Author Archives: Rand Simberg

Chelsea Clinton’s Fetus

An open letter to it:

Before you were even born your mommy’s mommy pretended that it’s a completely normal thing to announce your own grandchild’s birth to the world at a joint press appearance with your mom, hosted on Skype and live-streamed. With America Ferrera!

Although you will at all times pretend to be a normal baby, you actually already have your very own career, like doctor or fireman or lobbyist! Can you say “Campaign Asset”? Good, now let’s learn about skill sets! You only need one talent. Ready? It’s “Soften the Candidate”! Sort of like human bubble bath.

It’s apparently driving a lot of hostile comments from readers.

“Free-Speech Zones”

…and other college lies. Questions you should be asking before spending tens of thousands of dollars on a university or college.

[Afternoon update]

Time to toss out abusive college administrators:

Events like these call into question both the judgment of academic administrators and the existence of campus police forces as a separate institution. In his book, The Fall of the Faculty, Johns Hopkins Professor Benjamin Ginsberg talks about the profusion of “deanlets” that has overtaken higher education. But it’s even worse when those deanlets not only eat up the substance of institutions, but also command armed force. It’s extremely doubtful that any outside law enforcement agency would have responded to any of the “threats” listed above, but campus police, called in by insecure deanlets, have little choice. This sort of behavior, though, is unfair, bad for morale, and likely to spur expensive and embarrassing litigation. (Note that some of these cases were resolved when the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an academic civil liberties group, intervened and posed a threat of legal action.)

As with the morons running public schools, no judgment is required, apparently.

The Pacific Salmon Are Back

…and of course, the environmentalists hate it:

The point deserves emphasis. The advent of higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has been a great boon for the terrestrial biosphere, accelerating the rate of growth of both wild and domestic plants and thereby expanding the food base supporting humans and land animals of every type. Ignoring this, the carbophobes point to the ocean instead, saying that increased levels of carbon dioxide not exploited by biology could lead to acidification. By making the currently barren oceans fertile, however, mariculture would transform this putative problem into an extraordinary opportunity.

Which is precisely why those demanding restraints on carbon emissions and restrictions on fisheries hate mariculture. They hate it for the same reason those demanding constraints in the name of allegedly limited energy resources hate nuclear power. They hate it because it solves a problem they need unsolved.

I hope this means a lot of cheap fresh wild salmon in the stores this summer.

A “Tenuous Grasp Of Science”

That’s certainly a polite way to describe these fools:

A half-liter of urine dumped in a 143 million-liter reservoir would get a urea concentration of about 3 parts per billion, according to Slate. (We calculated it would be a 50 nanoMolar solution.) Meanwhile, the EPA allows concentrations of arsenic in drinking water up to 10 ppb. Salt water has a salt concentration of around 35,000,000 parts per billion, or 600 milliMolar.

Do these morons have any idea how many birds poop in that lake every day? In drought-stricken California, that wouldn’t be just a firing offense — they’d be strung up. But I’ll bet he’s all on board with battling climate change.

As Glenn says, the nation is increasingly being run by chuckleheads.

Cats

What are they thinking?

Miklósi, I was surprised to learn, had also conducted the pointing test with felines. Like Agrillo, he had a hard time getting cats to cooperate in his laboratory—so he went to their homes instead. Even then, most of the animals weren’t interested in advancing science; according to Miklósi’s research paper, seven of the initial 26 test subjects “dropped out.” But those that did participate performed nearly as well as dogs had. Cats too, it appears, may have a rudimentary theory of mind.

But when Miklósi took the study a step further, he spotted an intriguing difference between cats and dogs. This time, he and his colleagues created two puzzles: one solvable, the other impossible. In the solvable puzzle, the researchers placed food in a bowl and stuck it under a stool. Dogs and cats had to find the bowl and pull it out to eat. Both aced the test. Then the scientist rigged the exam. They again placed the bowl under a stool, but this time they tied it to the stool legs so that it could not be pulled out. The dogs pawed at the bowl for a few seconds and then gave up, gazing up at their owners as if asking for help. The cats, on the other hand, rarely looked at their owners; they just kept trying to get the food.

Now before you conclude that cats are dumber than dogs because they’re not smart enough to realize when a task is impossible, consider this: Dogs have lived with us for as many as 30,000 years—20,000 years longer than cats. More than any other animal on the planet, dogs are tuned in to the “human radio frequency”—the broadcast of our feelings and desires. Indeed, we may be the only station dogs listen to. Cats, on the other hand, can tune us in if they want to (that’s why they pass the pointing test as well as dogs), but they don’t hang on our every word like dogs do. They’re surfing other channels on the dial. And that’s ultimately what makes them so hard to study. Cats, as any owner knows, are highly intelligent beings. But to science, their minds may forever be a black box.

As another recent study showed, cats recognize our voices. They just don’t care.

President Asterisk

Some thoughts from Roger Kimball:

Barack Obama has been lying — lying, not “mis-stating,” not somehow getting it wrong because he was misinformed, ill-advised, out to lunch — no, he has been lying to the American public public since 2009. Here is a little recap of 36 times he promised that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period.” It’s less than 3 minutes long. Watch it a couple of times. Then ask yourself — especially if you voted for Barack Obama — ask yourself, was he telling the truth?

That’s the thing about credibility. Its loss is infectious, corrosive. Lose it here, and you find that you’ve lost over there as well. The Examiner is quite right, “it has been increasingly difficult for many Americans to continue accepting at face value his statements on other major public issues. In both the Benghazi and IRS scandals, for example, Obama claimed to have known nothing about them until they were reported in the national media.” Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! (Quoth Dorothy: “If you were really great and powerful, you’d keep your promises.”) Flap, flap, flap: here they come! If it were true (don’t you love the subjunctive?), if, I say, it were true that Obama was just as ignorant as you or I about what happened in Benghazi or the IRS until the media told him then why the huge cover up? Why, as the Examiner asks, “has the president’s attorney general and so many other of his most prominent appointees withheld thousands of documents subpoenaed by Congress and requested by journalists under the Freedom of Information Act? Are there passages in those withheld documents that make it clear Obama knew much more than he has admitted?” What do you think? (While were at it, why can;t we see Barack Obama’s Occidental College records? Are there items there that prove he applied to the college as a foreign student, thus committing fraud? What do you think?)

Come to think of it, it would still be nice to see the Khalidi birthday-party video.

There is no reason to believe this administration about anything it says, on any subject. And there is good reason to believe that his reelection, if not indeed his first one, was illegitimate.

Base Camps

Derek Webber writes that in order to advance into the solar system NASA needs to take some lessons from Everest climbers.

Not to mention be willing to lose folks occasionally.

[Update a few minutes later]

Jeff Foust notes that there seems to be an emerging consensus that Mars is the goal, though none on how to do it.

Meanwhile, John Strickland says we need an integrated approach, with robots and humans. to get to Mars. He seems to be focusing on Mars surface water, though. I think we need to trade that with manufacturing propellants at Phobos or Deimos.

My take, as always, is that destinations are less important than capabilities. Put an off-planet space-transportation infrastructure in place, and the entire solar system (including Europa and Enceladus) is opened up to us. But Congress would rather build big rockets.

The Middle Class

Stop favoring speculators and investors over them.

That applies to both parties. The Republicans could make this an electorally popular strategy, but too many of their donors would object.

I would note, though, that if you’re going to tax capital gains more, you need to provide a way to factor out inflation, because a devaluation of the currency doesn’t provide a true capital “gain.”

Outside The “Consensus”

Notes from a climate-change “denier”:

Gradually I have found myself more impressed with the arguments of the climate change skeptics–the reviled “deniers”–than with the Michael Mann school of hockey stickology or the IPCC striptease in which it discards its pretences to “settled science” a glove at a time without ever getting down to bare truth.

…In my own field, anthropology, I have lived through the replacement of “consensus” on the idea that the makers of the so-called Clovis spear points, which go back 13,500 years, were the first Native Americans. The “Clovis First” theory always had doubters but it dominated from the 1930s until 1999, when archaeologists in large numbers accepted the evidence of older populations. Likewise, there was a long-established consensus that Neanderthal and modern Homo Sapiens did not successfully interbreed–though here too there were always some dissenters. We now know for a certainty (based on the successful sequencing of the Neanderthal genome) that our species did indeed mix, and modern Europeans carry a percent or two of Neanderthal genes.

In time, scientific controversies get resolved, often by the emergence of new kinds of evidence that no one originally imagined. Views that are maintained, to some degree, by a wall of artificial “consensus” die hard. That, of course, was one of the lessons of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), which inaugurated the long vogue for the word “paradigm” to describe a broadly accepted theory. Kuhn’s work has often served as a warrant for those who see science as a social project amenable to political manipulation rather than an intellectual endeavor with strict standards of evidence and built-in mechanisms for correcting mistakes.

Thus when the “anthropogenic global warming” (AGW) folks insist that they command a “consensus” of climate scientists, they fully understand that they are engaged in a political act. They intend to summon the social and political dynamics that will create a “consensus,” by defining the skeptics as a disreputable minority that need not even be counted. It is a big gamble since a substantial number of the skeptics are themselves well-established and highly respected scientists, such as MIT’s Richard Lindzen, Princeton’s Will Happer, and Institute of Advanced Studies’ Freeman Dyson. But conjuring a new “paradigm” out of highly ambiguous data run through simulation computer models is tricky business and isn’t likely to produce a “consensus” all on its own.

No, it always needs help from demagogues with an agenda.

A Mystery Shooter

Usually, we have to play “Guess that party!” In the case of the Kansas City shooter, we get to play “Guess his motive!”

Police would link at least 12 such attacks to the same .380-caliber weapon before they ultimately arrested 27-year-old Mohammed Pedro Whitaker. On Thursday, they swarmed his home in the south Kansas City suburb of Grandview, where a tributary of highways converge and where many of the attacks had happened.

In Whitaker’s home, police said, they found a .380-caliber handgun. After weeks of fear, they told the press they had their man, and not longer after, Whitaker was charged with 18 felonies. (It’s not clear if Whitaker, who has not entered a plea, has a lawyer, and he is being held in lieu of $1-million bond.)
No motive has been publicized, and police declined to speculate.

Emphasis added. I’m sure they decline to speculate, but the rest of us are under no politically correct strictures to do so.

I wonder if that’s the name on his birth certificate? Am I allowed to ask questions like that?

Happy Berth Day To Dragon

It was launched on Good Friday, and now the Dragon has berthed with the ISS early in the morning on Easter Sunday, over the region of the world in which Christ was reportedly born, died, and resurrected. That wasn’t planned, though. They’d have preferred to have it up weeks earlier.

Meanwhile, no word from SpaceX about recovering the first stage. I’m going to interpret that as bad news, for now.

SpaceX Flight

Looks like another perfect flight of the Falcon 9 and Dragon. Press conference is scheduled at 1700 EDT, when they’ll presumably tell us how the recovery attempt went. They did report a successful entry burn.

[Update about 5 PM PDT]

Elon has some news:

[Another update about twenty minutes later]

[Update an hour or so later]

I should add that while this is great news, it will still be disappointing if the rough seas prevent recovery, or break up the vehicle, because they’ll lose data they’d like to have to see how the stage handled the flight. That’s critical to understanding turnaround. The good news is that they’ll be able to do this every flight (that doesn’t need a lot of performance, like their earlier GEO missions) to get it right, and finally start to understand that.