Housekeeping note: In a few moments, I will leave civilization behind for a few days as loyal sidekick Rat and I will be off to the wilds of Grand County, Colorado, there to do battle with antlered ungulates. Some placeholder totty is scheduled to hold your attention until I return.
Now, with that out of the way: It seems the U.S. Navy has applied for a patent on a fusion reactor small enough to power small ships and even aircraft. If this is a real thing, it’s a real big thing, or as daffy old Groper Joe Biden would say, a big fucking deal. Excerpt:
The War Zone has been reporting on Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works work to create a game-changing compact fusion reactor. The elite aerospace design unit has been constructing a new, more powerful experimental reactor as recently as July 2019.
Aside from Lockheed Martin, several private firms have been developing their own compact fusion reactors in recent years, and the government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences has claimed to have made significant progress in developing fusion reactors that could one day be capable of producing revolutionary levels of energy.
While Lockheed Martin’s CFR designs have garnered quite a bit of media attention and internet buzz in recent years, it appears one of the Skunk Works’ major clients is also hard at work in this field. The U.S. Navy has filed a potentially revolutionary patent application for a radical new compact fusion reactor that claims to improve upon the shortcomings of the Skunk Works CFR, and judging from the identity of the reactor’s inventor, it’s sure to raise eyebrows in the scientific community.
This latest design is the brainchild of the elusive Salvatore Cezar Pais, the inventor of the Navy’s bizarre and controversial room temperature superconductors, high energy electromagnetic field generators, and sci-fi-sounding propulsion technologies that The War Zone has previously reported on. The patent for Pais’ “Plasma Compression Fusion Device” was applied for on March 22, 2018, and was just published on September 26, 2019. The claim states, in part:
“At present there are few envisioned fusion reactors/devices that come in a small, compact package (ranging from 0.3 to 2 meters in diameter) and typically they use different versions of plasma magnetic confinement. Three such devices are the Lockheed Martin (LM) Skunk Works Compact Fusion Reactor (LM-CFR) , the EMC2 Polywell fusion concept, and the Princeton Field-Reversed Configuration (PFRC) machine. […] These devices feature short plasma confinement times, possible plasma instabilities with the scaling of size, and it is questionable whether they have the ability of achieving the break – even fusion condition, let alone a self-sustained plasma burn leading to ignition.”
Wow. WOW. Forget for a moment whether or not we’re going to buy into this being real, and just imagine for a moment the implications of it being real, and imagine beyond just the shutting up of the climate scolds, which would be a pleasant enough outcome.
Now I’m not sure about the feasibility of powering vehicles or aircraft with one of these, size notwithstanding; like fission reactors, fusion reactors provide useful power through heat, by boiling water to turn a steam turbine to generate electricity. (That’s almost certainly a gross oversimplification, but what the hell.) That works in a power plant or a ship; in an airplane, not so much.
But you know, that still works. We could continue to run airplanes and autos on fossil fuels. The climate scolds would continue to go RHEEEEEEE, of course, but we can ignore that. The simple fact is this: A practical fusion reactor design would literally change everything. Energy would be cheap and unlimited; cheaper than it is now, unlimited as it is not now.
And this design – if it’s real – could deliver power to places where it’s difficult to do so now. It could relieve remote communities of the need for generators or long stretches of power lines. Small towns could run on a small tokamak that would fit in a garden shed. And better still, a factory could buy its own reactor and obviate the need to be tied to an inefficient government-granted monopoly for power delivery. The possibilities are endless.
I’m not sure if this is a real thing. But it would be really cool if it was.
But enough of that for now. The bloodwind calls. It’s time to hunt. See you all a week from Monday!
The other day national treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hanson brought us this gem: Is America Entering a Dark Age? Excerpt:
Does anyone believe that contemporary Americans could build another transcontinental railroad in six years?
Californians tried to build a high-speed rail line. But after more than a decade of government incompetence, lawsuits, cost overruns and constant bureaucratic squabbling, they have all but given up. The result is a half-built overpass over the skyline of Fresno — and not yet a foot of track laid.
Who were those giants of the 1960s responsible for building our interstate highway system?
California’s roads now are mostly the same as we inherited them, although the state population has tripled. We have added little to our freeway network, either because we forgot how to build good roads or would prefer to spend the money on redistributive entitlements.
When California had to replace a quarter section of the earthquake-damaged San Francisco Bay Bridge, it turned into a near-disaster, with 11 years of acrimony, fighting, cost overruns — and a commentary on our decline into Dark Ages primitivism. Yet 82 years ago, our ancestors built four times the length of our singe replacement span in less than four years. It took them just two years to design the entire Bay Bridge and award the contracts.
Our generation required five years just to plan to replace a single section. In inflation-adjusted dollars, we spent six times the money on one quarter of the length of the bridge and required 13 agencies to grant approval. In 1936, just one agency oversaw the entire bridge project.
Dr. Hanson writes about his own California, but the rot has taken hold almost everywhere. National power grids and generation capacity are below par. In our own Colorado, the roads are in worse shape every year. In New York the Empire State Building was put up in the middle of the Great Depression in a matter of months, but replacing the destroyed World Trade Center took over a decade.
It’s not a pretty picture. We used to a nation, a society, a people that built things. In a span of two hundred years we went from a couple of million people huddled along the east coast, having just broken away from the most powerful empire in (then) world history at great cost, to a great shining city on a hill, the arsenal of democracy in World War 2, the rebuilder of the global economy after that war.
My Dad (born 1923) always said that he an my Mom (born 1928) saw America’s best years. He was likely right. I’m just hoping I won’t live to see America come apart.
Mrs. A and I have to head for the airport in a little while, to head home to Denver; on Friday morning, loyal sidekick Rat and I answer the call of the bloodwind once more, as we set forth in pursuit of deer and elk. But in the meantime: Time for the links!
Number One for today’s links: Feds have hurriedly dropped a case against a black-market gun builder because of a tentative judicial ruling that may have overturned much of the 1968 Gun Control Act. No shit. Go read, and try to ignore CNN’s pearl-clutching.
This scientist thinks we may already have found strong evidence of life on Mars. I’m not so sure, but my biology credentials are a few years out of date; I have tried to, as they say, keep current, but that’s a long ways from working in the field day to day.
Liz Peek thinks the 2020 election is still President Trump’s to lose. The history of incumbents seeking re-election bolsters her argument.
Guess what? Our schools suck. Welcome to 1977. The answer? Get government out of education.
These three countries tried socialism and rejected it. It sure would be nice if some American pols would learn from their example, but as my dear departed Grandpa was fond of saying, “you can teach ’em, but you can’t learn ’em.”
The Washington Examiner’s Adam Brandon points out that the Constitution is what is keeping us from Hong Kong’s fate. I’d feel better about that assertion if it weren’t for the fact that the Imperial government has been wiping their asses with the Constitution since about 1860.
Have a read about the eccentric wonder that was Thomas Edison. One of my favorite quotes is from Edison: “People frequently don’t recognize opportunity when it arrives, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.”
On that nutty note, we return you to your Wednesday, already in progress.
Moving right along: Denver’s former 800-pound gorilla of local talk radio, Mike Rosen, describes a detection and turn-about of a would-be scammer. Excerpt:
To its credit, Craigslist posts a warning to its sellers to be wary of distant buyers responding to their ads who might pay with a counterfeit check that would initially clear the bank but will later be clawed back from the seller who deposited it when the fraud is discovered. Case in point, here’s my recent experience. After redecorating I had to part with an elegant bar and buffet featuring lighted glass shelves and doors to display glassware, china and accessories. So, I offered it on Craigslist at the bargain price of $295. Almost instantly, I got a text message from an enthusiastic buyer who wanted it at full price from the picture I posted. He gave his name as Peter A. Frederick and said he was an out of town construction consultant and needed it shipped to him. I wanted payment in cash and preferred a buyer who would pick it up himself. He persisted and proposed the following arrangement. He’d send me a certified check for $1,950.50. When I get it, I should deposit it in my bank and after the check clears, I should deduct $295 for the buffet plus an extra $50 for my “running around” and send the excess funds of $1,605 to his shipper. After the shipper gets my check, he’ll contact me with shipping instructions.
Doing the math: $1,950.50 – $295.00 – $50.00 – $1,605.00 = $0.50, I discovered there was an extra 50 cents left over for me! I was tempted, but realized it wouldn’t be ethical to cheat him out of that for his inadvertent math mistake. Just kidding. Of course, by now I was sure it was a scam. But I figured I’d play along out of curiosity. He already had my name and address, and a few days later I got his check.
Read the entire story; I enjoyed the post-script:
Now, here’s an ironic postscript. Since Peter/Paul the scammer had my name and text address, he must have added me to his sucker list as I also got this text during the process: “Hi Michael Rosen, I’m Aaron Scott from the crime investigative department. There is an urgent arrest warrant against you right now. We received an information about a recent fraudulent paycheck which you were investigated to be part of. You are being monitored and it’s very important that I do hear from you as soon as possible before we proceed further with our legal actions.”
My response: “There’s no such thing as the *$@&#! crime investigation department. You’re the one who should be investigated.”
My cell phone service is pretty good about identifying would-be scam callers. Several times a week my phone will blip once and the screen will display “Scam Likely” or some such, and I’ll block the number. I’ve gotten some that go through to voice mail, including a recent one that gave me the dire news that an IRS arrest warrant had been issued for me and that I should call a certain number to “clear things up.” Blocked. Some of the scammers have resorted to text messages, as they presumably don’t go through the same process – and, again, when I get them, blocked.
The thing that concerns me about these horse’s asses is the fact that some people must fall for this crap, or they wouldn’t keep doing it. I’m of the belief that there comes a time where fools and their money deserve to be parted (Gwyneth Paltrow and her GOOP idiocy come to mind) but it’s really just too bad that these assholes still find marks, frequently among the very old and very young.
Fortunately my own family shows more savvy. A couple of years before he passed, the Old Man got a phone call:
Old Man: “What’s your name?”
Caller: “Don’t you recognize my voice, Grandpa?”
Old Man: “No. What’s your name?”
At that point the Old Man hung up.
More folks should show as much sense as my Dad did.
Moving right along: This popped up over the weekend. Excerpt:
U.S. troops in northern Syria came under artillery fire from Turkish positions on Friday but none were wounded, the Pentagon said, an incident that highlights the risks to U.S. troops as Turkey wages an offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish militia.
“The explosion occurred within a few hundred meters of a location outside the Security Mechanism zone and in an area known by the Turks to have U.S. forces present,” Navy Captain Brook DeWalt, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.
DeWalt said that all U.S. troops were accounted for after the incident near Kobane, Syria late on Friday.
U.S. troops have not withdrawn from Kobane, he said.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said it had taken all measures to ensure that no U.S. base was damaged while it responded to harassment fire that originated near a U.S. base close to Kobane.
“The firing was ceased as a result of the issue being relayed to us by the U.S.,” the ministry said in a statement.
U.S. forces have had a successful partnership with Kurdish YPG militia in Syria to oust the Islamic State group.
In the movie version of Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October, there’s a great scene where the late Fred Thompson, playing a U.S. Navy admiral in charge of a carrier task group, rushes to the flight deck to see the wreck of an F-14 that tried to crowd a Soviet Bear away from the task group and, damaged, crashed on landing. Thompson as the admiral snaps angrily, “This thing will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.”
That’s what bothers me about this whole Turkey/Syria business. Syria is a festering shithole, true; Turkey is a NATO ally, also true. But the Kurds are also allies, and some of the very few loyally pro-U.S. folks in that part of the world. But the Turks hate them and persecute Kurds within their own borders.
There’s an obvious answer, but it would probably require mediation by some international body. The UN may have been able to do it in the 1950s, but that organization has grown so ossified and so corrupt that it is now essentially useless. Maybe NATO would be able to pull it off. The answer, of course, is a free and independent Kurdistan, carved out of traditionally Kurdish portions of Turkey, Syrian and Iraq. This is part of a recurring issue in this region dating back to 1918, when borders were set arbitrarily with little regard to ethnic and tribal divisions.
Setting up an independent Kurdistan would be a good start on unhosing that goat-screw.
It’s something of a shibboleth among some casual students of early humanity that early people were persistence hunters; that is, they ran their prey to ground. As evidence these folks point out some traits humans have that most mammals don’t, like developed gluteal muscles, long legs with thick Achilles tendons and, not least of all, using sweating instead of panting to cool off during exertion or in hot weather.
But now it turns out that might be utterly wrong. Excerpt:
The theory that persistence hunting played a crucial part in the evolution of man was first suggested in 1984 by David Carrier, who at the time was a doctoral student at the University of Michigan. Carrier’s idea was based on the observation that man is one of the only mammals that cools itself by sweating. Most four-legged mammals pant to cast off heat, which doesn’t work nearly as well when running. Carrier concluded that if our early human ancestors could chase an animal long enough, the animal would overheat and collapse with heat exhaustion, and the humans could step up and dispatch it easily.
Carrier’s idea was picked up and advanced by the Harvard paleoanthropologist Daniel Lieberman. “As for anatomical, genetic, and paleontological evidence, there are so many derived features of humans that make us good at running and which have no other function, they clearly indicate humans were selected for long distance running,” Lieberman wrote in an email. He has noted that those features — arched feet, short toes, wide shoulders, long Achilles tendons — seem to have originated around 2 million years ago, around the time when the genus Homo evolved and our ancestors began making meat a regular part of their diet. Persistence hunting, he’s argued, might have been the evolutionary driver.
Henry Bunn, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has said more than once that a person would have to be “incredibly naïve” to believe the persistence hunting theory. Bunn recalls that he first heard discussion of the theory at a conference in South Africa, and he realized almost immediately that if you are going to chase an animal that is much faster than you, at some point it will run out of sight and you will have to track it. Tracking would require earth soft enough to capture footprints and terrain open enough to give prey little place to hide and disappear.
When he heard of the idea, Bunn had just been in the Great Rift Valley of East Africa, one of the areas where it is thought that Australopithecus, our first upright walking ancestor, evolved into the first of the human genus. He knew the terrain was probably not soft during the time period discussed by the persistence hunting theory. And it was mixed savanna woodland, not open plain. It’s highly unlikely that primitive humans would have been sophisticated enough to track under those conditions, Bunn and his co-author, Travis Pickering, also of the University of Wisconsin, argued in their first paper questioning the persistence hunting theory.
Plus, Bunn had spent time with the Hadza, a modern-day group of people in the Great Rift Valley who are thought to live much like their ancient ancestors did. The only time Bunn ever knew the Hadza to run was when they were fleeing pelting rain, angry bees, or marauding elephants — and maybe occasionally to scavenge.
Speaking as a modern hunter, I can confirm that most modern humans hunt from ambush, or at least, by stealth. When I was a young man hunting whitetails in the forested hills of northeast Iowa, I generally hunted by ambush; I had a few tree stands scattered across the Old Man’s place, or sometimes I would still-hunt by moving very slowly and quietly through the timber.
Nowadays, in the more open, much wider country I hunt in the Rockies, I generally hunt by spot-and-stalk, although sometimes loyal sidekick Rat and I will take a position along a water source or a low saddle between two big drainages and watch for a while.
The main point is this: Most predators don’t use any more calories than necessary when hunting, and in that, humans haven’t changed much since the Pleistocene. Survival in nature is a simple matter of ensuring that, at minimum, calories in equals (or, preferably, exceeds) calories expended. One of the better ways to do this is to make sure you expend the least amount of calories possible, which means ambush or stealth hunting.
There are a few exceptions (wolves come to mind) but not that many. And if we can derive any conclusions about human behavior then from human behavior now, I’d suspect Henry Bunn is correct. Read the entire article and see what you think.
Space is big. Really, really big. It’s so big, it’s hard to imagine just how really big it is without unhinging your brain enough to really, really understand something so stupendously big that even the wildest of sci-fi nuts just don’t get how unfathomably big it is. But one scientist who is also a Star Trek fan has made a video to give us at least some idea how long it would really take to get about in space at Star Trekkian speeds. Excerpt:
O’Donoghue chose to depict the Enterprise flying away from the sun and across the solar system toward a finish line at Pluto. The spaceship starts out at warp 1 and eventually accelerates to warp 9.9, or about 2,083 times light speed.
- Warp 1, or light speed, makes the Enterprise look like it’s at a standstill over the sun. At this light-speed rate, the ship would take 5 hours and 28 minutes just to reach Pluto, which is about 3.67 billion miles (5.9 billion kilometers) away from the sun. Meanwhile, Proxima Centauri — the nearest star to our own — is a dismal four years and three months away.
- Warp 5 is about 213 times faster, making a sun-Pluto journey just 1 minute and 30 seconds long. Proxima Centauri is still a weeklong voyage.
- Warp 9.9 makes Pluto less that a 10-second trip away, and Proxima Centauri an 18-hour cruise.
This last rate of travel is thousands of times faster than the physics of our universe may ever permit.
However, traveling at a warp factor of 9.9 from one end of the Milky Way galaxy — a body of hundreds of billions of stars that may stretch 150,000 to 200,000 light-years wide, according to a recent study — to the other could take 96 years. That’s almost a decade longer than an average human life span today.
Even considering the fastest “transwarp” (or “beyond warp”) speed achieved by the Enterprise, which is about 8,323 times light speed, according to “Star Trek: The Next Generation — Technical Manual,” a transgalactic voyage would take 24 years. A transwarp voyage to Andromeda, which is the nearest galaxy to ours at about 2.5 million light-years away, would last about 300 years.
Yup. Space is big. Really, really big.
The closest any sci-fi writer has come to getting this right, at least in my reading history, was James Blish in the Cities in Flight series, originally published between 1950 and 1962. In those still-engaging stories the major cities of Earth and other worlds left their planetary homes and wandered the galaxy, using a gravitic drive Blish called a “spindizzy.” Even though, as Blish postulated, the cities under gravitic drive were separated from the general framework of the universe and moved in their own continuum, and were therefore not hampered by relativistic effects or the universal 1C speed limits, even within the galaxy travel times were so long that the inhabitants of the cities required “anti-agathic” drugs that made them, essentially, immortal, else they’d not have been able to travel such distances.
It’s a neat series, by the way, even if it is a little dated today.
Warp drives and such are neat to think about and write about; in my own dabblings in science fiction I’ve resorted to that same plot device to make my characters go gamboling and capering about the Milky Way. That kind of stuff is, after all, fun to read about and fun to write about.
But in reality, unless some kind of wormhole drive can shortcut interstellar distances instantaneously, then interstellar travel is never going to be really practical, even at transphotic speeds.
Because space is really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY, REALLY big.
On to the links!
Alexandria Occasional Cortex is an idiot. (Yes, I know, low-hanging fruit.)
Can you count past infinity? Common sense says no. Mathematicians say “it depends.”
The United States is now officially free of measles. How long it will remain that way is anyone’s guess, between unchecked Third World immigration and the stupidity of anti-vaxxers.
Want to keep flies off your cows? Paint them up like zebras. No shit! Excerpt, because I found this pretty interesting:
…the researchers painted six Japanese Black cows with black-and-white stripes, which took just five minutes per cow. They then observed the cows for three days, taking high-resolution images of them at regular intervals to count the insects on the animals and also recording any fly-repelling behaviors like leg stamping, tail flicking, and skin twitching. The same cows were also observed for three days with painted-on black stripes (to see if it was the paint chemicals, not the coloring, that repelled flies) and and with no stripes at all.
The apparent effects of the stripes were remarkable. The number of biting flies observed on zebra-striped cows was less than half the number seen on unpainted cows and far less than cows painted with black stripes. Moreover, zebra-striping reduced fly-repelling behaviors by about 20%, indicating that the cows were less bothered by the insects.
Remind me to buy some zebra-stripe shirts before the next time I go fishing in Canada. Hope it works on mosquitoes.
Have aliens bugged space rocks? I doubt it, but if we found one – then what?
Impeachment seems to be helping President Trump, not Democrats. Newt Gingrich was unavailable for comment.
Colorado breweries were big winners at the 2019 Great American Beer Fest. One of the things I like about Colorado, although I confess that the things I dislike about Colorado are catching up with the things I like.
Princess Spreading Bull lied about having been fired for being pregnant. Add that lie to the list, folks.
On that lie-detecting note, we return you to your Wednesday, already in progress.