Author Archives: Rand Simberg

The Latest Attempt To Shame Men

I’ve never catcalled a woman, and I agree with Jon Gabriel; I refuse to be ashamed because some men are boors:

All gentlemen agree that catcalling is a bad thing. In fact patriarchal Victorians were so disgusted by such rudeness, they enforced an elaborate public morality that elevated women with a higher level of respect. Thank goodness feminism and secularism drove a stake through chivalry’s heart.

Today’s Victorianism comes from the left. They too have an elaborate public morality, but one that is untethered to tradition or religion. Their guiding scripture is whatever trendy philosophy is coming out of gender studies departments and mass media in a given month. Men leering at Beyoncé on an awards show is celebrated; similar behavior on the street is anathema.

For better or worse, I’ve never followed fashion. Not only have I never catcalled, I still open doors for women, surrender my seat on public transport, and ensure that I treat them with an extra measure of kindness. I was notified by several liberal men on Twitter that this is A Bad Thing.

You see, it’s good that I oppose catcalling, but bad that I don’t oppose it for the “proper” reasons. While my outward acts of kindness are nice, they arise from a belief that gender differences exist. To these critics, my actions are unimportant; my ideology must be condemned.

Pardon my language but eff these leftist totalitarian selective puritans.

[Update a while later]

Thoughts from Instapundit:

Chivalry was a system, which imposed behavioral obligations on both women and men. Women found those obligations too onerous, but still expect men to shoulder them.

And let’s be honest. What makes these catcalls offensive isn’t that they come from men. It’s that they come from low-status men. Like an unconsented kiss from President Obama, if the catcalls came from George Clooney there’d be much less female outrage.

In fact, maybe these catcalls are a way of striking back at privilege. Any grievance-studies major should be able to flesh out this line of thought…

No doubt. Except it would be politically incorrect.

Failure Is Always An Option

SciAm has a list of all the recent launch failures.

Note that for the past three and a half years, every single one (including last night’s) was built in Russia or the Ukraine. And the last two American ones (not counting last night’s) were both Orbital (separation problem on Taurus). Prior to that, the last American one was the Falcon 1 test program, which should really count, since it was in fact a test program. Orbital has no experience with liquid propulsion, which is why they outsourced it to Ukraine. That appears to have been a mistake.

[Update a while later]

Orbital’s stock is down 17% this morning.

[Update a while later, just before Atlas V launch]

Eric Berger’s thoughts on the implications. I agree that it’s not that big a deal, but I hope it accelerates and end to our reliance on Russian hardware.

Interstellar

A light-on-spoilers review.

[Tuesday-morning update]

Uh-oh:

Christopher Nolan’s epic new sci-fi film Interstellar has received measured acclaim from critics, who have praised its ambitious scale and effects but were less convinced about the story.

That was the problem with Gravity, too.

[Bumped]

A Boat In The Box

They just scrubbed the Antares launch of Cygnus to ISS, because the range was red due to a boat downrange. Am I the only person who thinks that this rule is stupid, and needs to be revised? As I said on Twitter, I don’t care if there’s an armada of boats in the box, as long as someone is flying a banner “AT OWN RISK.” Holding up a flight over this is insane. It’s the kind of hypercaution that keeps us from making more rapid progress in space.

The New Consensus Study

on evolution:

Our search resulted in 487,629 papers that mentioned “evolution” or “natural selection” in the abstract. However 451,412 of those could not definitively be placed into one of our seven position-defining categories*, no matter how hard we tried with our group of 20 reviewers. [The consensus view among us is that these reviewers are completely independent and objective; their common participation at our web site devoted to presenting pro-selection arguments, but nothing to the contrary, is just not relevant in this case.**]

Of the remaining 36,217 papers, 35,167 (97.1%) supported the consensus position that over half of the observed evolution over the twentieth century is due to natural selection. The fact that only 126 of these 35,167 papers were actually focused on critically evaluating the topic at hand, i.e. the different possible mechanistic explanations of observed evolutionary change and/or speciation (e.g. random drift, founder and other stochastic events, mutation rate variation, instantaneous genetic barriers, etc), is an irrelevant point, a complete red herring. We can reasonably assume that in at least the majority of 50% of the time, none of these 35,167 authors would indicate agreement with a position that they themselves had not carefully investigated, without having more than half of a predominantly pretty good reason for so doing***. It’s just not really half as difficult as people make it out to be when you boil it down. As we have now done. For you.

In conclusion, there is very clearly a very strong consensus as to the influence of natural selection on evolution during the twentieth century and this consensus has been increasing as the evidence increases. It is important that policy makers realize this and take action. Please pick this up and disseminate it widely so everybody knows about it; everyone else is, so you will be part of the consensus effort if you do. Thank you.

Heh.

Sharyl Atkisson’s Laptop

Worse than anything the Nixon administration ever did.”

And how about this? “Both CBS and the White House declined to comment.”

You don’t say.

[Update a few minutes later]

[Update a while later]

Thoughts from (lawyer) John Hindraker at Powerline:

If this were a Republican administration, every reporter in Washington would be on the story, as would various law enforcement agencies. Given that we are talking about a Democratic president, Attkisson shouldn’t expect any help. If I were she, I would hire one of the top litigation firms in Washington and look into suing appropriate federal agencies. That won’t be easy; the most obvious obstacle is that she has to have evidence that a particular agency was involved in the hacking/spying operation in order to survive a motion to dismiss, but it will be hard (maybe impossible) to get that evidence without the ability to do discovery in the lawsuit. But having her own lawsuit allows her to run her own show, and private lawyers are generally far more effective at unearthing and processing information than, say, Congressional committees.

Yup.

Financial Planning For Life Extension

An interview with Joel Garreau. Not sure I agree with this:

Boomer octogenarians in 2030 have “too many hard miles on their chassis” to fully benefit, but younger people may have trouble imagining the onetime prevalence of sickness and death.

I won’t be quite that old, but I think that there’s a good possibility that even for octo/nonoganerians there will be potential reversal of damage, and rejuvenation by then. And current government policies based on Scenario 1 (i.e., pretty much business as usual) are doomed to bankruptcy.

The “Time Served” Model Of Education

…is breaking down. This, I think, is the key point:

The conventions of the credit hour, the semester and the academic year were formalized in the early 1900s. Time forms the template for designing college programs, accrediting them and — crucially — funding them using federal student aid.

But in 2013, for the first time, the Department of Education took steps to loosen the rules.

The new idea: Allow institutions to get student-aid funding by creating programs that directly measure learning, not time. Students can move at their own pace. The school certifies — measures — what they know and are able to do.

The public-school paradigm is also based on a century-old model: industrial learning. Time to abandon it, but it’s hard, because it so benefits the status quo, even if it’s a disaster for the kids.

Baumgartner’s Skydiving Record

has been broken already. It’s inevitable that people are going to want to do this from a hundred kilometers.

[Update a while later]

Here’s the press release:

Roswell, NM – Oct. 24, 2014 – Following the record-breaking 135,908-foot space dive accomplished by Google’s Alan Eustace and the Paragon StratEx team, World View Enterprises, the commercial balloon spaceflight company, has acquired the technology from this history-making project. The acquisition will advance the company’s mission to pioneer a new frontier at the edge of space for travel and research.

“We’d like to congratulate Paragon Space Development Corporation® and its StratEx team along with Alan Eustace and all involved on their exceptional work,” said Taber MacCallum, World View’s chief technology officer, and Paragon’s founding CEO and CTO. “Without the efforts of these companies and Alan’s dedication, the project would not have been possible. World View is proud to carry the StratEx technology into the future by leveraging the incredible experience gained into a new era of space flights.”

For StratEx, Eustace was lifted to his peak altitude of 135,908 feet via high-altitude balloon, the same ballooning system that World View will employ to launch sailing-like journeys to the edge of space. While World View’s voyagers will ascend within a luxuriously engineered pressurized capsule, Eustace was kept safe from the elements in a self-contained space suit system designed with the goal of allowing manned exploration of the stratosphere above 100,000 feet. Paragon, which specializes in extreme environmental control systems, initiated the project with Eustace and worked with him to develop, build and manage the system used during the incredible space dive.

As former Paragon executives, World View founders Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter played integral roles in the success of StratEx. MacCallum served as CEO and CTO of Paragon and played a key role in the development of the StratEx program, then transitioned to the critical role of chief safety officer, working with the team to ensure Eustace’s wellbeing. MacCallum will leverage this experience from the successful StratEx dive in his role as the chief technology officer for World View. Jane Poynter, World View’s CEO, served as the president and chairwoman of Paragon throughout the development of the StratEx program.

The patent-pending technology developed for StratEx has been acquired by World View for future space travel and research flights, adding depth to World View’s systems for launch, recovery, communications, ballooning, tracking, mission control, avionics and aerodynamics, among others.

World View will have Voyagers floating peacefully to the edge of space for a one-to-two-hour space cruise within a luxury capsule complete with bar and lavatory, which is transported by a parafoil and high-altitude balloon. Guests will enjoy 360-degree vistas of the world’s most spectacular panorama, marveling at the beauty of the Earth below, watching the sun slowly rise above the curvature of our planet suspended in a vast, black and infinite universe. They can even share the experience in real-time with loved ones thanks to in-flight Internet access.

Individuals who wish to be a pioneer in this exciting new era of space exploration can reserve their World View flight with a $5,000 deposit; the remaining $70,000 is due six months prior to their flight. Visit us to reserve.

In addition to offering breathtaking experiences for Voyagers, the capabilities being developed by World View will offer unprecedented and affordable access to the near-space environment for educators, researchers, private companies and government agencies alike.

World View has a number of strategic partners in this endeavor. Paragon Space Development Corporation® has decades of experience developing life support and space-related technologies. Paragon is leading the design and development of the World View space capsule. United Parachute Technologies, Performance Designs and MMIST, all leaders in pioneering parachute technology, are providing expertise and support for the development of the flight system’s airborne guidance unit and innovative parafoil.

About World View

Offering a gentle, comfortable, and life-changing travel experience to the edge of space for private citizens; and affordable access to a range of near-space commercialization opportunities for researchers, private companies and government agencies, World View is pioneering a new era of discovery at the edge of space. Available today for unmanned commercial opportunities with an altitude threshold of 130,000 feet, and currently taking reservations for manned flights and private tours, World View is creating unprecedented access to the near-space environment. Watch the World View experience here. For more information, visit http://www.worldviewexperience.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for real-time updates.

ABOUT PARAGON

Paragon Space Development Corporation® is a premier provider of environmental control components and systems for extreme and hazardous environments. As an industry leader in designing and manufacturing of thermal control and life support systems, Paragon provides solutions for its customer’s most challenging extreme environment protection needs in space, on Earth, in water and underground. Founded in 1993, Paragon is a small business headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. For more information on Paragon please click here.

Maybe I just hadn’t been paying attention, but this is the first that I’d heard they were planning to do this. It had nowhere near the hype that Red Bull did with Baumgartner. Of course, the latter was about branding, so it makes sense that they’d give it a lot of publicity.