dominate the World”, but described on his @jollyheretic Twitter feed with the title I have used for this post.
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— BBC Scotland (@BBCScotland) December 31, 2019
One naughty word, OK on the Beeb.
Well, the Roaring Twenties are finally here, so we shouldn’t be astonished by the wonders of technology and human innovation soon to usher forth. Here’s one that arrived a week early, on 2019-12-24, U.S. patent 10,513,862 [PDF] (text-only version), for a swimming pool or hot tub filled with simulated candy, including “synthetic multicolored sprinkles”. Of course there’s a diving board!
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Douglas Casey is a perceptive and incisive analyst of the economic, political, and investment scene. It was his 1979 book, The International Man, (now hopelessly out of print and an overpriced collectors’ item) that set me on the trajectory which got me where I am today. On his International Man Web site, he has posted his “Top 7 Predictions for the 2020s”, which I list and summarise below.
#1 Demographics: “First, it’s good to remember that demographics have a life of their own. That’s not good from the point of view of those of us of European descent. We’re only 10% of world population and falling rapidly. Worse, it seems we’re responsible for all the world’s problems and therefore aren’t very popular.”... [Read More]
Before electronic computers had actually been built, Alan Turing mathematically proved a fundamental and profound property of them which has been exploited in innumerable ways as they developed and became central to many of our technologies and social interactions. A computer of sufficient complexity, which is, in fact, not very complex at all, can simulate any other computer or, in fact, any deterministic physical process whatsoever, as long as it is understood sufficiently to model in computer code and the system being modelled does not exceed the capacity of the computer—or the patience of the person running the simulation. Indeed, some of the first applications of computers were in modelling physical processes such as the flight of ballistic projectiles and the hydrodynamics of explosions. Today, computer modelling and simulation have become integral to the design process for everything from high-performance aircraft to toys, and many commonplace objects in the modern world could not have been designed without the aid of computer modelling. It certainly changed my life.
Almost as soon as there were computers, programmers realised that their ability to simulate, well…anything made them formidable engines for playing games. Computer gaming was originally mostly a furtive and disreputable activity, perpetrated by gnome-like programmers on the graveyard shift while the computer was idle, having finished the “serious” work paid for by unimaginative customers (who actually rose before the crack of noon!). But as the microelectronics revolution slashed the size and price of computers to something individuals could afford for their own use (or, according to the computer Puritans of the previous generations, abuse), computer gaming came into its own. Some modern computer games have production and promotion budgets larger than Hollywood movies, and their characters and story lines have entered the popular culture. As computer power has grown exponentially, games have progressed from tic-tac-toe, through text-based adventures, simple icon character video games, to realistic three dimensional simulated worlds in which the players explore a huge world, interact with other human players and non-player characters (endowed with their own rudimentary artificial intelligence) within the game, and in some games and simulated worlds, have the ability to extend the simulation by building their own objects with which others can interact. If your last experience with computer games was the Colossal Cave Adventure or Pac-Man, try a modern game or virtual world—you may be amazed.... [Read More]
For a university professor emeritus, think tank fellow, writer for National Review, who is fluent in Greek and Latin, Victor Davis Hanson gets outside the bubble (What’s your score? Mine is 26.) more than most conservative pundits. In the January 2020 edition of the U.S. edition of The Spectator, he explains “Why Trump will win again in 2020”.
My reasons for thinking Trump was going to be elected in 2016 were entirely unscientific. One of my Hoover Institution colleagues recently reminded me of my data-free, amateurish and bothersome predictions.... [Read More]
This is the fourth short novel/novella (148 pages) in the author’s Yankee Republic series. I described the first, Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves, as “utterly charming”, and the second, Five Million Watts, “enchanting”. The third, The Tower of the Bear, takes Philo from the depths of the ocean to the Great Tree in the exotic West.
Here, the story continues as Philo reaches the Tree, meets its Guardian, “the largest, ugliest, and smelliest bear” he has ever seen, not to mention the most voluble and endowed with the wit of eternity, and explores the Tree, which holds gateways to other times and places, where Philo must confront a test which has defeated many heroes who have come this way before. Exploring the Tree, he learns of the distant past and future, of the Ancient Marauder and Viridios before the dawn of history, and of the War that changed the course of time.... [Read More]
Earlier today, on the last day of 2019, Ratburger.org blocked the 500,000th attempt to pollute the site with spam comments or to register new user accounts in order to make spam postings. As of this post, the total spam blocked has already climbed to 500,254.
The site opened to the public on December 10th, 2017, and thus has been in operation for 752 days. There have, then, been an average of 665 attempts to spam the site per day over that period. The vast majority of these have been caught by a plug-in we run, Stop Spammers, which checks the IP address and E-mail address of users attempting to register an account against a number of blacklists of known spammers, and also enforces correct use of the HTTP protocol which some high-volume spam robots violate in order to hit more targets per second. In addition, thousands of other suspicious attempts to access the site have been flagged and rejected manually—these do not appear in the totals above.... [Read More]