All posts by Sam Dinkin

If It Misses Mars…

Glenn at Instapundit points to a UPI story that says JPL thinks the odds of a 4,000 km flyby for 2007 W(M)D5 or less is 99.7%. If it’s not going to hit Mars, that increases the chances that it will slingshot around Mars toward Earth. Odds are likely in the 1 in a million range or less, but what if it did? I wouldn’t say “probably“, but let’s have some transplanetary musings!

Word is Back

I just lost four hours of work when Word 2007 12.0.6015.5000 died. Last time that happened that badly was when I was working on my dissertation in 1996. It not only killed the open file, but all of the open word files. No autorecover. Custom bullets then bam. Save early save often. My wife’s compact flash card is off to data recovery, too. Must have been that horseshoe that was pointed down. You might think Microsoft would tell me if my autorecovers are failing to save? Open the pod bay door HAL. Anyway, I didn’t have this problem with 2003. Ugh.

Dopey and Dazed


Does anyone find it dissonant that Iowan Democrats gave a victory to an admitted marijuana user to become President and the Senate is letting him keep his seat, while denying money to college students convicted of possessing illegal drugs?

The question that is begged is, “Does prior marijuana use help the chances of a Presidential candidate?”


Obama’s last speech had a fog index of 8.17 (higher is more academic). McCain, 8.14 (most recent 4 weeks old on hydrogen?!); Clinton, 9.5; Giuliani, 11.6; No speeches I could find on the Huckabee site, just responses to opponents jabs, his foreign affairs article got 13.05.

My prior beliefs were that veterans like Giuliani would speak at the lowest level of diction and Obama and Clinton would use their race and sex as license to be less “regular guys” and more intellectual. That the leaders for New Hampshire are the candidates with the lowest Fog index tells me that the other campaigns need to use the K.I.S.S. formula: “Keep it simple, stupid!”

Realignment of Presidential Punters

As of 7:20 EST Friday, on Intrade, Obama has moved up to $0.48 on the dollar vs. $0.50 on the dollar for Clinton. Clinton is showing as a close third to Edwards in Iowa dropped her from a high of $0.70 last week.

On the Republican side, McCain is trading at about $0.31 on the dollar for Republican nomination now ahead of Giuliani at about $0.27 with Huckabee at $0.17 and Romney at $0.14. Giuliani was trading at $0.45 at the beginning of December.

A political stock market, a class of info markets, is the best known device for aggregating poll data and all other available data, public and private about the chances of the candidates.

Obama-NH last trade at $0.65 out of $1.00 vs. $0.44 for Clinton. For SC, it’s Obama $0.62 with Clinton’s last trade at $0.42. Some arbitrage opportunities here to lock in more than $1 by selling short each candidate. McCain is trading at $0.75 for NH and in SC, The Rest of the Field (There’s no Huckabee security here for some odd reason) is trading at $0.40 vs. McCain’s $0.30.

Jenkins On Space

Holman Jenkins endorses space tourism, Bigelow and COTS in his Wall Street Journal Opinion column today as means to speed the time when humanity can survive a big rock hitting us on one of the planets where we live. (I write this from the Yucatan Peninsula which owes its formation to a big rock).

Unless you can avoid a newspaper in 2008, expect to be reading a lot about human extinction. In June arrives the hundredth anniversary of the Tunguska impact, which leveled 800 square miles of Siberia. By happenstance, a rock of similar size may smash into Mars on Jan. 30, affording scientists a close-up view of a planetary disaster….

At times like these, thoughts naturally turn to escape.

Kudos to “consultant Charles Lurio” who is cited and has been beating the drum for rationalizing space policy for years.

False Security from PPP Recalculation

Rand’s analysis of the restatement of the purchasing power parity (PPP) calculation for China is incomplete. As I’ve pointed out before, the revised 2006 PPP calculation with the economy measured at PPP nearly three times instead of four times as large as at official exchange rates still leaves China with a $2.5 trillion dollar economy (2006) at official exchange rates and $6 trillion if you consider most of what we and the Chinese buy is cheaper in dollars to buy in China than it is in the US. The relevant numbers for long term strategic security are the industrial production growth rate (from the CIA World Factbook on Intelligence) at 22%/year, the labor force of 800 million of which 45% do agriculture (2005) versus less than 1% for the US and the 11%/year real growth rate.

This indicates that China has a lot of head room as its agricultural sector mechanizes and rationalizes farm size. It has a lot of head room because per capita GDP is either $1,900/year at official exchange rates or $4,500/year at PPP. At 8% faster GDP growth than the US, it will catch us in 10 years in PPP or by 2030 at the official exchange rate. At that point it will still have substantial headroom to grow for another decade much faster than the US because per capita GDP at that point will only be 1/4 the US per capita GDP.

Like finding out that Iran doesn’t want a bomb, this new statistic is a red herring. China is still on the rise. It’s vainglory to hope they just topple themselves like Russia. Just because Iran doesn’t want a bomb (if it doesn’t) it still has a nuclear program and could have one if it wanted in a quite short period of time. Just because we recalculated the statistics to show that China has a smaller economy, it is still growing fast and with the revised calculations rates likely to grow even faster.

I am sure that single-party government will be a drag on China, but they can still field a super power’s worth of hardware once they exceed our GDP. It may take them a while once they are spending as much as the US is on defense to catch up to our technology level, but a tech advantage is not always decisive. Especially if they start outspending us 2 to 1 a decade later while their per-capita GDP is still half of ours.

Clinton vs. Giuliani

Intrade shows Clinton trading at about $0.67 on the dollar for winning the democratic nomination despite trailing Obama for winning Iowa and South Carolina primaries. Giuliani is leading trading at about $0.30 on the dollar for winning the republican nomination despite being behind in NH, IA, MI and SC.

Nuclear Battery

Business Week reports on a nuclear electric battery (more like a reactor) that has 27 MW for 5 years worth of juice and it’s “the size of a hot tub”. It’s patent pending (20040062340; search for “uranium hydride over at That’s about 64 cubic feet. That’s 1.2 terrawatt hours or 1.2 billion kwh. They say it’s 70% cheaper than natural gas–maybe $30 million? If it’s 54 cubic feet and pure uranium hydride (a high overestimate), it would weigh about 15 tons. Compare that with 15 tons of LOX and hydrogen with 66,000 kwh at 39 kwh per kg of hydrogen. Pretty good ISP. Thrust to weight not so good. Combine it with a reaction mass fill up on Mars?