Category Archives: Media Criticism

China’s Big Gamble In Space

A brief history of their program, from Joan Johnson-Freese.

I’d note that as long as they follow the Soviets/Russians lead in tech, they won’t be doing anything big. Like the voyages of Zheng He, it seems to be more about prestige than expansion. If and when SpaceX starts to reuse their launchers, that will set the new bar for space activity.

The Problem With Ebola

It isn’t the virus, it’s the incompetence. Not to mention the venality.

[Update late morning]

Amazingly, left-blogger Atrios (aka Duncan Black) agrees:

Ultimately the point is that as of now, Ebola is a small problem in the United States overall, if a very serious problem for the people infected by it, and we have failed to deal with this small problem. The lack of clearly established systematic responses to potential deadly disease outbreaks is extremely worrying. If a genuine epidemic occurs, there’s no reason to think the response will be any better.

At least as of now, there’s no reason to be frightened of Ebola. Turn off cable news and go about your day. A small number of infected people is not an epidemic. But there is reason to be frightened of the apparent inability of our institutions to deal with an actual epidemic, or true national emergencies of any kind.

Yes. As has been pointed out ad infinitum. when the government (and particularly the federal government) tries to do too many things, it ends of doing none of them well.

A History Of SpaceX

There’s a good article over at Quartz about the company and Elon. It had a few errors, though.

And the response?

That’s exactly how it should work.

The Party Of Lynching

warns (ignorant) Democrat voters in North Carolina of lynchings if Republicans win.

If they want to play that game, put together a few thirty-second ads with history lessons about the (Democrat) Klan, and the (Democrat) Bull Connor, and the (Democrat) Lester Maddox, and the (Democrat) George Wallace. And a reminder that Lincoln was a Republican, and that the voting-rights act would not have been passed without Republicans.

[Late-morning update]

Oopsie. Senator Pryor’s college thesis, called desegregation “an unwilling invasion” (as opposed, I suppose, to a willing one?).

Democrats, once the party of racism, always the party of racism.

Nuevo Colorado

Continuing our tour of the six new Californias proposed by Tim Draper, this new state would be the only one with no Pacific coastline. Nonetheless, it has tremendous potential that is currently being hamstrung by Sacramento (or rather, the coastal voters who dominate the legislature). It would have a population of a little over four million, equivalent to Kentucky, and about a million fewer than Colorado. But as I’ll explain, its red depiction on the map below is appropriate, because it could be viewed as another Colorado in the making, except one only a couple-hour drive from the ocean.

Continue reading

The New State Of Silicon Valley

Continuing my series (I now have four states up at Ricochet), the next state is Silicon Valley.

Unlike North California, Silicon Valley would be the new state with the most geographically misleading name. Shown in yellow on the map, it would encompass the current Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County, but it would also include all else on that peninsula, including San Francisco, and the East Bay all the way up to Oakland and Berkeley in Alameda County and the bedroom communities of Contra Costa County, all of which is quite densely populated. And beyond that, it would also extend south, all the way down into the Big Sur coast, to the southern Monterey County line. It would be the third largest of the new states, with a current population of almost seven million, like Arizona, Washington or Massachusetts.

Continue reading

The Bioethics Of Mars Settlement

An interesting article over at Slate that raises similar concerns to mine:

If we send heterosexual astronauts, of different sexes and of reproductive age, on extended space missions, then the possibility of pregnancy looms. To ward that off, could it be ethical to demand sterilization for any potentially fertile astronauts in a mixed-sex crew? Radiation exposure may eventually take care of the issue by causing infertility, but some pregnancies could happen before infertility occurs. Is conception even possible in the zero-gravity of space, or in the low-gravity, high-radiation habitats on Mars? If so, would a fetus develop normally?

We don’t know, since it would seem patently unethical to even conduct these sorts of experiments today in space or anywhere else, at least with human subjects. Again, the physical and psychological dangers of procreating and living outside of Earth can seem inhumane, especially for involuntary subjects (the children). Yet many plans for space exploration already take it as a foregone conclusion that humans will reproduce in space. For some, it’s a crucial part of the business plan, as in the case of Mars One’s goal of moving toward a “permanent human settlement.”

As I noted:

What I would suggest to the Mars One people, though, is given that they’re planning to spend billions on this project, and the long-term goal is to have true human settlement of the planet, which necessarily involves offspring of the settlers, they devote a modest amount of their budget funding research that NASA has completely neglected for decades, but that others have privately proposed, to establish a variable-gravity laboratory in orbit where we can start to understand these issues. The fact that NASA (or Congress) have never given such research any priority whatsoever is eloquent testimony to how unimportant both consider the goal of spreading humanity into the solar system. But until we do, young people who want to go off to barren (at least initially) worlds will have to continue to face the prospect of remaining barren themselves.

Space really isn’t important, politically. Just “space” jobs.

[Update a few minutes later]

Meanwhile, Kate Greene says that economics would dictate that a Mars mission consist of all women.

Here’s my problem with that. While of course mass is an important consideration, it isn’t the only one. I would argue that any Mars mission would have to be based on an affordable mission concept, and that if it is, mass won’t matter that much, and if it isn’t, no one will go. Beyond that, I think there’s a flaw in the logic here, or at least insufficient information:

Week in and week out, the three female crew members expended less than half the calories of the three male crew members. Less than half! We were all exercising roughly the same amount—at least 45 minutes a day for five consecutive days a week—but our metabolic furnaces were calibrated in radically different ways.

During one week, the most metabolically active male burned an average of 3,450 calories per day, while the least metabolically active female expended 1,475 calories per day. It was rare for a woman on crew to burn 2,000 calories in a day and common for male crew members to exceed 3,000.

We were only allowed to exit the habitat if we wore mock spacesuits. So many Martian hassles, so little glory.

The data certainly fit with my other observations. At mealtime, the women took smaller portions than the men, who often went back for seconds. One crew member complained how hard it was to maintain his weight, despite all the calories he was taking in.

She doesn’t say, but is it possible that maybe the men were doing more physical work? If so, it might be that if the women had to do all of the heavy lifting, their calorie consumption would increase too. In any event, if you just want to send people to Mars for the sake of sending people to Mars, a female crew would be fine, but if you want to settle the planet, there would be a problem…

[Tuesday-morning update]

There seems to be a lot of off-topic whining in comments about what will be “allowed.” I said nothing about government involvement. I simply expressed an opinion that, given current knowledge, it would be unethical to attempt to have children on Mars (or even in weightlessness). I stand by that opinion.

Judith Curry’s WSJ Op-Ed

She rounds up the (hysterical and unhinged) reactions:

Climate science has been thrown into disarray by the hiatus, disagreement between climate model and instrumental estimates of climate sensitivity, uncertainties in carbon uptake by plants, and diverging interpretations of ocean heating (in the face of a dearth of observations). ‘Certainty’ arguably peaked at the time of the AR4 (2007); perception of uncertainty is arguably greater than any time since the FAR (1991). Yes of course we know more about the climate system than we did in 1991, but more knowledge about the complex climate systems opens up new areas of ignorance and greater uncertainty.

In context of the way climate sensitivity is defined by the IPCC, uncertainty in climate sensitivity is decreasing as errors in previous observational estimates are identified and eliminated and model estimates seem to be converging more. Climate model simulations, when compared with 21st century observations seem to be running too hot, giving creedence to the lower observation-based sensitivity values.

What do the lower values of climate sensitivity imply for policy? Well slower values of warming make it easier to adapt, and provide time to develop new technologies and new policies. But the true believers such as Mann et al. call adaptation, developing new technologies and policies as ‘inaction.’ The policy logic apparent in the essays critical of my op-ed are rather naive.

So we are left with science in disarray and naive logic regarding policy. And the ‘warm team’ wonders why people are yawning?

She should cite my piece on the precautionary principle.

Curing Alzheimer’s

…with a ketogenic diet?

Ketone esters are in a class of supplements called “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS by the FDA. They are expensive, difficult to find, and taste nasty (I’ve smelled some, and it was a bit like salty urine). There are no long term studies of the safety of these supplements in humans, though high ketone levels were maintained in severely obese, fasting patients for 6-8 weeks and there seemed to be no side effects. The main risk might be an exacerbation of gout, but truly, the long term consequences are unknown. For someone with dementia facing an inevitable downward spiral and life in a long term care facility, the question of benefits versus risk is a different calculation than in someone without that condition.

After a few days of escalating doses, Mr. Newport was brushing his own teeth, spontaneously dressing and bathing himself again, had improvements in mood, and was able to recite the alphabet. After 6-8 weeks, his memory improved and he started to do yard work again. After 20 months, he maintained definite improvement, with his cognitive function seeming to wax and wane with rising and falling ketone levels in his blood.

While this report is just a single case study, it does merit more clinical investigation. Given the severity and cost of the disease, the possibility of a far more effective treatment than what we currently have must be explored further.

It actually wouldn’t surprise me at all. Alzheimer’s may be just one more modern illness caused by the awful official dietary advice over the past six decades.

Bias In Academia

…is destroying scientific integrity:

OK, it’s not exactly a “Sopranos” plot. But it’s pretty shady for the world of higher education. Chen went to great lengths to make up fake email addresses and even assume the names of other scientists to write approvingly of his own research.

In a sense, though, he was just exploiting the deep flaws of the peer review system. The academy has become a kind of club where friends give friends flattering assessments of research, which essentially guarantees promotions and tenure.

Here’s how the former editor of the British Medical Journal explained peer review:

“The editor looks at the title of the paper and sends it to two friends whom the editor thinks know something about the subject. If both advise publication the editor sends it to the printers. If both advise against publication the editor rejects the paper. If the reviewers disagree the editor sends it to a third reviewer and does whatever he or she advises. This … is little better than tossing a coin.”

But it’s not just the clubbiness of academia that is to blame. There is such ideological uniformity in the ivory tower that no one ever questions the important assumptions behind anyone else’s research.

Gee, where have we seen that sort of thing before?

I’d note, though, that contra the headline, it’s not a “liberal” bias. It’s a leftist bias.

Obama’s Great Ebola Error

The last time a president tried to make a health crisis about national security, fifty million people died.

It’s not surprising, really. Wilson was our first truly fascist president (complete with racism). Obama is simply following in his (and Roosevelt’s) footsteps.

And meanwhile, we don’t really have anything resembling a national response. So I guess ebola is just another thing that the president has no strategy on.

[Update a while later]

Well, this was inevitable. Ebola is the GOP’s fault. Because they’ve been in charge of the CDC, with its emphasis on junk nutrition science and gun control, while its budget rose.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The problem with the argument that it’s Republicans’ fault.

As Glenn says, if Congress was smart, it would force the CDC to shift funding from all the junk science it’s been doing, and start focusing on actual infectious diseases. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world in which Congress is smart.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The CDC is losing its grip. The country’s in the very best of hands.

Greg Orman, “Mystery Businessman”

Really? Only if you’re an idiot, or a Democrat partisan hack (both of which descriptions, often simultaneously, describe many in the media).

As Glenn says, there’s no mystery. He’s a Democrat pretending to not be one until after the election, at which point he’ll happily caucus with Harry Reid. And the media will help carry him across the finish line.

There Oughtta Be Fewer Laws

Some thoughts on the potential (and often actual) tyranny of prosecutorial discretion:

“If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows he can choose his defendants. This method results in “the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.” Prosecutors could easily fall prey to the temptation of ‘picking the man, and then searching the law books …to pin some offense on him.’ In short, prosecutors’ discretion to charge — or not to charge — individuals with crimes is a tremendous power, amplified by the large number of laws on the books.

As Glenn often says, we need to take away sovereign immunity from these people.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of the injustice of law enforcement, some thoughts on civil forfeiture, in which someone can be deprived of their property without a trial.

The Disintegrating Obama Presidency

Steve Hayes has a long piece (necessarily, because it’s such a target rich environment) on how it is chock full of fail.

[Update a couple minutes later]

This isn’t from the essay, but rather from Jonah Goldberg’s latest “newsletter” (so no link), but it seems apt:

Islamic State took Fallujah and Mosul months ago and he kept calling it the “jayvee team.” As recently as August, he was telling Tom Friedman that it was ridiculous to arm the Syrian rebels. In September, he was wistfully complaining that the Islamic State made a mistake in beheading those Americans because it aroused U.S. public opinion for war. In other words, doing nothing about the Islamic State was Obama’s foreign policy until the domestic political situation made his foreign policy untenable. Chess Masters think many moves ahead, novices respond to whatever their opponent’s latest move is. Total amateurs just move pieces based on shouts from the crowd watching the game. Obama’s like a kid looking for approval every time he touches a piece.

It’s sad because it’s true.

What If Republicans Win?

Roger Simon is concerned about what Barack Obama will do, or at least attempt to do:

Barack Obama is a man unaccustomed to losing. Life has been exceptionally kind to him, sailing, as he did, through balmy Oahu sunsets, college, law school and career on into the presidency with scarcely a bump. He has been a protected man beyond any in recent memory, feted and praised virtually everywhere he went until the last couple of years. Even now, despite catastrophe after catastrophe, there are acolytes who continue to celebrate him, paying tens of thousands merely to have their photographs taken with him.

When such cosseted people are forced to confront failure, they typically do not do so with grace. They are rarely able to admit fault, as if even a crack in their pristine facades could lead to extreme personality disintegration. We have already seen manifestations of this in Obama’s refusal to acknowledge something so obvious as his own inability to foresee the dangers of ISIS, aka the JV team. Insider books by Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta have appeared in rapid succession, implying or directly alleging that the president lives in a bubble, unwilling to listen to advice. He frequently threatens to — and sometimes does — go around the Congress to get his way via, often unconstitutional, executive fiat. We all know that he lies, constantly.

This man is angry but highly unlikely to go into an anger management program. Imagine what will happen after November. We could be looking at behavior that would fit the very definition of “acting out,” anti-social but on a global scale. And he still has two more years in office.

I share his concern.