Charles Murray’s Human Diversity Published Today


“Human Diversity” by Charles MurrayCharles Murray’s Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class was published today and is now available in both hardcover and Kindle editions.  Murray discusses the biological reality behind ten propositions, stated as follows (I do not consider these spoilers, as they appear in the “Look Inside” excerpt on Amazon and also have been tweeted by the author on his own Twitter account).... [Read More]


Absence of Intelligence

Homer Simpson's brainJared Z. Burton and Russell T. Warne just published (2020-01-23) a paper in the journal Teaching of Psychology, “The Neglected Intelligence Course: Needs and Suggested Solutions”.  (The paper is behind a forbidding paywall [US$37.50 for eleven pages!], but may be read for free on Sci-Hub.)  Here is the abstract.

Intelligence is a well-studied construct in psychology that has correlational relationships with many educational, employment, and health outcomes. However, prior research indicates that incorrect beliefs about intelligence are widespread. In an effort to discern the degree to which the psychology curriculum is responsible for these inaccuracies, we collected course descriptions and catalog information from 303 American colleges and universities. We found that college courses dedicated to mainstream intelligence science are rare. Because the lack of intelligence education within psychology is a plausible contributor to incorrect beliefs about intelligence, we present an outline for a college-level course on intelligence. We also provide advice for implementing a course, including course readings and advice for handling controversies.... [Read More]


SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test

SpaceX in-flight abort (artist's conception)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]


Rice Cookers: They Do it with a Magnet!

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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Mars: Communist Propaganda from the Red Planet

Mars series: National GeographicThe 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]


Edward Dutton: “Why Islam makes you stupid but also means you’ll dominate the world”

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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The casino ruined my troubleshooting…

Long story somewhat shortened…

I “used to be” a darn good “investigative trouble shooter”, I looked at things from nearly every angle. Then I had to take a job at the casino. I had to fix things fast because a guest was waiting. Well It made me jump to conclusions rather than looking at things from every angle.... [Read More]


Finally! U.S. Patent 10,513,862: System, method, and apparatus for simulating immersion in a confection

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!

US patent 10513862 cover... [Read More]



Traffic signals can operate as a dumb clock. So many seconds of green in this direction, then a yellow clearance interval, then red for that direction while some number of seconds times down for green in the other direction. The engineer sets the times, and then turns it loose.

Old traffic signals in the 1950s operated that way. An electric motor turned a shaft, and on that shaft was a series of cams. Each cam was identified with a signal display. The cam was made with break-off “ears,” so that, as the shaft turned, the cam only made contact with the lead for that display for a portion of the rotation of the shaft.... [Read More]


Saturday Night Science: The Simulation Hypothesis

“The Simulation Hypothesis” by Rizwan VirkBefore 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]


Date (yes, with an “e”) security

In case any of you still use antiquated date formats like 01/03/20, beware that such 2020 dates can be maliciously changed to a different year by simply adding two additional digits at the end. There is a simple solution for this problem: use the international date format, YYYY-MM-DD with 4-digit year at the beginning. The solution comes with fringe benefits like proper sorting and universal understanding.

Have a nice 2020-01-03, along with the rest of 2020!


Space Scoreboard: 2019

SpaceX Falcon Heavy liftoffThe year 2019 is almost over, and unless somebody slips one in at the last moment, we can sum up activity in orbital space launches over the last twelvemonth.  Here are orbital launches (some of which placed more than one satellite in orbit) by country of launch, in decreasing order by number of successful launches.  Specifying “country of launch” is simultaneously significant and somewhat sloppy: three Soyuz launches were conducted from the European spaceport in French Guiana, and are counted as European despite the rockets having been made in Russia and sold to Arianespace, which launched them.  Six Rocket Lab Electron launches performed from their Mahia site in New Zealand are listed under New Zealand despite Rocket Lab’s being (for regulatory, export control, and bowing to the empire purposes, nominally a U.S. company).  Russian launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan are, however, listed as Russian, as the launchers are manufactured in Russia and launched by personnel working for Russian companies or military services.

  • China:  34 launches, 32, successes, 2 failures
  • Russia: 25 launches, 25 successes
  • United States: 21 launches, 21 successes
  • India: 6 launches, 6 successes
  • New Zealand: 6 launches, 6 successes
  • Europe: 6 launches, 5 successes, 1 failure
  • Japan: 2 launches, 2 successes
  • Iran: 2 launches, 2 failures.  In addition, another launch vehicle exploded on the pad during preparations for launch.
  • Total: 102 launches, 97 successes (95%), 5 failures (5%)

Of the 97 successful launches, 61 were to low Earth orbits, including polar and Sun-synchronous orbits, 9 were to medium Earth orbits (mostly used by navigation satellites), 24 were to geosynchronous orbits, 2 were to high Earth or lunar transfer orbits, and 1 was to a heliocentric orbit.  All 5 launch failures were attempts to launch into low Earth orbit.


This Week’s Book Review – Hot Spot of Invention

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.... [Read More]