Saturday, June 22, 2013

Starships, cultish non-science and exciting advances

Another potpourri of science wonders!  After an announcement or two... and a brief re-look at METI.

First - announcing: a first round of videos are now up from the Starship Symposium at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, with speakers Peter Schwarz, Freeman Dyson, Patti Smith, Geoffrey Landis, Neal Stephenson, Robert Zubrin and Chris Lewicki… all about the prospects for some child born today to possibly becoming an interstellar voyager.  Sublime …

Mythbehaving… and… Mythbehaving is a way-fun site filled with interesting podcast interviews and other goodies.  I gave them an hour recently and it went pretty well, with only one or two foot-in-mouths mixed in with lots of ideas.  About science fiction, dystopias, augmented humans, science, movies, advice-for-writers, clues to piercing propaganda and so much more!  Good for your daily commute.

And scroll downward if you want to skip past the METI stuff to a pile of terrific links about science wonders! Seriously, some of the news is spectacular.

==METI Redux ==

But briefly, back to the ridiculous.  A week or so ago I called for public and media attention to zero in on a pack of fools who arrogate a right to speak for all of humanity, and who for ego and brazen profit, are deliberately altering a major physical attribute of our planet, veering our descendants onto a destiny path that they might later regret -- and all of it without even a scintilla of scientific responsibility or subjecting their schemes to collegial criticism or review.

METISome expressed surprise over my opposition to METI or "Messaging to ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence." Snarkers and trolls called me "paranoid" for demanding the responsible equivalent of an adversarially questioned environmental impact statement and peer-reviewed due-diligence - exactly as every biological researcher does, every year -- before deciding such things on behalf of all of humanity. Paranoid? Heh, people who say that have clearly never read anything I've written, in a long life spent exploring every concept of the "alien", via science and fiction. Okay, it's made me keenly aware of the vast range of what's possible, good, bad, indifferent or weird.
 
Folks who would sneer at Shell or Exxon for claiming "nothing can go wrong" at a stockholder meeting, while wriggling out of responsibility for "unlikely" outcomes that later prove devastating, are happy to plunge ahead with blaring stunts that might pose a small but real chance of causing our descendants deep regret.

The "discussion" at most of the sites that carried this imbroglio, including Science2.0, consisted largely of arm-waved "of course" assumptions, especially appeals to the "cat's out of the bag" or the "Barn Door" excuse that Earth has already been noisy for a long time… and not one person did any reading to see if that Hollywood myth is … actually… true.  (Hint: real scientists, using real equations, find that "I love Lucy" became background static within half a light year after departing Earth.)


But it is not the "danger" that motivates me, nor all the other top figures in the SETI field who have resigned from major commissions in protest over what Carl Sagan and Frank Drake and others denounced as faddish foolishness.  No, it is the callow rudeness of ignoring
every procedure of adult science.  Zealotry is no substitute for maturity. For-profit scamming is no substitute for actual science.  Rudeness is no substitute for common courtesy. I don't blame the snarkers for knowing nothing about how science works; but the purported "scientists" pulling these stunts… aren't scientists.

Oh… have a look at one of the "winning" animated gif and messages Lone Signal is beaming out, to represent us. (What is he picking at?) Never mentioned: these "selections to represent humanity" are chosen on a pay basis, a for profit biz, using a radio telescope paid for with our tax dollars, to emit #$@! like this.

But there is a sensible wing. Let's expand the number of telescopes that are looking and listening!  For example: a young Equadorean astronomer is trying to drum up interest in building a "second Arecibo" in his homeland. of course I am very interested in a second Aricebo, though most attention is going to the Square Kilometer Array which will go to South Africa with some facilities in Australia.

SETI-LeagueI am even more interested in the other end, expanding SETI to amateurs!  Finding a millionaire who would fund (for only a couple of million dollars) the creation of a turn-key amateur radio telescope that 5000 hobbyists might easily afford to erect in their backyards. With just a few thousand, we would then cover all of the sky, all of the time and catch most transient events, quickly notifying larger observatories to steer their antennae onto the source and catching it before it goes away. Naturally, this would help SETI to become much more serious and effective, but it would have many other great benefits.

Only now dig this postscript about the "Lone Signal" dopes: as it turns out, their refurbished radio telescope cannot do what they advertise, so it is also a scam.  Basic calculations by the Benfords show that they will not deliver anywhere near the on-target visibility that they claim.  In other words… sigh… never mind.

== Onward to REAL science! ==

What we should be doing, while learning as much as we can about the cosmos, is becoming a civilization that deserves contact with anyone decent out there… and that is mighty enough to withstand contact with anything indecent.  And it is happening!  For example:

Take the 3-D printer revolution. Combine it now with another burgeoning trend, research aimed at creating digital avatars that contain much of your personality, that can emulate you. What starts to take shape?  How about a possible precursor to Kiln People in real life? See: This man is not a cyborg. Yet.

ArkydCheck out this 3 minute retro-type humorous video about Planetary Resources and their aim to mine asteroids. Boy bazillionaires can afford some fun stuff.  But do participate -- help fund Arkyd, the first publicly accessible telescope on Kickstarter!

Met a fellow who is helping to develop "tri-alpha fusion" power.  This method will use a much simpler magnetic pinch system than the absurdly and hopelessly ornate Tokamak to fuse protons with Boron 11, in a reaction that releases three alpha particles (hence the name) or Helium3… but with almost no neutrons. That last item is crucial, because it eliminates most sources of radioactivity and destruction of the container lining.  Here's hoping.

Physicists are in a lather. They found the Higgs Boson, right where theory predicted it -- but then uncovered theoretical quirks showing that they should not have discovered it, even though they did. Is this proof that we live in a cosmos that is merely one bubble in a fantastically ginormous "multiverse"?  Humbling beyond humbling.

== And more wonders… space! ==

Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf and the star closest to our system, will pass in front of two background stars in the next few years, offering opportunities to do great science by "micro-gravitational-lensing."


dnews-files-2013-06-mars-rat-abandon-130606-200Ah, human pattern recognition.  Recall the "face on Mars"?  Now look up "Mars lizard"!  Then click here for the "rat on Mars." Oh, my.

== Biology and all that! ==

And while the subject is "rats"... The naked mole rat lives about 10 times longer than mice. And unlike mice, (especially lab mice, 95 percent of whom die of cancer), the mole rat is impervious to the disease. A sugar, called hyaluronan, binds cells together. While all animals have hyaluronan, the mole rat’s version is unusually large: about five times the size of that found in humans, and it pretty clearly is the key. Interesting. But then why don't other species do this? Do we get some benefits from skating along the edge of cancer risk?  Stay tuned for a story about that!

Along similar lines… a possible "cure" for PTSD? Scientists identify a gene in traumatized mice that is also linked to post-traumatic stress disorder in humans – and find that a drug can treat symptoms in mice by triggering a key brain receptor.

And… Your gut bacteria can affect your brain… apparently.


Go placidly because getting upset a LOT might affect your unborn grandkids. "Your ancestors' lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain."  In other words, Lamarck - and Greg Bear - may get a last chuckle and mom's craziness may never be escaped.

Study shows correlation between language and altitude. Yes, altitude.

At Teardrop Glacier, high in the Canadian Arctic, 400 year frozen plants have sprung back to life. The glaciers in the region have been receding at rates that have sharply accelerated since 2004, at about 3-4m per year. That is exposing land that has not seen light of day since the so-called Little Ice Age, a widespread climatic cooling that ran roughly from AD 1550 to AD 1850.

== And back to space and sci fi ==


KerbelKerbal Space Program is a space mission simulator game. The player takes command of a space program run by little alien-ish creatures called Kerbals. The player can build and customize rocket ships to blast off the planet and then attempt to fly their ships through space to reach other planets and moons. And half of the staff of JPL are - apparently - addicted, even though it's only in prototype!

== A tsunami of technology! ==

OrCam, an Israeli start-up, has developed a camera-based system that gives the visually impaired the ability to read easily and move around freely. OrCam reads text and recognizes faces, locates bus numbers, monitors traffic lights, and identifies objects, products and places, and uses sound (via bone conduction) to convey information.


Speaking of which… a telltale quirk in brainwaves appears to correlate in toddlers with later diagnoses of autism. 

Researchers at Bell Labs in New Jersey say they've used compressive sensing to build a camera that needs no lens and uses only a single sensing pixel to take photographs. What's more, the images from this camera are never out if focus. The same approach works for other wavelengths of light such as infrared and millimeter waves. It takes time to acquire the data for each image. So the camera only creates images of still scenes. Cool!  Almost as cool as knowing Bell Labs is back in business.

And… saving the most-stunning for last.  This is simply incredible. Scientists have taken the first atom-by-atom pictures, including images of the chemical bonds between atoms, clearly depicting how a molecule’s structure changed during a reaction.  Click and see.  If you know any chemistry, you'll be stunned.

I mean dang.  Wow.

102 comments:

ZarPaulus said...

Correction, 95% of inbred lab mice who were intended for cancer studies die of cancer. In general 95% of mice don't live long enough to develop cancer.

David Brin said...

Zar Paulus right! Revised. BTW, if you click to that "winning" moving gif image they are beaming out on our behalf, that's just the first half. In the 2nd hald he eats what he's picking out. Right boys, show us at our best.

David Brin said...

This is just cute fun. You'll chortle:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/06/22/194232860/weekend-special-what-if-a-cricket-fan-had-to-suddenly-announce-a-baseball-game

Robert said...

Just as a brief aside, it's been fun watching a Kickstarter for a visual game for the webcomic Megatokyo. You see, the cartoonist has had a bunch of RL stuff happening that caused a significant slowdown in updates including a couple hiatuses - part of this was due to a recently-diagnosed complication to an irregular heartbeat that was fixed by burning or freezing part of the heart muscle.

Mr. Gallagher never really thought his comic would ever return to the heyday of its early updates. And he definitely didn't think this Kickstarter would be a success.

It blew through the initial $10,000 goal in under three hours. And not even five days in, it's over $125,000 and looks to be on track to have all three parts funded (with the theoretical possibility of a $500,000 joke goal Mr. Gallagher added at the very start of being funded as well).

What makes this truly interesting, however, is seeing how all these old-time fans of the comic have emerged from the woodworks. People who've not read the comic in years or who thought it had died have returned to the forums... and mentioned how it was learning of the Kickstarter that alerted them of the comic still being around.

Thus Kickstarter has not only become a source of crowdfunding... but it has a role as a social network in and of itself. Interestingly... it may even be a new platform for the next generation of author... who may publish initially online and then use Kickstarter and its like to generate sales for a print compilation of their story that is funded by people who want their own copy in print. Or even in a different format entirely.

Rob H.

Jonathan S. said...

The article about possible multiverses seems to assume that if the physical laws resulting in our universe are "unnatural", that is not necessarily the only possible outcome of the base state, then there must be a wide number of universes in a multiverse where life didn't happen - "because otherwise why should we be so lucky?"

The odds of rolling three sixes on three six-sided dice is one in 216. Yet if I throw those dice and get 18, there is nothing compelling me to roll 215 more times just to fill out some probability table. The assumption that every possible combination of physical laws must have been tried seems to me no better supported than the idea that this universe just got lucky. The assumption that it would "prove" that a multiverse exists makes no sense to me.

Jumper said...

The physics link and subject reminded me of David Zindell's Neverness, in which in the future it is mentioned that scientists have identified some tens of thousands of "elementary particles" before it slowly dawns on everyone that there is something about the quest which is a blind alley... I find this a completely believable scenario.

I predict some breakthroughs which will have many slapping their heads "Doh!" over what will seem obvious then but arcane now.

If I'm not mistaken, too, there is lots undetermined about the topologies of multiple dimensions.

Progress is forthcoming.

Robert said...

Actually, rolling three sixes on three six-sided dice is not totally random. It's only random if all the variables leading to the toss are random each time. If I train myself and put the dice a certain way in my hands I can increase the odds of sixes appearing more often when I throw the dice. It's not perfect, especially as we don't have the ability to repeat an action identically each time... but rolling an 18 on three six-sided dice can easily be nudged to become something you see far more often than predicted.

Mind you, I'm a gamer and a GM. So yeah, I've a bit of knowledge about 3d6... and the tendency to roll well. ;)

Rob H.

Jim Baca said...

how about a nice short story on what would happen if violence were bred out of humans.

Tony Fisk said...

Try Niven's first Kzin contact story (The Warriors?).

David Brin said...

Good points Robert & Jonathan.

Jonathan S. said...

Yes, "The Warriors" is the title of the story. It wasn't so much that violence was "bred out" of the human race, though (what genes would govern that??), but that it was regarded as a form of mental illness, and treated with meds and counseling. (Fortunately the captain of the Angel's Pencil, being a Belter, was somewhat less heavily treated than his colleagues...)

Ian said...

Mole rats are the only known eusocial mammal and live in extremely hostile environments.

It's possible that their hyper-efficient cancer defense is just energetically very demanding. (As opposed to a less developed form of defense like ours providing actual benefits.)

Then too Mole rats have a bunch of other weird adaptations - like an ability to tolerate extremely high carbon dioxide levels and an ability to move rapidly from a state of extreme torpor to violent exertion.

Maybe one of those other adaptations causes an elevated cancer risk.


David Brin said...

Got it backwards Ian. Skating close to cancer (but not over the line) probably confers an advantage to the rest of us. An advantage rendered unimportant in the mole rat world. Which let them grab the low hanging longevity fruit.

Robert said...

Going back to politics, this article takes an interesting and disturbing take on political elites in the U.S. - specifically the Presidents. Outside of a few areas such as gay marriage, which the article describes as a "pressure valve" to "distract" people from real issues, the two parties have marched in lockstep when it comes to major policies such as globalization, military actions, privatization of the military, and so forth.

The last has made me wonder. If the suspicions of an aristocratic caste like Dr. Brin loves to espouse about are correct... then might the privatization of the military be about creating a private military force that will dwarf and be more powerful than the U.S. military... and thus be able to achieve a violent takeover should it be necessary?

Historically, where do we see private the role of private military forces being predominant?

Feudalism.

It's almost enough to make you believe Dr. Brin's conspiracy theories. The problem being that it takes but one person to squeal. We've not seen any genuine whistlebowers come out against this Aristocratic Elite.

They're not THAT good.

Rob H.

Ian said...

But I thought WE had harvested all the low-hanging fruit, David.

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Jumper said...

Robert, see Booz Allen Hamilton

Ian said...

"...then might the privatization of the military be about creating a private military force that will dwarf and be more powerful than the U.S. military."

If it is, they're doing a lousy job of it.

The use of private contractors in Iraq was about avoiding oversight and minimizing the number of US troops involved in a politically unpopular occupation.

That's bad enough but there's no way in hell Blackwater et al could have operated without parasitizing the US military's logistics.

Paul451 said...

Robert,
"Outside of a few areas such as gay marriage, [...] the two parties have marched in lockstep when it comes to major policies"

Just to be contrary, apparently that doesn't hold true at the state level: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/democrats-and-republicans-differ-drastically-liberty-and-security

"We've not seen any genuine whistlebowers come out against this Aristocratic Elite."

Que? There are whistleblowers all the time. Most recently Edward Snowden revealing the private, outsourced intelligence company, Booz Allen Hamilton. Or the NSA whistleblower who claimed that they are spying on FISA judges, Intelligence Committee members, and Obama. Or... The problem is the media is more interested in the "dead agenting" ("ooo, his girlfriend is a stripper") than in listening to whatever whistle was blown.

That said, there's no single conspiracy to take over the US. It's just piecemeal mutual interest power-grabs by those elites. Ie, Obama opposes Bush's power grab, then continues it when it becomes his power. Think of it like the way police forces become corrupt. Colleagues protect a "good cop" who makes a mistake that threatens his career or a case. Then they're protecting cops who "verbal" a suspect or plant evidence to get a known gang-banger off the street, or ignoring drinking problems or domestic abuse, or a higher up who goes soft on the friends on minor charges; not to mention beating suspects, bad shootings, planting evidence against innocent people. Then they're turning a blind eye to cops who "supplement" their income by stealing cash during a drug bust, or selling info to PI's or journalists. Soon they're all shaking down dealers instead of arresting them. Then they're openly taking bribes, from street cops to judges to the Mayor. And anyone who threatens them is framed or killed. (Examples such as the Chicago cops accused of torturing someone into become a CI. Or the current NY case of wrongful murder conviction by corrupt cop. Or the Georgia cops who've confessed to planting drugs on a woman who made a sexual harassment claim against the Chief Magistrate. Or...)

Ian said...

The IRS also targeted groups with the words "Progressive" or "Occupy" in their names.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/24/irs-tea-party-targeting-report-werfel/2452935/

David Brin said...

youse guys is sooooo cynical

dig it, I am too. All odds have always been against the Enlightenment. So? Our parents re-invigorated it. So did Union soldiers, with their blood. Are we lesser men?

Don't answer that. Instead, ponder how to live up to their example.

Oh, Ian? I have fought the privatization of force relentlessly. It is part of a genuine oligarchic conspiracy.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"It is part of a genuine oligarchic conspiracy."

A conspiracy involves an agreement,

I think we are seeing a large number of people believing that their own best interests are served by certain actions.
This results in common action but is not "a conspiracy"

Which is a shame - a conspiracy would inevitably leak and fail

The fact that a lot of rich people believe similar things is more difficult to fix

Incidentally I think they are wrong and that direction leads to the guillotine

Alfred Differ said...

At the risk of being guilt of confirmation bias, that autism correlation fits our experiences with our son uncomfortably well. My wife used to sing along with songs on the TV when he was young and he most certainly did not like it. Eventually he learned a single word to express that dislike and she stopped... mostly. She was definitely using motherese and much of that stopped shortly afterward when he would use the same word. We originally wrote it off as him being a music critic, but she's not THAT bad and I'm worse. 8)

He still doesn't like the sing-songy voice when we use it. Now I have some ideas about why I can try out.

Ian said...

I find the use of private military contractors worrisome on several levels.

but if the paln is to create a force capable of going head to head with the US military, the conspirators either aren't very competent or are taking a very long-term approach.

Blackwater (now Academi) has a few thousand employees. They have a very limited sea-lift and airlift capacity. They have no armor, no artillery, no offensive air capacity.

It's almost as if they were designed to perform nasty little black-ops operations requiring a few hundred lightly-armed infantry who depend on the US military for everything from getting to and from the battlefield to getting fed while they're there.

Ian said...

Since we were talking about US bonds earlier:

1. The average maturity of US treasuries is a bit over 5 years. So a rise in interest rates, in the short term, will only result in an increase in the debt servicing cost on around 20% of outstanding bonds plus any new bonds issued.

The debt servicing cost last year was circa $360 billion.

It'd take an extremely severe increase in interest rates sustained for 5-10 years for US debt servicing to reach $1 trillion or more.

2. When interest rates rise, bond prices fall for already-issued bonds. (I can explain that if people like, I know it sounds counter-intuitive.) If the US government does succeed in achieving a budget surplus within the next few years then, given the low current rate of interest, they may be able to buy back bonds at below face value. (Yes, I know many peoplw doubt that will happen. Certainly, the Republican Party will do everything in their power to prevent it.)

This would represent a classic sell-high/buy-low tactic and would result in further falls in the outstanding debt.

3. Even if the Federal government doesn't achieve a surplus, many states and municipalities will. (Of course, Republicans will hail the first sign of black ink as proof that taxes are too high.)

Paul451 said...

Very parochial, but it made me unreasonably happy: The Australian Federal Senate passed a motion calling on the Australian Vaccination Network to disband and end its campaign against vaccination (AVN is a virulent anti-vaccination group.) The motion has no binding power, but it means that a majority of our upper house actually supports a sciencey thing.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-25/senate-passes-motion-urging-aust-vaccination-network-to-disband/4779882

Paul451 said...

Ian,
The conspiracy isn't that private military are intended to go up against the US military, but that they are intended to be used where the US military can't. Such as on the US mainland, posse comitatus.

"who depend on the US military for everything [...] to getting fed while they're there"

Actually, much of this kind of logistics was the first thing to be privatised.

Re: Treasury bonds.
It's worth emphasising Ian's point, that higher interest only applies to newly issued bonds. Interest on existing bonds is fixed for the term of issue. Therefore if the US budget was in surplus, 7% interest would not matter a jot, no matter how much the US had borrowed at 1-2%. And even if it wasn't in surplus, the 7% would only be paid on newly issued debt, again regardless how much was borrowed at 1-2%. Tacitus should worry about how much the US borrows at 7%, not how much it borrows at 1%.

Tacitus, imagine you thought interest rates for you personally would increase over the next few years to 7 times what they are today, but today you could fix a loan for 30 years at 1% interest with no repayment of principle until maturity. But on terms where at any point you can repay the principle (only if you want) before 30 years; and the higher the interest rates rise, the lower the cost to pay your loan back! (Because who wants a 1% 30yr bond when you can buy bonds with a 7% return?)

If you think the US will see 7% treasuries in a few years, you should be screaming for the US govt to borrow trillions today.

Jumper said...

Posse Comitatus doesn't mean what many people say it does.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act

Alex Tolley said...

If you think the US will see 7% treasuries in a few years, you should be screaming for the US govt to borrow trillions today.

If the US government did borrow trillions, rates would rise, probably faster than if they don't borrow. But since we are in a liquidity trap, rising rates would be a good thing, assuming that they indicated higher inflation.

This mantra of the sky is falling because of debt has been pushed for so long that it has become tiresome. Peterson alone has been banging this drum for over 25 years!

I was amused that during the 2008 US election, the Paul Rand supporters were going door to door with leaflets showing the absolute growth of debt. No thought at all that it should have been ratioed to GDP. Trying to explain just creates cognitive dissonance in these folks.

David Brin said...

Ian: "It's almost as if they were designed to perform nasty little black-ops operations requiring a few hundred lightly-armed infantry who depend on the US military for everything from getting to and from the battlefield to getting fed while they're there."

Except that Halliburton now does all of that. Except the heavy artillery part.

locumranch said...

David's continues to make logically inconsistent argument:

Does Lone Signal's METI represents a scientifically ineffectual fraud or a potential threat to the future of humanity?

He tries to have it both ways even though he cannot. He has no reason to object to this attempt if it is either ineffective or fraudulent, yet he does object often & strenuously to this attempt as if it was both dangerous & effective.

He then talks about becoming a civilization that deserves contact with anyone 'decent out there' (wherein 'decent' is a synonym of 'polite', 'moral', 'respectful' and 'kind') while simultaneously preaching belligerent militarization (aka becoming 'mighty enough to withstand contact with anything indecent').

So, which is it? Peace & kindness or Force & violence? According to Sun Tzu & Minimax theory, we have no choice. We must prepare for war in times of peace, and we must be ready to slaughter any ETs who are foolish enough to visit us.

Zap pow pow !! Take that you alien slime! That'll learn ya to question our all-to-human maturity, morality & intentions.


Best.

DavidTC said...

So, it turns out that after months of everyone being completely mislead by Republicans, what the IRS actually did was come up with a very obvious 'Is this a political group?' detection based on the name, and, _unlike what everyone claimed_, it was entirely politically neutral.

It was basically exactly the list anyone else would have come up, with 'blue', and 'progressive', and even pot legalization groups. It was a list of keywords that political groups of _all_ strips tend to call themselves.

Of course, sorting by name seems a pretty stupid way to do this, but it doesn't actually seem to be any sort of _wrongdoing_ as a first pass filter, and it is now an absolute fact that it wasn't any sort of partisan effort.

The Republicans sat on this fact and continued to lie about it for weeks. And they deliberately asked the inspector general about targeting of _conservative_ groups only, not bothering to ask for a general report on _who_ was targeted.

The real question, David Brin, is whether or not you're willing to acknowledge this, or whether you desperately need for there to be some sort of Democratic wrongdoing to demonstrate how 'fair' you are?

(And I wonder what Stewart is going to say, also.)

David Brin said...



Locumranch, I know your gotcha zingers sound like slam dunks to you. But wait for the prefrontal lobes to kick in, when you are no longer a snarky 16 year old. The "inconsistencies" you cite simple aren't. Not even a scintilla.

Example. My biggest beef was not that the Lone Signal doofuses were endangering us as much as they are unscientific, rude jerks who (for ego and profit) have bypassed all of their responsibilities as both scientists and adults, to vet POTENTIALLY dangerous projects by extensive collegial criticism and review. That blatant sin and tort stands, whether or not they are also incompetents who are lying about their capabilities.

I took the time to lay this one out. Alas, the same dopey illogic is seen in nearly all of your "gotchas." And I will not deign to waste my time answering any more of them, till you at least show some effort at growing up, a little. Sorry, I have insufferably smug-illogical teenages of my own. I won't adopt you.

DavidTC, you show similar puerile tendentiousness in decrying my "evenhandedness." I have done more to effectively combat the right-wing insanity in America than any other twenty people you know.

Yes, I do swivel and point to the left. Nu? I should ignore malignantly dangerous polemical liars, just because they are allies of my allies?

Feh. Pointing out lefty foibles does not weaken my case against Sean Hannity. It gives me the cred to say "Liberals are not leftists; the democrats did not give power to their side's crazies, the way your side has. And THAT is the biggest reason why we can trust them with power, and we cannot trust your side with a burnt match."

But there is another reason to willingly diss lefty madness, when it appears. Because the left is fucking DANGEROUS!

Sure. not right now, in America. But I remember the evil empire. The USSR was rotten through and through. And I was on college campuses when lefty crazies did truly vile things. And even today, many political correctoids turn my stomach, as I know what they would do, if they ever took real power.

I hate the fact that we must one-stop shop with the Democrats, the only sane political force in American life. Do YOU like that fact? One reason I push HARD for a resurrection of Buckley conservatism is because I want a useful, critical, adult opposition again. Millions of conservatives - trapped by their character trait of reflex loyalty - might wake up and perform this resurrection.

We had better pray so.

LarryHart said...

DavidTC:

So, it turns out that after months of everyone being completely mislead by Republicans, what the IRS actually did was come up with a very obvious 'Is this a political group?' detection based on the name, and, _unlike what everyone claimed_, it was entirely politically neutral.


Which is exactly what I thought it was when the "story" first broke.

Tim H. said...

In the Kansas GOP, "Moderate" has become a bad word.
http://www.kansascity.com/2013/06/23/4309326/sandy-praeger-finds-herself-an.html
Perhaps the GOP will again become something an independent can consider, but I'm not holding my breath.

locumranch said...

A wise man once told me that portraying our fellow citizens as hopelessly unscientific rude jerks (who have bypassed all of their adult responsibilities) is simple plot-laziness, "The Idiot Plot" he called it.

So, why would this man, this paragon of enlightened constancy, resort to this particular cheat, assume the worst about the potentially adverse consequences of METI or choose to create a "close-hero jeopardy", just to win a non-empiric argument about the imagined response of fictional aliens?

Move along, move along, you sheepish doofuses, nothing to see, absolutely no irony whatsoever, here in the palace of Consensus Science & Reasoned Populism, no humorous incongruities at all.



Best.

sociotard said...

I have a question about disbanding the AVN. Can you explain why you are comfortable with this?

Don't get me wrong, I am pro-vaccination.

But, how much teeth does this mostion carry? Is it more of a "pretty please stop what you are doing" kind of thing, or does it actually require them to stop advertising? If it is the latter, I am somewhat disturbed.

How does this work with whatever your equivalent is of "right to free speech" and "right to peaceably assemble".

Tony Fisk said...

Just a minute....

Texas. SB5. Sen. Wendy Davis filibusters abortion bill past the cut-off time. In breach of process, and with an est. 160000 witnesses, Senate votes on it anyway.

Rule of yeehaw!

Ian said...


"But, how much teeth does this motion carry?"

None whatsoever.

Tony Fisk said...

Update: the lt. gov of Tx appears to have accepted that sb5 vote occurred after curfew. (12:03am) ie dead.

Tony Fisk said...

and in other news, Kevin Rudd is now leader of the ALP, but isn't technically Australia's PM, yet

Robert said...

I have to wonder if the recent antics of the Republican Party in Texas might break the stranglehold Republicans have in the Lone Star State. And if it might be taken as a wakeup call by moderate Republicans to retake their party before it's too late, as they watch Democrats and other parties seize seats in Texas on the local, state and Federal level.

Because I want my old Republican Party back. I don't want the party to be dead. I want this fever to break and for the political party to shake its head and go "what the hell were we thinking?"

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Back to busy mode, so posting will be sporadic.

Regards the new IRS revelations. This is still preliminary information, too soon to sound any "all clear".

In particular there is notable information missing such as:

Were the differing BOLO alerts handled in differing fashion? I have seen one commentator who suggests that the Tea Party cases were uniformly referred higher up for special scrutiny but that other groups could be given the green light on the authority of lower level agents. (and were they?)

How many groups of each type were flagged? What was the outcome of each group? What was the delay to final resolution yea/nay for the two groups?

I am not a conspiracy guy, but this sort of shenanigans demands a complete airing out. If you disagree, ponder a future GOP administration.

I find the discussion of bond rates interesting. One difference with bonds from state/local entities is that they can't do the Federal thing and just expand the money supply. They need to pay people now. Oh, Illinois is finding a few ways around it I suppose.

The problem with insolvency at the base of the governmental pyramid is that something has to give....

You pay your current pension obligations, or your municipal bond holders, or you continue current services to your community. Real cash. Next pay period.

If you are short of cash, one (or two?) of the above will be starved.

I had an interesting (meh, inadvertent pun) discussion with a Dutch banker earlier this year.

He was discussing Greek bonds. Evidently they are still being sold. I said, "who would buy them?". His answer was either tongue in cheek or the scariest thing I have heard this year...

"People willing to take a high risk of default in order to have their gain exceed their principle in six months."

I would expect that there are relatively few sewage treatment plants and bridge repair projects underway in Greece these days...

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

On topic of David Brin, if not the topic at hand...

Ok, on my third reading of "Infinity's Shore", I'm noticing something that never registered before concerning the unnammed reason the g'Kek are so despised by the Jophur (page 471-472 of paperback):


It is said that g'Kek bodies could never have evolved on a planet. Our wheels and whip-like limbs better suit the artificial worlds where our star-god ancestors dwelled before they gambled a great wager, won their bet, and lost everything.


WON their bet?

So the issue isn't unpaid gambling losses. Something more interesting is going on.

Hmmmmmmmmm.....

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

I had an interesting (meh, inadvertent pun) discussion with a Dutch banker earlier this year.

He was discussing Greek bonds. Evidently they are still being sold. I said, "who would buy them?". His answer was either tongue in cheek or the scariest thing I have heard this year...

"People willing to take a high risk of default in order to have their gain exceed their principle in six months."


I had a similarly scary discussion about the stock market a decade or so ago, long before the 2008 crash. I was wpndering at the time about the trend of stocks no longer paying dividends, which to me seemed to be the whole point of owning them.

A very intelligent fellow programmer assured me that the value of stocks is not in their dividend payout, but in the fact that someone else will buy them from you at a higher price. I asked what would motivate that other person to pay for stocks whose (seeming) only value was that some other sucker would pay for them, and he assured me with a completely straight face that that was sufficient motivation.

Sent a chill down my spine.

I've argued for a long time that the stock market is NOT a Ponzi scheme becaue the ownership of companies provides real value, but the market itself is doing its best to convince me I'm wrong about that.

Ian said...

"I would expect that there are relatively few sewage treatment plants and bridge repair projects underway in Greece these days..."

No, there's tons.

All paid for by those evil neo-Nazi monsters from the EU.

Tacitus2 said...

Ian

Could you provide a reference for this please? The info I have been able to browse up seems conflicting regards public works projects in Greece.

Oh, and you were probably speaking tongue in cheek, but neo-Nazi is offensive as a code word for German.

Tacitus

Ian said...

As for Greek bonds:

http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/GGGB10YR:IND/chart

Select the One Year view.

As the likelihood of the Greek government defaulting on its debt has declined the yield on Greek bonds has fallen by more than half - from ca. 28% to ca. 14%.

In other words, the value of the bonds has more than doubled.

Sounds like a good investment to me.

Alex Tolley said...


@Tacitus
"People willing to take a high risk of default in order to have their gain exceed their principle in six months."

Why should that raise an eyebrow. Buying bonds with high yields (high default risk) and playing the risk arbitrage opportunity on whether the EU central bank will bailout Greece sufficiently or not to protect the euro seems quite reasonable to me.

@Larry Hart
"I asked what would motivate that other person to pay for stocks whose (seeming) only value was that some other sucker would pay for them, and he assured me with a completely straight face that that was sufficient motivation.

Sent a chill down my spine."


You are confusing a stock with a perpetual zero coupon bond. What you say seems serious based on the dividend discount model (DDM) of stock prices, but it isn't.

The shareholders have a right to assets, and those unpaid dividends are just added to retained earnings. So shareholders can vote to have the company liquidated and those earnings distributed. Work out the numbers and you will see that dividend policy has no effect returns.

Now your story might have some meaning if the company was private or you couldn't get voting stock, but it also means that no-one, including teh managers can get out assets either.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

The shareholders have a right to assets, and those unpaid dividends are just added to retained earnings. So shareholders can vote to have the company liquidated and those earnings distributed. Work out the numbers and you will see that dividend policy has no effect returns.


That's the answer I was looking for ten years ago when I asked the question.

What was "chilling" was that no one could GIVE me that answer. THEY thought that the whole reason to buy a stock was to sell it at a higher price--full stop. No one seemed to think the question of what COMMANDED that higher price was particularly important.

locumranch said...

"But it is not the "danger" (of Lone Signal's METI) that motivates me ... it is the callow rudeness of ignoring
every procedure of adult science"


As evidenced by the above quote from this thread, there appears to be an underlying thematic element that may explain why many of our scientific discussions tend to devolve into politics:

A growing obsession with protocol, policies & procedures.

Representing either an affectation or infatuation, this tendency toward increasing ritualization, this confusion of consensual formality with scientific thinking, is proof-positive of a senescent (dying) civilisation, IMO.

And, just as "Zealotry is no substitute for maturity" and "Rudeness is no substitute for common courtesy", I put it to you that maturity, protocol & common courtesy are NOT substitutes for either science or critical thinking.

I see this trend up close & personal as a practicing physician and I despise it even though it starts innocently enough. First, we use empiric evidence to develop appropriate medical therapies. Second, we treat our patients. Third, we create treatment guidelines to optimize the provision of this medical care. Fourth, we bastardize these guidelines through consensus, 'collegial criticism' and political revision. Fifth, we embrace these guidelines with professional zealotry, treating our guidelines well and our patients (increasingly) poorly.

What we are left with is empty protocol, courtesy & consensus for their own sake and ritual for the sake of ritual, leaving critical thinking & the scientific method bruised, bloodied & abandoned on the wayside like the proverbial red-headed stepchild.

__
Note to LarryHart:

In the absence of a dividend (wherein the stock only has value when someone else purchases it), the Stock Market is a Ponzi scheme. The 'shareholder right to assets (by liquidation)' favours the dominant (preferred) shareholder (not the little 'common share' investor) & presupposes an outside purchaser or new investor, so much so that the relative value of the liquidated assets may or may not be imaginary, esp to the Common shareholder. Remember the Lloyd's of London scandal!
___

Best

Alex Tolley said...

@locumranch - so all investors are deceived? *rolls eyes*

Alex Tolley said...

@ Larry Hart - I suspect people just use the shortcut. The underlying assumption is that either dividends will eventually be paid (c.f. INTC, MSFT, AAPL) or that someone will force asset distribution. This information is impounded in the price, so it is rational for investors to invest in non yielding stocks. There just isn't any incentive for managers to do anything that might dissuade an investor from continuing to believe that. Isn't that one purpose of the market, price discovery through liquidity?
Good to know that what you found chilling, was the reaction to your question, rather than the premise. Please tell me you didn't get your replies from equity analysts. Now that would shock me (unless they were pulling your leg).

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch:

>>A wise man once told me that portraying our fellow citizens as hopelessly unscientific rude jerks (who have bypassed all of their adult responsibilities) is simple plot-laziness, "The Idiot Plot" he called it.

Reread it and you'll see that the wise man was mostly referring to social institutions and NOT humans as individuals. As individuals, many of us are quite nutty and quirky, but very human. As social institutions, though, we are far from the simplistic portrayals offered in idiot plots.

You are welcome to your quirkiness, but you do waste our time while you learn. I have seen you occasionally offer back something that makes the effort worth it, but it isn't in your attacks on David's positions. When you flesh out ideas and offer reflections of propositions that demonstrate how they sound in other ears, you add value.

The problem you face right now is that you don't know HOW to attack effectively. Try reflection for now. It goes like this....


Is 'this' what you mean when you say 'that'?

Does 'this' conflict with 'that'?

What you said 'here' makes me think of 'this'?

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding the ignorance concerning the reason equity has any value in the first place, I've seen this in analogous situations many times.

The dollar bill in my pocket used to be a certificate I could redeem to command a certain amount of silver. No more. From what foundation does it now derive any value? Who influences that foundation?

When I went to purchase my first house, the seller's realtor wanted a deposit from me along with my offer. What was I buying? I asked him and all he offered in return was that this was the custom. I learned later after I got my own agent what I was purchasing, but only by cobbling together what he told me and what I had learned about options/futures trading.

Government offered bonds are all sorts of fun to think about since the issuer is the regulator. Where exactly is the value derived from? A regulator can change a promise. 8)

Life is full of these things. Ultimately, we see value where we think we see it. Occasionally we maintain the illusion so long that it works. Sometimes someone turns on a fan and the illusion dissipates like smoke. Value is just a human belief.

David Brin said...

Alfred Differ, thanks but don't bother. He actually thinks that he is parsing logical assertions and reaching actual "gotcha" conclusions. It's kind of endearing and it adds flavor to the yapping antics.

Jonathan S. said...

What, people are still reading locumranch's word droppings? You've got more patience than I do, I can tell you that.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

Please tell me you didn't get your replies from equity analysts. Now that would shock me (unless they were pulling your leg).


Nope, just fellow work colleagues discussing the purchase of stocks.

Alfred Differ:

The dollar bill in my pocket used to be a certificate I could redeem to command a certain amount of silver. No more. From what foundation does it now derive any value? Who influences that foundation?


A gold-bug on this list argued that without a tangible backing (gold or silver), we're engaging in "faith based economics" because the value of a dollar is based on the assumption (faith) that someone else will trade value for it upon demand.

It made me consider the fact that that appraisal has nothing to do with gold backing. Even GOLD money has value only to the extent that it can be traded for value.

Comodities are different. If you are a family farmer, you might grow food to fulfil your own needs first, and then trade any surplus for other forms of value. Whatever you don't trade away is still valuable to you--you can eat it. So your economic decisions amount to "I can keep 5 day's worth of food, or I can trade 2 day's worth away for things I can't produce myself." The food is valuable (in different ways) whether you keep it or trade it.

All exceptions duly noted, gold is ONLY valuable if you trade it, just as paper currency is only valuable if you trade it. Unlike a pile of food, a pile of gold does you no good on a desert island. The value of either gold OR paper currency presupposes that other human beings find the medium of exchange as valuable as you do.

In a real sense, the whole economy IS faith based. That doesn't mean it doesn't work. But the faith-based nature of it has nothing to do with what the dollar is (or is not) backed by.

Doris said...

Future science: warp drive via negative energy focused by a Ford-Svaiter mirror:


http://news.yahoo.com/why-warp-drives-arent-just-science-fiction-150255793.html

Randy Winn said...

Tony Fisk said...
Texas. SB5


Anyone notice the importance of transparency to what went down?

1. Over 180,000 people are reported to have watched the live feed. Everytime the Chair made an illogical ruling (e.g. "Roe v. Wade is not germane to a discussion of abortion") it was not confined to the room, but essentially to the world.
2. The Chair tried to claim that the vote was completed by midnight. However the software that generated the official record said no, the last to votes happened the next day (on the 26th), as was clearly visible to any of us who looked at the website.
3. Someone (unnamed) then altered the website so that the votes appeared to have been taken on the 25th. Fortunately at least one legislator was smart enough to have printed paper versions of the site showing the shenanigans (...and I could not have been the only one watching who took a screen capture).
Faced with this evidence that the Ministry of Truth had tried to rewrite history, the Chair came up with a cover story: the vote had been done on time but he had neglected to record it until after the deadline - thus the measure failed without anyone having to admit wrongdoing (one doubts the identifier of the website guy will be disclosed).

No doubt the Governor will call another special session so the game can be played all over; the "conservatives" (...as they call themselves, but they aren't really...) can pass the bill, it will be held up in court until the Federal Supreme Court does something-or-other, and ultimately women will win their freedom.

But were it not for all those web viewers and screen captures and whatnot, the deed would have been done as it had always been done before.

Progress!

locumranch said...

How precious, to confuse criticism with maliciousness, ritual with rationality, fiction with reality, and experimentation with recklessness.

As 'investment' literally denotes commitment, devotion & belief, all 'investors' delude themselves by definition, *eye roll*, imbuing the object of their devotion with mindless belief, and this truth applies to all objects worthy of investment, including individuals, finances, faiths, fantasies & reasoned theory.

Rather than a clearinghouse for interest-generating loans secured by material collateral, the modern Stock Market has become a Ponzi scheme by definition ... which is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows us old-timers to offset our inflation-based currency losses on self-deluded youngsters.

So, keep the faith, brothers 'n sisters. Keep pumping your monies into the stock market. My IRA thanks you & I thank you.


Best.

Paul451 said...

Sociotard,
"I have a question about disbanding the AVN. [...] But, how much teeth does this mostion carry?"

None at all. Its author, Richard Di Natale, described it as - "Just asking them to pack up and go home."

I was just impressed that there's enough respect for the science to get a majority to support it. (Or as someone else put it: "It was like spying a rare lorikeet among the dull, fat pigeons that crap all over the lawns of Parliament. Amid the grey flutter was a bright jewel.")

"or does it actually require them to stop advertising?"

No, but there is an overlapping issue. Apparently they were found to be in breach of advertising laws, due to their misleading name, and have been required to change the name. (Which they are fighting in court.) The Senate's "please go away" motion is completely separate from that, but may have been energised by it (Kick them while they are down.)

"How does this work with whatever your equivalent is of "right to free speech" "

We don't have one. (**) The High Court has found that we have an implied right of "political speech", and I assume this would protect AVN's existence. It may also prevent the commerce and advertising regulator (ACCC) from requiring the name change, but that would require the AVN to argue in court that they are a political lobby and not a health campaign. That would then require them to comply with Australian electoral law, such as publicly listing larger donors, and be in breach if they haven't. (Oh what a tangled web we weave...)

(** The only individual constitutional rights we have is the right not to have religious tests on participation in public office, the right to trial by jury (sort of), and the right to just compensation for property acquired by the Commonwealth. Everything else is indirect.)

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
"All exceptions duly noted, gold is ONLY valuable if you trade it, just as paper currency is only valuable if you trade it. Unlike a pile of food, a pile of gold does you no good on a desert island."

I guess this is the exception, but the outside a few gold-bugs hoarding bullion, the value of gold is only in the market demand for its use. Some industry and a lot of jewellery. The drop in the value of gold at the end of the 20th century was due to reserve banks dumping it as their main asset, which pushed the price below the true market rate. But much of the spike in the value of gold in recent years is due to the rise in the demand for gold in traditional Indian wedding gifts, thanks to successful social manipulation by the Indian gold jewellery peak body. (Just as De Beers did for diamonds in the west.)

There was a recent sharp drop in the price of gold that was caused by a countering social-shift away from gold as a wedding gift (apparently a famous soap-opera actress had a non-gold-gifts request for her much publicised wedding, which created a trend). The price recovered following a renewed advertising campaign by the Indian jewellery association.

I like to make that point to currency gold-bugs. The value of your currency would depend on the demand by Indian soap actresses for gold wedding gifts.

Paul451 said...

Larry, that was agreeing with you, in case I wasn't clear.

Ian said...

Other dictionary meanings of investment:

- any covering, coating, outer layer, or integument, as of an animal or vegetable.

- investiture with an office, dignity, or right.

- a refractory material applied in a plastic state to a pattern to make a mold.

- a siege or blockade; the surrounding of a place with military forces or works, as in besieging.

I'm surprised Locumranch didn't mention them since they have as much, and as little, to do with the common use the term as the ones he cites.

Paul451 said...

At least a better target for METI. Gliese 667C has 6 or 7 planets, of which THREE are inside the habitable zone (all super-Earths.) And still only 22 light-years away. If life is reasonably common, that's a triple chance of complex life and intelligence evolving. And with three possibly habitable neighbouring planets, colonisation will be more like Golden Era boy's-own SF, increasing the chance of a long lived civilisation (surviving single-planet disasters).

http://www.universetoday.com/103131/three-potentially-habitable-planets-found-orbiting-gliese-667c/

DavidTC said...

DavidTC, you show similar puerile tendentiousness in decrying my "evenhandedness." I have done more to effectively combat the right-wing insanity in America than any other twenty people you know.

I decry your 'evenhandedness' because something like 80% of the stuff you complain about the left is _bullshit_ for various reasons.

For a fun example from the same article: Sen. Leland Yee has _not_ proposed legislating 'against' 3-d printers. He instead has stated he's planning on writing some legislation requiring serial numbers, like they already have on guns and normal printers, and possibly background check and registration, like they already have on guns.

Do you even have a hypothetical nightmare scenario caused by 3-d printers putting their serial number on things they make? Because you actually forgot to tell use what the hell that horrible scenario could be. (Aren't you the guy who thinks inequality would lessen if every single thing and property was labeled with who owns it?)

And if we are truly going to ban the possession of gun by certain people (An idea that everyone on the political spectrum seems to agree with.), we do need to actually think about the fact that instead of buying a gun, someone can now make one. That is an _actual thing_ we need to consider at some point in the future.

Now, perhaps Sen. Leland Yee legislation is not the ideal solution...oh, wait...he has neither proposed or even _written_ it yet, so perhaps it is literally impossible to judge it yet.

But you feel free to pretend someone saying 'Hey, technology has introduced a new way that people can get guns, we have existing controls on how people can get guns, we need to actually make some new laws about this new way. I'll work on such a law.' is some sort of horrible jackbooted overreach of the left.

And, again, just _one example_ of your completely nonsensical 'Oh, here's something bad the left is doing' things you like to throw in. Which, again, are 80% complete nonsense. (And another 10% is you buying idiotic right conspiracies, like the IRS thing.)

Yes, I do swivel and point to the left. Nu? I should ignore malignantly dangerous polemical liars, just because they are allies of my allies?

Did you just call the left 'liars' in a post where I specifically pointed out that the entire IRS nonsense you bought into was a lie deliberately crafted by the right?

Paul451 said...

"instead of buying a gun, someone can now make one. That is an _actual thing_ we need to consider at some point in the future."

In the "future"? Laws have considered home made guns since the first gun laws were written.

" 'Hey, technology has introduced a new way that people can get guns, we have existing controls on how people can get guns, we need to actually make some new laws about this new way.' "

You actually haven't explained why this is necessary. What little gun control the US has already considered home-made guns. Basically, your country chose no regulation except on machine guns and manufacture-for-sale, and a ban on entirely plastic guns (Yes, there is an existing federal ban on entirely plastic guns.) Here in Australia, home manufacture without a manufacturer's licence is illegal, whether it's on a 3d printer or a drill-press, plastic or metal, for sale or for fun.

Why do 3d printed guns so urgently require new laws in addition to existing gun laws? Nothing. It's hysteria, based on ignorance of existing laws, and of how 3d printers actually work.

I've seen the same knee-jerk panic over so many new technologies. I remember having to fight local attempts by politicians to ban (or restrict as "telephone companies") community BBSes, in the days of 300bps modems.

[BTW, how to remove a serial number on a plastic part. Step one, rub with nail polish remover to soften the plastic where the serial number is printed. Step two, there is no step two. And this is how raw 3d printed parts are already finished and polished, it's a skill you need to learn if you want to make a 3d printed plastic part that doesn't look like crap or fall apart when you touch it.]

Paul451 said...

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute took these pictures of garbage in the deep ocean. (Via Disco)

http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/life-in-the-garbage-patch-on-the-ocean-floor-pictures-130607.htm

TIL that 10,000 shipping containers are lost overboard... every year. About one every hour.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Garbage on the deep ocean floor

I find it hard to be moved by this sort of thing - most of the time our junk adds nutrients and habitats
wrecks are great to dive on because of the life

Now excessive nutrients - runoff in shallow seas - THAT is a big problem

Robert said...

Plastic garbage flakes, gets into the gut and intestines, is digested by other creatures, gets stuck in gills, wraps around necks and bodies...

Rob H.

DavidTC said...

You actually haven't explained why this is necessary. What little gun control the US has already considered home-made guns. Basically, your country chose no regulation except on machine guns and manufacture-for-sale, and a ban on entirely plastic guns (Yes, there is an existing federal ban on entirely plastic guns.) Here in Australia, home manufacture without a manufacturer's licence is illegal, whether it's on a 3d printer or a drill-press, plastic or metal, for sale or for fun.

And yet, _somehow_, those laws are reasonable while a hypothetical law here the might, uh, require a manufacturer's licsense to print gun parts, is complete fascism that the Democrats must be stopped from at all cost.

For people who _actually care_ about this issue, printing _an entire_ gun is illegal in the US, too. What is not illegal is printing 90% of the gun, and then buying some _unregulated_ gun parts. Which means that people who are legally barred from owning guns can _legally_ make guns.

Clearly, the fact 'people who are legally barred from owning guns in the US can legally make guns in the US' is something the law should actually fucking address at some point.

Alternately, you didn't read what I pointed out was actually going on, which was essentially a state legislator saying 'Hey, wait a second. There's a problem in the law. I'm going to work on a solution of some sort' and Brin leaping all over that as some sort of evidence of how horrible the Democrats are, because FASCISM or something.

Why do 3d printed guns so urgently require new laws in addition to existing gun laws? Nothing. It's hysteria, based on ignorance of existing laws, and of how 3d printers actually work.

I've seen the same knee-jerk panic over so many new technologies. I remember having to fight local attempts by politicians to ban (or restrict as "telephone companies") community BBSes, in the days of 300bps modems.

Yeah, that 'hysteria' of a state legislator saying 'Hey, guys, I'm going to work on some sort of law specifically talking about this new thing.'

That's it. That is what we are fucking talking about. We not talking about laws claimed to be 'urgently needed', we aren't talking about bad laws, _we aren't talking about any laws at all_. No one has proposed any actual laws!

Stop buying into Brin's bullshit of attempting to make _discussing changes in technology and how we might need laws_ some sort of horrible overreach for legislators.

It's completely goddamn absurd, and if you want to know where the 'hysteria' is, it's coming out of the mouth of David Brin, who is completely and utterly desperate to find _something_ he can complain about Democrat for 'doing'. (Or, at least, one Democrat in one state hypothetically deciding to do in the future.)

In reality, no one has actually even _tried_ to do anything yet, the issue they're talking about is an _actual_ real problem of certain laws controlling who can get guns now having loopholes in them, and the solutions they are considering are _entirely_ reasonable. But that doesn't fit Brin's narrative.

matthew said...

This has been alluded to above, and is *exactly* as I said it would be, about ten threads ago (go back, look, I will wait in vain for the apologies).
IRS scandal turns out to be IRS doing its' damn job.
There has been a lot of ink spilled over this one, and several frequent commenters here have addressed it recently as still being a scandal.
http://www.salon.com/2013/06/27/issas_irs_scandal_quietly_crumbles/
So, at what point do you admit that the IRS was just doing as it should? Or are you just blinded by your own partisan bias?

Alex Tolley said...

This is how Lee was reported by the local CBS news article cited:

He said while this new technology is impressive, it must be regulated when it comes to making guns. He says background checks, requiring serial numbers and even registering them could be part of new legislation that he says will protect the public.

It is unclear whether Lee meant that the printers needed to be regulated with serial numbers to identify manufacturers, or that just gun parts needed to have a serial number.

There are apparently similar proposals being made by NY legislators.

AFAICS, a person who should not have a gun, but wants one, can already do so. There are illegal gun sales, sales at gun fairs with poorly enforced regulations. Probably easier than printing one. You can also file off the serial numbers.

So what is the specific danger of printed guns? The key argument has ben made that they are [almost] undetectable by scanners. But the same applies to homemade plastic guns using conventional tools. So apart from eventually "push button and print gun" nothing really has changed, has it?

Now if legislators want to mandate serial numbers on printed guns, I would be OK with that, although I have no idea how that can be enforced, nor how it would stop post production removal. So any law may be tilting at windmills. However, if the law stipulates that 3-D printers be regulated, that I would have a problem with. Having said that, this may already have happened with regular printers. At least I don't have to register a printer, but no doubt it could be tracked (or the search space reduced) by a chain of sales data.

matthew said...

Interesting claims of being able to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere for 55$ / ton instead of 600$ / ton. This may be one to watch.
http://www.npr.org/2013/06/27/189522647/this-climate-fix-might-be-decades-ahead-of-its-time?ft=1&f=1001&sc=tw&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

David Brin said...

Guys, please let DavidTC rant away, His pyrotechnic rudeness and his insistence that his side can do no wrong... and that any pointing out of left wing foibles constitutes a form of treason... only piles up more evidence that craziness is a trait of self-righteousness addiction and NOT placement along an insipid "left-right axis."

Ironically, I have doubtless done more, effectively, to confront and chip away at the more dangerous and monstrous insanity tsunami - on today's American right - that this twit will achieve in his lifetime. Indeed, the cred I gain by avowing and NOT denying some lefty nuttiness has helped me to pry decent men and women out of Fox's clutches.

But the example at question... a rash and rushed proposed bill to slam regulations onto a newborn technology without hearings, discussion or input about what is even POSSIBLE? This was at-best silly grandstanding and at worst an example of all the worst nanny-state meddling impulses that the right endlessly carps about.

And dig this. Lefties have a right to make thei nannystate yammerings! (1) because sometimes fierce and quick regulation IS exactly the correct thing to do, and we got far too little on the banking industry. (2) Extreme and loud VERSIONS of reform can either shift the center of discussion or else empower moderate liberals to actually negotiate something practical.

Indeed, there might be some call to hold a hearing whether 3D printers that can force high-strength materials capable of withdstanding (bullet) explosions should have to use traceable materials or do some other form of tracking fingerprinting and sale records... a very tentative idea that would not stymie a promising field, merely add a tad of paperwork.

But none of that evades the pure fact. The Democratic Party and Liberalism are NOT dominated by their lunatics, the way the GOP and conservatism are by theirs. The Democratic Party earned the right to rule, by elections that rejected the UNIFORM record of ruinous outcomes wrought by GOP madness. But that does not mean there is any lack of lefty loons.

One of the things holding the Fox Cult together is the nightly litany of lefty crazinesses recited by Sean Hannity. Yes he exaggerates and lies. Yes there are often two sides and he leaves the other side out. Yes - did I mention that he lies? Oh, and that he lies a LOT?

But is biggest lie is "all liberals think like this dope." No they do not.

locumranch said...

As it seems that many of my comments are either reflexively misinterpreted or deliberately misunderstood, I decided to try a different tack. The comments below are not mine. even though I agree with them in principle: They were first published in 1975; they were written by Joanna Russ; and they are available in their entirety at http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/6/russ6art.htm

That science fiction, like much medieval literature, is didactic. (T)he protagonists of science fiction are always collective, never individual persons (although individuals often appear as exemplary or representative figures). (It's) emphasis is always on phenomena — to the point where reviewers and critics can commonly use such phrases as "the idea as hero." (It is) often awed, worshipful, (extremely moralistic) and religious in tone. (Being didactic, it) does not always tell people something new; often it tells them what they already know, and the re-telling becomes a reverent ritual, very gratifying to all concerned (even though) this state of affairs is considered neither necessary nor desirable by many readers.

So, David TC says that David's views are both biased and moralistic, he is right, just as I am right when I say that David tends to confuse science with morality and ritual with rationality. This is the nature of the Science Fiction beast. Science Fiction is intended to be morally instructive or 'didactic'; it is moralistic, preachy and religious in tone; and it uses (scientific) phenomena to sanctify ritual and social hierarchy. And I mean no disrespect when I point this out to David and all concerned.

That I am a gadfly and troll are a given. I am part of the minority cited by J Russ, one of many readers who disapprove of this state of affairs, the blending of science with religion, this excessive tendency toward the didactic and the obfuscation of objective science with subjective morality.

This is why I mock, disparage and satirize: Science is NOT Morality.

Yes, yes. Climate Change appears to be occurring. Abortion is possible. These statements are fairly 'scientific', but the CC and abortion debate goes off the empiric rails immediately thereafter. Why must we fear, placate or respect this occurance? Why must we invest it with religious overtones and divine wrath? Why the ritual call and response? Why must we act at all? To maintain the Status Quo, our herd mentality or our divine economic system?

These are all moral arguments that have nothing to due with science and/or empiricism, so why make them at all?

Best

David Brin said...

No, sorry, locus. While it is amusing to watch you writhe, gyre and contort. And I enjoy reading!

But you are far less of a "troll" (a failure at that, in fact) than you are a pretentiously illogical dope.

but nurse the illusion if you want. Dance and cavort. We can do Gong Show.

Randy Winn said...

First, to get into the spirit of the discussion:
Passion or serendipity gambles with lives, happiness, and even destiny itself! A flailing monkey is a storyteller without equal; A setback of the heart does not make any sense. An enigma ever stuns the onlooker.
I insist that you recognize these for the great thoughts that they are, see http://nonsense.x2d.org/"

Next, and more seriously: while you were arguing about endoplasmic meaningfulness of the faith-based science money supply fiction: Something Happened in and about the Texas Legislature.

Forget the political parties and the issues (important as they are) and we see:
1. The ruling party told the world that it had finished the vote before the deadline;
2. When it discovered that the computer records said otherwise, it altered the computer records
3. In the old days, this would have worked; maybe some legislators would've complained but few other than their supporters would've believed them;
4. But 186,000 people were watching the legislature online (thank the Texas Tribune, a private party that set up a webfeed - praise private enterprise!)
5. The fleeting uncorrected computer record was memorialized and provided evidence of the crime of tampering with public records. 6. The scofflaws backed down, thanks to trans-parent-see.

Take a bow!

David Brin said...

Yah. Transparency. Watch them draw the wrong lesson.

Paul451 said...

DavidTC,
"while a hypothetical law here the might, uh, require a manufacturer's licsense to print gun parts,"

Current US laws only require a manufacturer's licence if they are intended for sale. Why do 3d printed guns require different laws than other kinds of home-made guns?

"For people who _actually care_ about this issue,"

Yeah, because clearly I don't care.

"printing _an entire_ gun is illegal in the US, too."

Under what law? Home manufacture is legal in most US states, provided it is not intended for sale.

"Which means that people who are legally barred from owning guns can _legally_ make guns."

If a person is legally barred from owning a gun, such as a parolee, then they are legally barred from owning a gun, whether it's home made or store bought. And how does 3d printing change that?

"Clearly, the fact 'people who are legally barred from owning guns in the US can legally make guns in the US' is something the law should actually fucking address at some point."

And what does it have to do with 3d printing? Remember, Senator Yee was not talking about toughening up gun manufacturing laws, nor gun possession laws, he spoke solely of creating new laws to control 3d printers.

There is nothing that 3d printers do, even in theory, that requires new laws.

"Yeah, that 'hysteria' of a state legislator saying 'Hey, guys, I'm going to work on some sort of law specifically talking about this new thing.' "

Because "terrorists." Did you read what Yee actually said? "Terrorists can make these guns and do some horrible things to an individual and then walk away scot-free".

(Single shot, smooth bore zip gun, firing low powered rounds before melting. Z0MG, TERRORISTS!)

"Stop buying into Brin's bullshit"

Actually, I was the one who brought it to David's attention. I knew he is strongly supportive of Maker culture, and that he lives in California. I thought he might be able to get in touch with Sen Yee's office (and as a "name" have a chance to get through to the Senator himself) and calm the idiot down before he does something stupid.

Alfred Differ said...

LarryHart:

I think of value as more trust-based than faith-based, but I understand that I'm probably drawing too fine a line in the distinction. I'm old enough now to see the trust broken more than once and in different ways while faith survived for many. The meltdown a few years ago DID test the faith of many in the market and it should since we don't distinguish 'the market' from 'the market as we currently regulate it', but it is trust in value that takes the intial beating every time. Equity corrections like the occcasional 5% drop are usually brushed aside as painful, but reasonable ways to deal with feedback that causes speculators to speculate about speculation. 8)

Faith in the underlying market mechanisms tends to survive most of the time.


I was also taught to see dollar bills as debt instruments. I can create pseudo-dollars by issuing verbal IOU's like when I promise co-workers to buy the next round at the bar or at lunch. A dollar bill is just a more formal mechanism that gives the partial illusion that less trust is involved. Trust is still there, though, since they tend to lose value if I hold on to them too long in my pocket. 8)

When I worked in the banking industry, my employer taught us the various layers of trust ranging all the way up from usable commodities through money and cheques to derivative products. It was an interesting ride through a variety of social illusions.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The thing is, the gold-bugs describe money as "faith-based" as if to say it is worthless, whereas the economy "works" in the meantime. I've got plenty of value for the dollars I've earned and spent for 35 years or so. If the value of the dollar is illusory, it is nonetheless a functionally useful illusion.


Robert said...

Here's a question. Recently I've been seeing some claims bandied about concerning the philosophical aspect of mathematics and whether math exists or not outside of humanity. And then I saw an article a day or two ago about how plants utilize mathematics to calculate how much starch they need to last the night.

So if plants use math to help ensure their survival, then a second species (and one that's not sentient!) perceives and uses math. Does that not then mean that math exists outside of human perception?

Rob H.

locumranch said...

Since David enjoys the ramblings of "pretentious illogical dopes" like myself & Joanna Russ, I'd like to recommend the similar ramblings of 'The Jewel-Hinged Jaw" by Samuel Delany.

And, of course, further didactic-based shits and giggles can be obtained by dancing and cavorting to the congruent literary opinions of R. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, W. Gibson and Joyce C. Oates.

Or maybe we should ask the plants who may or may not be mathematical & musical savants or, at the very least, literary critics?

;)

Robert said...

At the very least, locu, they have more capacity for intelligent discourse than you.

Alex Tolley said...

@Robert
So if plants use math to help ensure their survival, then a second species (and one that's not sentient!) perceives and uses math. Does that not then mean that math exists outside of human perception?


I'd be skeptical of the plants use math conclusion. When you pitch or catch a ball, you could be perceived as using a lot of math to determine how to do this. But you are not. There are other mechanisms that do this, for example a neural network that learns the I/O function. I suspect some biochemical mechanism in plants, but I would need to read the paper first before speculating further.

David Brin said...

He truly is entertaining! "I am just like Delaney!" C'mon guys. It's gooood(!) to have snarky, overweening 16 year olds around! Reminds me of me.

Ian said...

Tacitus, I'm afraid I didn't see your post about Greece earlier - sorry.

http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/country/prordn/search.cfm?gv_pay=GR&gv_reg=ALL&gv_obj=ALL&gv_the=ALL&LAN=EN&gv_per=2

That's the main page for EU Regional funding for Greece. unfortunately it doesn't have an aggregate funding amount but, for example, here's one of the subprograms:
http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/country/prordn/details_new.cfm?gv_PAY=GR&gv_reg=ALL&gv_PGM=1075&LAN=7&gv_per=2&gv_defL=7

improving roads: E2.2 billion
Improving the rail system: E720 million.

Greece has actually been asking for more money to help them spend the money they're already getting.

Here's a summary of the budget:

http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/thefunds/funding/index_en.cfm

Greece was alloocated E20 billion over 6 years.

Ian said...


Paul 451: (Single shot, smooth bore zip gun, firing low powered rounds before melting. Z0MG, TERRORISTS!)

If I thought that was the likely limit of what people will be able to make with the technology 10-20 years from now I wouldn't be concerned.

David Brin: "Indeed, there might be some call to hold a hearing whether 3D printers that can force high-strength materials capable of withdstanding (bullet) explosions should have to use traceable materials or do some other form of tracking fingerprinting and sale records... a very tentative idea that would not stymie a promising field, merely add a tad of paperwork."

funny that's what I've been saying.

Tacitus2 said...

Thanks Ian

It is always a little difficult to read budgets and tell exactly what the money is being spent on, but it looks as if on paper anyway somebody is trying to do something to keep the Greek infrastructure going.

Anybody been there recently? Do words seem to be translating to action?

I can say that Belgium, said to be another economic basket case, also appears to be maintaining, at least it was in May.

Tacitus

DavidTC said...

Paul451:

And what does it have to do with 3d printing? Remember, Senator Yee was not talking about toughening up gun manufacturing laws, nor gun possession laws, he spoke solely of creating new laws to control 3d printers.


No, he didn't. He spoke of new laws regulating a specific output of those printers, something that is _already_ regulated. He's seeking to regulate _guns made by printers_, not printers.

'Oh, those are already regulated', you claim. Uh, part of the the actual _law_ is clarifying ambiguities and blocking loopholes. Do we want a gun shop, for example, to be able to sell a criminal 95% of a gun, and then lease them an hour on a 3-D printer that they can use for whatever purpose, knowing they'll use it to print the part of the gun they weren't allowed to buy.

There are actual _considerations_ here, and you agree! You're standing there saying 'We should talk about this rationally'...but the problem is, _you have no evidence that Lee isn't doing so_. Lee is at the point of literally _starting the discussion in government about these_. There is no proposed bill, there's no evidence he's not going to treat this seriously and hold the hearings and discussions you want.

And Brin has decided that _starting a discussion_ is the most horrible thing ever, so horrible he _still_ hasn't actually managed to explain what he thinks is going on.

Actually, I was the one who brought it to David's attention. I knew he is strongly supportive of Maker culture, and that he lives in California. I thought he might be able to get in touch with Sen Yee's office (and as a "name" have a chance to get through to the Senator himself) and calm the idiot down before he does something stupid.

Then, apparently, you seriously underestimated David's absurd need to 'blame both sides'. David Brin appears to think that Lee already has done thing stupid. By, uh, not actually doing anything and just saying 'Hey, new kind of gun out there, made in new ways. We might need some new rules here.' That it. Lee has said words. That is all he has done.

Brin:
But the example at question... a rash and rushed proposed bill to slam regulations onto a newborn technology without hearings, discussion or input about what is even POSSIBLE? This was at-best silly grandstanding and at worst an example of all the worst nanny-state meddling impulses that the right endlessly carps about.

See, the problem here is that Brin appears to think there is some actual horrible _bill_ that will do some sort of unnamed horrible thing.

There is no bill. There is no proposed bill. There is no proposed _framework_ for a bill. There has not been any discussion or hearing or input for the nonexistent bill because it's only been two fucking months since this article and government moves extremely slowly and is now in recess and Lee has not, any point, _proposed_ to do anything yet. This is assuming that the guy didn't change his mind and decide the existing laws were enough, or that regulation was unworkable.

Brin is complaining that _something that doesn't exist_ was created too quickly and without due consideration, when in actuality it is moving so slowly it _has not started yet_ and might never start.


Please remember my selection of this was literally _by random_, and I was actually taking issue with him jumping on the 'IRS scandal' bandwagon. So, as an example of his nonsense, I picked the _other_ thing in that post, discovered that it was basically some guy saying 'Hey, new tech, I plan to make some new laws'...and that's literally all that happened. A guy said something. Oh noes!

I was able to pick it at random because, as I said, a good 80% of the bullshit spewed by Brin at the left is complete and utter, well, bullshit. Brin may _think_ he's not a Republican, but I rather suspect he's getting all this news from their blogs and repeating it without actually checking out the actual facts.

matthew said...

This is an interesting counterpoint to how the Obama administration chooses to prosecute Edward Snowden.
They are investigating the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for leaking classified information about the StuxNet attack on Iran.
http://www.salon.com/2013/06/28/what_big_secret_did_a_4_star_general_reveal/
Note that the article is saying that Israel, not the US, is the real aggrieved party here. Interesting.
And will General Cartwright be charged under the Espionage Act if the investigation fingers him as the leaker? Many laughs. I'm sure he is far too senior to ever pay a real price for his leaking.

Ian said...

Now this is an example of here privatization of government services actually does threaten national security:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-28/probe-of-contractor-vetting-snowden-sees-falsified-data.html

The company that supposedly vetted Snowden for his NSA job is being accused of routinely falsifying its work.

Paul451 said...

DavidTC,
All that shouting and carrying on, and you've still failed to come up with any reason that 3d printed guns need additional regulations. (Oh, except your bizarre "three quarter gun" scenario. You know, the bad guy could just buy a whole gun second-hand over the internet (gunbroker.com, or even Craig's List) or private tables at a gun show (via the "private seller" loophole) or the classifieds in their local paper. No licence, no background checks, and no flimsy 3d printed parts.)

Likewise Yee's reasoning: "Terrorists can make these guns and do some horrible things to an individual and then walk away scot-free". And in case I wasn't clear, that was not a paraphrase, it was a direct quote from the interview he gave to justify the need for new legislation. But no, he's certainly not panicking over something he doesn't understand.

You want a "discussion", and your first claim is some nonsensical conspiring gun store. Yee wants a "discussion" and starts ranting about "terrorists". Ian wants a "discussion" and starts going on about 3d printed rocket launchers.

Ian said...

"Ian wants a "discussion" and starts going on about 3d printed rocket launchers."

I'm still waiting or an explanation (as opposed to insults and arm-waving) as to why you find that so absurd.

DavidTC said...

All that shouting and carrying on, and you've still failed to come up with any reason that 3d printed guns need additional regulations. (Oh, except your bizarre "three quarter gun" scenario. You know, the bad guy could just buy a whole gun second-hand over the internet (gunbroker.com, or even Craig's List) or private tables at a gun show (via the "private seller" loophole) or the classifieds in their local paper. No licence, no background checks, and no flimsy 3d printed parts.)

Yeah, if only California had already gotten their act together enough to ban sales at gun shows without background checks, and require that all private gun sales be made through a dealer...oh, wait, they _did_.

Silly California, actually _paying attention_ to the issue of illegal guns.

Likewise Yee's reasoning: "Terrorists can make these guns and do some horrible things to an individual and then walk away scot-free". And in case I wasn't clear, that was not a paraphrase, it was a direct quote from the interview he gave to justify the need for new legislation. But no, he's certainly not panicking over something he doesn't understand.

And by 'panicking', you mean 'Doing nothing'.

You can stand there and argue it is a stupid comment. Fine. Let's call it stupid. It's not _actually_ that stupid, it's a valid point that untraceable guns can exist, and actual plastic guns _do_ present interesting new security issues WRT terrorism and security in general, but let's just call it stupid. (And, yes, I know bullets can still be detected in metal detectors as of now...but there are two important facts: a) Bullets are much easier to hide than guns, and b) bullets are only detectable because 3-d-printer guns are currently made _like guns_. It's possible to come up with other designs that are just as lethal, but do not require metal jacketed bullets. Sure, they only work once, but fat lot of good that restriction does when a sniper carries one into a political rally.)

What it is _not_ is any sort of 'leftist government overreach' as Brin idiotically claims. It is not any sort of overreach, at all, because no one, not even Lee, has fucking done anything.

So there you. A 'dumb comment' about terrorists made by a single state Senator when talking about how a new technology is going to require some rule changes.

Wow, the left is TRULY HORRIBLE and Brin needs to make sure to say that EVERY TIME he talks about the fucktardary of the right and go out and scour the net for _some_ example he can misrepresent.

That is _literally_ Brin's example of leftist overreach, along with the IRS scandal which was completely manufactured by Issa. (Turns out, when you ask the IRS to just look into conservative groups being investigated by the IRS, you...get a report that's just about conservative groups being investigated, and doesn't talk about the fact the liberal ones were investigated in exactly the same way, for exactly the same reason of 'looking political'.)

Granted, I'm not blaming him for being taken in by the IRS scandal, but it would be nice to see some acknowledgement it actually was nonsense.

Brin is an asshole. He desperately wants to be a Republican, but sadly is intelligent, so is always seeing stuff to complain about. But he experiences too much cognitive dissonance when complaining about them, so he has to _make up_ problems with the left. OMG! Some random person at a state level on the left (Of which there are literally thousands of people) said something kinda silly and then didn't actually do anything! WE MUST FIGHT THIS FASCISM!

You know, I live in a state where the fucking state Republican party held a closed door session about a GOVERNMENT MIND CONTROL CONSPIRACY run by Obama.

DavidTC said...

All that shouting and carrying on, and you've still failed to come up with any reason that 3d printed guns need additional regulations.

Here is the reason we need those regulations: ""

That is an empty reason. It goes along with regulations, which are _also_ completely empty, having not actually been written or proposed. I justify regulations which contain no text with a justification that contains no text. No proposal to do something needs no justification.

Actually, since 'additional regulation' don't exist, I am forced to assume you either are taking issue with _existing_ law, or else you have started _hallucinating_ some sort of law that you are taking issue with. Please state these 'additional regulations' you are concerned with so we can figure out which it is.

Paul451 said...

Ian,
I've tried to explain it several times. 3D printers can't produce this stuff. You just reply "For now! What about in 20 years?" I can't get you to see how 3D printers actually work. They aren't Star Trek replicators. They don't make molecules from atomic elements, and they can't they print any substance that can't be melted at a modest temperature (to extrude), or is available in powdered form (to sinter). Explosives, detonators, etc, are not structural elements that only await finer next-gen accuracy, it's the chemistry that makes them what they are. In the same way that you can't make metals out of plastic feedstock, you can't make explosives from non-explosive bulk material no matter how clever your layering.

The components of the simplest unguided, mechanically triggered RPG rocket (much simpler than the favourite of modern insurgents, the Russian RPG-7) are: Percussion cap (trigger and detonator), main explosive charge, rocket fuel, rocket igniter, rocket nozzles (three sets, booster/main/stabiliser), booster charge, booster igniter.

Oh, and the casings.

The components that a commercial metal 3d printer can produce? The casings.

With a top-end metal-sintering printer used by aerospace companies, you'd also be able to produce the rocket nozzles. But everything else has to be bought, or manufactured by traditional means. So with the best 3D printer money can buy, a million dollar state-of-the-art aerospace monster, you can print out the metal and plastic parts. No explosives, no detonators, no solid-rocket fuel. And the difficulty of manufacturing those non-printable components makes manufacturing the casings without a 3D printer look like child's play. The reason the idiots in Boston made a simple black-powder bomb was not due to their lack of a good 3D printer.

If the bad guys can get their hands on suitable high explosives and detonators, then their ability to 3D-print a tube isn't the part that should scare you. Because if they are capable of obtaining or producing all the non-printable components, then they are sure as hell going to be capable of making the simple casings, even if you made 3D printers illegal.

And that's for the simplest system. God forbid you actually want anything complicated, like a proximity fuse, or a thermobaric charge, or something that has accuracy beyond 100m (even a professionally made RPG-7 is considered worthless at 300m).

If you want something that can shoot down aircraft, like a MANPADS (your other suggestion) you've just gone up in difficulty by orders of magnitude. Infrared tracking system, guidance system that can intercept moving targets, vastly longer range (3-6 miles) higher-speed rocket-motor, etc etc. None of those things can be produced on a 3D printer. Not just today, ever.

And that's why I call it hysterical panic. About 12 months ago, a teenager was arrested for making a "bomb". He'd "almost finished it", according to police. And the media duly reported "ohnoes bomb". Turned out the only part he lacked was the trigger... and the detonator... oh, any the explosives. You know, the actual bomb. His "bomb" consisted of a container with some screws and bolts in it. [The kid was possibly nuts, but he needed psychological help, not being put in prison with people who will abuse him to greater insanity, and/or who can teach him how to get black market weapons. And charging someone with "building a bomb" for something that lacks all the components that make a bomb an actual bomb is not a legal precedent I'm comfortable with. How many tin cans in your shed with screws and bolts in them? (And I've certainly got an internet history that could be used to smear me in court, as you can probably imagine from the above topics.) Laws based on hysteria always hurt a lot more innocent people than whatever you are panicking about.]

Paul451 said...

"He desperately wants to be a Republican"

Something he has said repeatedly. For years. Saying that he didn't leave the party, the party left him. He votes Dem only because of the lack of a non-crazy conservative party. Your insight is stunning that he might mean the thing he actually said.

"That is an empty reason. It goes along with regulations, which are _also_ completely empty, having not actually been written or proposed."

So we aren't permitted to criticise stupid things unless they've resulted in stupid laws? I'm not even allowed to ask David (and David ask others) to talk Yee (and the NY legislators) out of doing something stupid before he and they have done it?

"bullets are only detectable because 3-d-printer guns are currently made _like guns_."

A plastic "sniper" gun firing plastic bullets. I'm glad you're being sensible about this.

DavidTC said...

Something he has said repeatedly. For years. Saying that he didn't leave the party, the party left him. He votes Dem only because of the lack of a non-crazy conservative party. Your insight is stunning that he might mean the thing he actually said.

Uh, Brin wanting to be a Republican was not 'insight' and I didn't present it as such.

I simply stated what he said, and then pointed out that this admitted desire of his basically causes him to _make up_ stuff on the left he has issues with.

He can't cope with the fact that not only has his party gone off the rails, but the other party is not only perfectly sane, but is probably farther to the _right_ than he is. So he must scour the internet for _some_ hint that the left is...to the left of him.

It's epic cognitive dissonance.

So we aren't permitted to criticise stupid things unless they've resulted in stupid laws? I'm not even allowed to ask David (and David ask others) to talk Yee (and the NY legislators) out of doing something stupid before he and they have done it?

You're allowed to do whatever you want.

But if you or Brin attempt to present it as 'stupid laws the left is trying to do', expect to have people point out it's not _any_ sort of law at all and you have basically hallucinated a problem so you have something to complain about.

A plastic "sniper" gun firing plastic bullets. I'm glad you're being sensible about this.

I didn't say anything about 'sniper' guns, nor did I mention 'plastic' bullets. I said a 'sniper', aka, someone who make long distance shots, with a gun. (High-power sniper rifles are not something that can plausibly be made out of plastic currently.) And I said bullets without a metal jacket...you know, how lead bullets used to work? (Plastic bullets actually exist but are something else entirely.)

Considering how badly you just deliberately misquoted me, consider this conversation over. But I will explain to _other_ people the risk you have decided to ignore.

Plastic guns are a _real_ security issue. Granted, the _last_ time plastic guns became news, it was nonsense...no one was actually making them.

But now, people can. They are shitty guns, granted, but they do exist.

This means we _can no longer rely on metal detectors_ to keep out guns.

We can still detect the bullets via metal detector, in theory, but bullets are much easier to smuggle than guns. But _that_ is only because we're making plastic _rifles_, and not plastic muzzle loaders (which have no jacket at all) or a modern equivalent, or figure out a way to jacket them in plastic, or something else.

And note by 'muzzle loaders', I don't mean blunderbusses...I mean a rifled tube that is basically tiny cannon, except it fires straight. Muzzle loaders are only jokes because they take so long to load, but if you can print off a dozen little tubes you can swap onto a handle and trigger, you essentially have a bunch of derringers...not the greatest assault weapon ever, but perfectly fine to assassinate someone or take hostages or something.

Hey, look, a _real_ issue we need to consider. Please note I've not actually suggested any _laws_ about this, but it is an actual security concern, that someone with access to a 3D printer could design and print tiny one-shot guns without any metal at all and smuggle them anywhere, even places we specifically screen against guns.

(Yes, in theory, people can do this without 3-D printers, but they would be very inconsistent, and it's not like they can test them.)

Paul451 said...

DavidTC,
"basically causes him to _make up_ stuff on the left he has issues with."

Except Brin didn't make it up. Yee and others actual said the words attributed to them. You can look up their actual quotes. Yee didn't say, "People should be careful" or "These people are being irresponsible", he said legislation is required to control 3D printers... because "terrorists will get away scot free" thanks to plastic guns.

"I didn't say anything about 'sniper' guns, nor did I mention 'plastic' bullets."
"I said a 'sniper', [...] Plastic guns are a _real_ security issue. [...] but if you can print off a dozen little tubes you can swap onto a handle and trigger"

So... snipers.... plastic guns... and plastic bullets. Yeah I totally misquoted you.

Look, David, printable plastic is weak, if it wasn't, you couldn't print with it. And actual printed plastic is even weaker. The only thing that allowed that one-shot plastic zip-gun to work at all was that it used a special low-pressure round with a normal metal casing. Now if you had the gunpowder detonate directly in a disposable plastic barrel (which I assume is what you're trying to describe), it would require such low power in order to not explode in your hand that the round would be lucky to exit the barrel. Likewise, plastic guns cannot be rifled. There's no way for the plastic to withstand the pressure of the projectile deforming against the rifling (which is how rifling works, the rear of the projectile flares outwards to fill the rifling grooves. If it didn't, the pressure would escape around the projectile.)

"Hey, look, a _real_ issue we need to consider."

No it isn't. Any more than we need to about any number of ridiculous OTT Hollywood scenarios. Panicking over issues like this (or the manipulation of panic for power) is what led to the TSA's excesses, and the war in Iraq. Before that, the War on Drugs. Before that, communism and the HUAC blacklists. Just because you can imagine a scenario ("the smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud over New York"), doesn't mean that the imagined scenario is anything other than panic or political manipulation of your panic.

"(Yes, in theory, people can do this without 3-D printers, but they would be very inconsistent, and it's not like they can test them.)"

This is one of the things that many would-be hobbyists stumble on. The products we see used to advertise home 3D printers are rarely ever just 3D printed products. They always have post-production work done on them. 3D printed products are crude. A strong (non-printable) plastic machined into a gun body would be much more consistent than anything you can produce on a modern 3D printer. Hell, a simple drill press would give a more consistent result than a 3D printed tube. A gun produced on a 3D printer (indeed, anything produced on a 3D printer) needs extensive work to make it serviceable. You don't just print something and then use it; not if it requires a high level of precision like a gun.

That post-processing is another reason why Yee's proposal to require serial numbers on printed guns is especially idiotic. The same post-processing required to finish any 3D printed product is exactly what you would use to remove such a serial number (even if it were somehow possible to force 3D printer manufacturers to have automatic serial-numbers added to printed products.)