All posts by Rand Simberg

Supersonics

I’m up at ArmstrongDryden today, getting an overview on NASA’s low-boom supersonics program. The focus seems to be entirely on noise reduction, but I’ll be interested in hearing what they’re doing to reduce wave drag.

Kevin McCarthy is here (I spoke to him briefly about some space regulatory issues), but he hasn’t spoken.

[Update a few minutes later

The QueSST aircraft has an L/D of 6 at Mach 1.4, in response to a question from me. In response to my question about what they’re doing about wave drag, the answer is “that’s a question for another day.” Peter Cohen from Langley actually shouted that from the back of the room, to my amusement.

In A World Of Self-Driving Cars

…we’ll still need the Miata.

Yes. Two counterpoints, though.

First, I don’t think I’d be able to read or write while being driven; in my experience that can make me car sick. I have to be in control.

Second, I very much fear that in a world of self-driving cars, it will be considered socially irresponsible and dangerous to drive yourself, and probably made illegal.

“Violent Extremists”

They’re not “on the run” as the president says; they’re on the march:

“Today we worry about more than just terrorist cells — we worry about full-fledged terrorist armies as they capture territory and enlist thousands to join their ranks.”

In Syria and Iraq, McCaul said the world is witnessing “the largest global convergence of Islamist terrorists” in modern history.

Note: In “modern” history. This really has been going back for centuries. They just have better weapons now, and weaker-willed foes.

Antibiotics

In light of the news earlier this week of the discovery of a resistant strain of E. coli, this looks like good news from Harvard:

Erythromycin, which was discovered in a soil sample from the Philippines in 1949, has been on the market as a drug by 1953. “For 60 years chemists have been very, very creative, finding clever ways to ‘decorate’ this molecule, making changes around its periphery to produce antibiotics that are safer, more effective, and overcome the resistance bacteria have developed,” says Dr. Myers, Amory Houghton Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. “That process is semisynthesis, modifying the naturally occurring substance.”

In contrast, the process described in the Nature study involves using “eight industrial chemicals, or substances derived from them,” according to Dr. Myers, and manipulating them in various combinations and then testing the products against panels of disease causing bacteria. This allows us to make new “new compounds in fewer steps than was previously possible.”

For a host of reasons, from the difficulty of developing antibiotics to the relatively low return on investment they offer, by 2013 the number of international pharmaceutical companies developing antibiotics had dwindled to four. And in each 5-year period from 1983 through 2007, the number of new antibiotics approved for use in the U.S. decreased, from 16 at the beginning of that period to only five by its end.

One thing that has complicated antibiotic development is a perceived reluctance by federal agencies to fund the research. In fact, Dr. Myers says, his new antibiotic development system would have been impossible without support from a Harvard alum and his wife who are interested in science and Harvard’s Blavatnik Accelerator Fund, which provided support for the initial creation of Myers’s company Macrolide Pharmaceuticals.

“I was making a presentation to a group of visiting alumns interested in science and one, Alastair Mactaggart, asked me about funding. I told him I had no funding because at that time we didn’t, and he followed me back to my office and said, ‘this is ridiculous: we have to do something about this’.”

Gee, it’s almost as though the government is completely incompetent at its core functions while busying itself with things that are none of its business.

XCOR

It looks to me like Lynx is dead. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, from the company shows up at the suborbital researchers conference in Colorado next week. Fortunately for those laid off, I think that a number of commercial space companies are hiring, including in Texas.

[Update a while later]

I would note that apparently Midland has joined the ranks of spaceports with no spaceships.

BEAM And SpaceX

They’re going to depressurize and repressurize the BEAM tomorrow morning. They seem to think that the material was just stiff from storage.

Meanwhile, less than a half an hour until today’s launch and landing attempt. The ship is on station, despite the growing tropical depression in the area. They don’t really have anything to lose from the attempt, unless the ship itself is at risk from the weather, but it’s not even a storm yet. The live feed is up, unlike yesterday.

[Update a while later]

OK, another perfect mission and landing. We’re rapidly approaching the point at which we’ll be surprised if they don’t recover the stage.

Hiroshima

I agree with Glenn:

All this talk about the Hiroshima bombing being a war crime is just virtue-signaling, mostly by people who would regretfully acknowledge the unfortunate necessity of obliterating, say, Texas…

[Update a while later]

No, Brian Williams, we did not use atomic bombs against Japan “in anger.”

As I said, second-guessing historically ignorant moral midgets.

[Update Saturday morning]

Hiroshima as gun control:

It is instructive to consider that if president Obama had been transported to 1945 nobody in the audience would have understood what he was talking about. By the same token Harry Truman would be scarcely comprehended if sent into the 2016 future to address the modern Democratic electorate. That is because these men, separated by 70 years, saw the arrow of causality as working in a manner opposite to the other.

To the World War 2 generation threats to mankind came from ideologies which once allowed to spread would automatically find the things necessary to effect destruction. The Atomic Bomb was incidental. An ideology on the loose in the 21st century would invent something else far more deadly. To that way of thinking a creed which vowed to destroy “the American way of life” would be seen as a menace with the same fervor that moderns would regard it as harmless. The ideas would be central, the things secondary.

Who is right time will tell. Truman’s record now speaks for itself. His legacy, the Pax Americana also known as the Long Peace, has prevented a general war for three generations, the length of living human memory. Some will say his achievement was accidental. By contrast the record of the man who now promises a world without nuclear weapons — his synonym for peace — has only just embarked on his plan.

It has been far from auspicious; according to a former secretary of defense the world is today closer to a nuclear conflict than at any time since the height of the Cold War. From the South China Sea to Ukraine, to the Middle East, the shadow of war is everywhere one looks. Perhaps one should give it time, as socialism and other sure-fire schemes should be given time, and we will not be disappointed.

It is ironic to consider that today’s generation perhaps has more blind faith than the men who 70 years ago defeated Hitler and Tojo. Moderns know what’s going to happen much more than people in the past. They read it in a book. They saw it on social media. They know it will be specified in talking points memos. We forget sometimes that by contrast the World War 2 generation had no certitude of triumph. They did not even know the Atomic Bomb was going to work or that they would perfect it before Hitler did. They could not have seen it as evil with the same retrospective certainty that Obama can. At each step of the way these young men won victory — can the word still be used without embarrassment? — with none of the certainty which today’s generation possess in such abundance.

RTWT.

But it’s worth noting (as he does not) that traditional Islam (and sharia) is a creed which vows to destroy the American Way of Life. You may not be interested in ideology, but ideology is very much interested in you.

Katie Couric

…decried “edited Planned Parenthood video,” then doctors an interview with a gun owner.

How perky of her.

[Update a while later]

Who cares about Hillary’s emails? Not we in the media.

[Update a while later]

The networks refuse to cover her perfidy against journalism. Yes, I’m shocked, too.

[Update a few minutes later]

Related: The media snoozed when Obama was tyrannically expanding the power of the executive branch, but they’ll pay more attention when Trump does it.

it’s nice to see the prospect of a Trump administration reminding folks on the left of this, particularly as the journalist and pundit classes are dominated by lefties. It’s terrible, we’re told, that Trump is issuing veiled threats to journalists — though Obama joked about auditing his enemies, seized journalist phone records and threatened a journalist who refused to reveal sources with imprisonment. Trump would be a warmonger, we’re told, although in fact Barack Obama has been at war longer than any other U.S. president, if without any particular success. Trump would arrogantly ride roughshod over any opposition, though Barack Obama famously used “I won” as an excuse to ignore opponents and bragged that he had a “pen (and) a phone” to bypass congressional disagreement. (And he’s used them a lot.)

Many of the journalists and pundits who see Trump as the next imperial president were silent over these Obama actions. Like Ron Silver with his fighter jets, they saw Obama’s envelope-pushing as fine because it was by their own president.

Yes, this is (sadly) why we have to have a white Republican in the White House. When it’s a Democrat, the media are lapdogs, not watchdogs.

[Update a while later]

Crickets from documentary film makers on Couric’s doctoring of the video. Because it’s not about the truth, it’s about the narrative.

[Saturday-morning update]

From Ace: Why I hate the media. One gets the sense that he is annoyed.