Is The Dam Breaking?

Via a commenter, I see that James Randi, who has sort of a history of spotting scientific fraud, has apparently lost his mind and become a “denier”:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — a group of thousands of scientists in 194 countries around the world, and recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize — has issued several comprehensive reports in which they indicate that they have become convinced that “global warming” is and will be seriously destructive to life as we know it, and that Man is the chief cause of it. They say that there is a consensus of scientists who believe we are headed for disaster if we do not stop burning fossil fuels, but a growing number of prominent scientists disagree. Meanwhile, some 32,000 scientists, 9,000 of them PhDs, have signed The Petition Project statement proclaiming that Man is not necessarily the chief cause of warming, that the phenomenon may not exist at all, and that, in any case, warming would not be disastrous.

Happily, science does not depend on consensus. Conclusions are either reached or not, but only after an analysis of evidence as found in nature. It’s often been said that once a conclusion is reached, proper scientists set about trying to prove themselves wrong. Failing in that, they arrive at a statement that appears — based on all available data — to describe a limited aspect about how the world appears to work. And not all scientists are willing to follow this path. My most excellent friend Martin Gardner once asked a parapsychologist just what sort of evidence would convince him he had erred in coming to a certain conclusion. The parascientist replied that he could not imagine any such situation, thus — in my opinion — removing him from the ranks of the scientific discipline rather decidedly.

History supplies us with many examples where scientists were just plain wrong about certain matters, but ultimately discovered the truth through continued research. Science recovers from such situations quite well, though sometimes with minor wounds.

I strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid.

Emphasis mine. I think that claiming that there is a “consensus” and that “the science is settled” are semantically equivalent to “I can’t imagine any such situation.” Such people are many things, but they are not people who truly respect, or even understand, science. They are politicians, encouraging political acts.

[Update a while later]

I’ve deleted my reference to Little Green Footballs, pending the outcome of an ongoing civil email conversation with Charles.

The Race Is On

I noted in my Popular Mechanics piece last week that Jeff Greason was “cautiously optimistic” that XCOR would have the funds in the next few months to complete Lynx.

Well, they have a press release out today that reveals what he was optimistic about:

The Yecheon Astro Space Center announced today that it has selected XCOR Aerospace as its preferred supplier of suborbital space launch services. Operating under a wet lease model, XCOR intends to supply services to the Center using the Lynx Mark II suborbital vehicle, pending United States government approvals to station the vehicle in the Republic of Korea.

…Working closely with its partners, Yecheon Astro Space Center has formed a broad coalition of regional and national entities to fund the approximately $30 Million project to bring the Lynx to Yecheon for space tourism, educational, scientific and environmental monitoring missions, making it the early leader in commercial manned space flight in Asia. Under the envisioned arrangement, Yecheon will be the exclusive Lynx operational site in Korea.

“As part of our long term strategic plan, we have performed an extensive review of the suborbital vehicle suppliers over the past 18 months, and found XCOR’s Lynx to be the best mix of safe design, reliable clean propulsion, skilled team members, full reusability, ease of operation, turn around time, upfront cost and long term cost to operate,” said Mr Jo Jae-Seong, Founder and Chief Executive Director of Yecheon Astro Space Center. “We look forward to a long term relationship with XCOR and Lynx!”

Note that the plan is to use a Lynx Mark II. In other words, while Virgin Galactic’s Will Whitehorn has run down the Lynx in the past, claiming that it didn’t really go into space, because it didn’t make it to a hundred klicks, the Mark II will, and the new plan is for there to be a single Mark I prototype/test-vehicle, with follow-on vehicles all being spacefaring Mark IIs. Jeff said that his schedule was funding constrained, but it looks now as though, as long as they hit their milestones, that constraint has gone away. That could mean Lynx flights in a little over a year, which means that they’ll be going head to head with Virgin, schedule wise, with much lower operational costs.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that only one company will emerge. They’re different approaches, with different markets, and the markets are large and diverse enough for both.

Of course, they may run into other schedule problems in the interim, perhaps not technical — I’m sure they had to already grease the ITAR skids to do this deal, but I can still imagine potential for it to throw some sand in the gears.

Anyway, this is really great news, on the 106th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight. I wonder if they chose the date of the announcement deliberately, or if it was just coincidence? There’s no mention of it in the release. Of course, the release has a date of 17th/18th, because it’s already tomorrow in Korea (as it often is in California), and Jeff is reportedly over there now.

For subscribers (and if you aren’t you ought to be) Charles Lurio has a lot more info at The Lurio Report.

[Update a few minutes later]

It’s worth pointing out that XCOR plans to spend an order-of-magnitude less money in development than Virgin does (thirty million versus at least two hundred million and probably more). This means that they’ll not only have lower operations costs, but also less development cost to amortize per flight. This shouldn’t necessarily be surprising, as Virgin has a much more ambitious project, carrying more passengers, with two vehicle types, plus spaceport investments. XCOR is more of a shoestring operation, with a single-passenger vehicle. And of course, both of them make the EADS estimate of a billion dollars to develop a European suborbital rocket plane look ridiculous.

[Late afternoon update]

Clark Lindsey summarizes some of the info from Charles’ newsletter. Also, go hit his tip jar, so that he can go keep doing what he’s been doing.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, so it looks like the next couple of years are going to be very exciting in the suborbital reusable rocket world. We now have at least five serious players, with hardware being built and scheduled test flights coming up. We have two horizontal/horizontal (VG and XCOR, with the former two stage and the latter single stage) and three vertical/vertical (Armadillo, Masten and Blue Origin). Even with XCOR’s new deal, VG ang Blue remain the ones with the deepest pockets, and the least likely to fail due to capital constraints. Armadillo comes in next, though I suspect that John is starting to think seriously about looking for other peoples’ money, because while he’s wealthy, he’s no Bezos or Branson. It’s hard to know what Blue’s schedule is because they’re so secretive, but their recent agreement to fly payloads indicates that they plan to have a lot of air under the nozzle soon. Of the three vertical contenders, they’re probably furthest along in having a space-faring vehicle, because I don’t think that Armadillo or Masten have put serious resources into aeroshells yet, which will be a key development for them to leave the atmosphere.

Blue, Armadillo and Masten are closer in technical approach than any of them are to the others, or XCOR and VG to each other, though I’m sure that there are not-insignificant differences in propellant type, propulsion design, structure, etc. The really great thing is that we’re finally going to start to try lots of different things, and let the winners be sorted out by the market, instead of multi-million cost-plus simulations and trade studies. If NASA is smart, it will be buying lots of rides on all of them, just so that it can see how well the different approaches work, and to encourage innovation and diversity. But then, if wishes were horses…

Stock Up On The Popcorn

Fresh from the hoosegow, Jim Traficant wants to run for Congress again.

I sat on the subway with him under the Capitol once, years ago. He treated me like he’d known me forever, even though we’d never met. I guess that kind of personality is a key ingredient to being a politician.

[Update a couple minutes later]

I should add that his hairpiece really did look like a dead animal. It’s kind of funny what kind of hairballs representative democracy will cough up and send to Washington.

Maybe It’s Because You Are A Loser

What kind of idiot puts themselves $125,000 in debt to get a theater degree?

Alfred said he owes more than $125,000 for his degrees in theater when he’s not even working in that field.

“I work at a call center, and I make $10 an hour,” he said. “It’s surreal. I feel like a loser.”

I continue to think that academia is the next big bubble waiting to pop.

[Mid-afternoon update]

Another reason to think that college degrees are a bubble waiting to pop: a goodly amount of the email spam I get is hawking them, with subjects like “Get the degree you need,” and “Nominate for the degree” (what in the world does that even mean? I’ve never heard of “nominating” for a degree). The latest one is “Get any degree you want.” If that doesn’t devalue the notion of a degree, I don’t know what does.

No Honor Among Thieves

Good news from Kyopenhagen — things are falling apart:

Government ministers can’t agree on the best way to take money from their own citizens, give it to an opaque, above-the-law organization, and yet still control it; because, of course, with all that money comes power. Negotiators are skittish about how they can ensure that the money pledged will actually be paid into the pot, and if it does, who gets to dole out the funds. Everybody wants a piece of it, but nobody trusts anybody.

Well, they shouldn’t.

Unfortunately, as he notes, this is only a temporary setback. The leftists will regroup, and make other attempts in the future.

The Unraveling Continues

We now have substantial evidence, from several independent sources, that the data used as the basis for the IPCC report has been adjusted in undocumented ways, and those adjustments account for nearly all the warming we are told has been caused by humans.

The manufactured consensus continues to fall apart.

[Update early afternoon]

Just like that, the warming is gone:

Given all this manipulation and cherry-picking, you should ignore the press releases that will undoubtedly be coming from NOAA (when they return from snowy, cold Copenhagen), NASA, and Hadley about how this has been among the warmest years, and how the last decade was the warmest on record.

I guess that Heidi Cullen will be calling for the former head of meteorology of her employer to be “decertified.”

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!