Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cool Misc stuff! (...and a smidge of politics...)


EON, the 20’th CGChallenge is running at CGSociety.

CG Challenges are the largest online art contests of their kind and unique as they allow people to view entries as Works-in-Progress.
After years of contests involving individual-frame works of art, submitted under various challenges, they are now embarking on the next step, stimulating TEAMS of artists and CG experts to create multi-frame projects, like movie trailers. (Moreover, I’m in line for the next of these multimedia challenges, which may be aimed at creating movie story boards or animated renditions of an entire novella/film.)

Spread the word. This may be how the “ramp” up the steep pyramid of Hollywood may finally take shape, with technology, art and imagination all coalescing in a new renaissance. We may be seeing only the beginning.

When scientists found a massive Tyrannosaurus rex thigh bone in a remote region of Montana a few months ago, they were forced to break the bone in two in order to fit it into the transport helicopter. This act of necessity revealed a startling surprise: soft tissue that had seemingly resisted fossilization still existed inside the bone. This tissue, including blood vessels, bone cells, and perhaps even blood cells, was so well preserved that it was still stretchy and flexible.

Another eco-liberal returns to modernism...
The original “Gaia Hypothesis” promoter, scientist James E. Lovelock, has come under attack from some environmentalists for his support of nuclear power as a way to avoid runaway "global heating" -- joining such “techno-hippie” types as Stewart Brand (and your host here).

Indeed, I have long felt that liberals could achieve an incredible win-win jiu jitsu maneuver... by holding out a promise of a careful one-a-year program of savagely scrutinized nuclear plants, in exchange for “environmental offsets” that move us toward Kyoto compliance. If cleverly done, this could achieve a long laundry list of desirable goals:

- demolish a stereotype of unreasoning opposition to all engineering-based solutions.
- break up bits of the opposing alliance.
- win major environmental concessions.
- the thing they are “giving up” in exchange would ALSO help reduce global warming.

The waste problem can be dealt with. I mean, look at the present evnvironmental objections against Yucca Mountain. We should cancel the storage site because there MIGHT be a small leak in 100,000 years? (!!!) Look, if we make a decent civilization, we will deal with all of that WAY before those epochs arrive. (Indeed, the stuff will likely be valuable!) OTOH, if we fail (in part due to energy crises or climate change) then radioactive aquifers in a few deserts will be the LEAST of our descendants’ problems. C'mon people. Ditch the puritanical reflexes and prioritize.

Sea Water Agriculture -- (September 2006) Dr. Dennis Bushnell, Chief Scientist at NASA Langley has done some interesting thinking about how to utilize deserts to produce energy, food and other beneficial byproducts by tapping the world’s essentially unlimited source of seawater. You can review his PowerPoint presentation at this link.

And now, relighting the lamp, a few timely quotations from some heroes of modernism:

"As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality." -- George Washington

"Such creatures are men that they will always run to lions for protection from foxes." -- John Locke
“Though a wise man may know better how to dress than the fool does, still the fool can better dress himself than the wise man can dress him.” -- Adam Smith.

Finally a reprise of a NEW aphorism-classic by Joe Miller:

Those who ignore the mistakes of the future are bound to make them.


Anonymous said...

Not really on topic, but somewhat on my mind lately:

One of three things will occur this November--1) the vote will go smoothly, all votes will be properly counted and the party which most represents the will of the people will smoothly transition into power in January. 2) A repeat of the last two elections (2000 and 2004) where chicanery, FUD and ferocious spin keep the power in the hands of those least deserving of wielding it, or 3) a transfer of power is voted in, despite the shrill and frantic efforts of the incumbency.

Cynicism and pessimism says that #3 is the most likely choice. Now you've posited several times that there must necessarily be an "October Surprise" of some sort to bolster the neoconservatives' grip on power. What if the surprise occurs in December? What I mean is this: suppose the votes add up to a transfer of power--the Will of the People mandates that the neoconservatives Get What's Comin' To 'Em.

Will there be a last, desperate attempt to prevent the handover of the reins of power from taking place? If so, what form might it take?

Tony Fisk said...


I don't discount it, but I can think of no way that a 'November Surprise' could be engineered with any semblance of legality or credulity ('Calls for recount after Diebold admits to widespread defects in voting machines in wake of Democrat landslide'? Hmm!). That being the case, such an option would be ugly. Coup ugly. Can GOP muster the kind of force for that? (And if the Russian people can thwart a coup with non-violent action, you yanks should have no trouble...?)

Other options involve 'we lose-you lose' acts of spite. Ugly is a mild term when it comes to these. (nuking a few democrat-dominated cities was mentioned a while ago? Durn Tyrranists!)

Check the October Surprise wiki for a collation of other possibilities. I haven't added the 'November surprise' option yet (or the 'Big Lie' that has recently been gracing the airwaves with 'Path to 9/11', 'thin skin Willy', and most recently 'D-FLA'?)

Anonymous said...

You can come up with all sorts of scenarios: An surprise attack on Iran in an attempt to rally the country behind the War President, a coup, a staged or allowed-to-happen terrorist attack followed by "emergency measures . . ."

But it won't work: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time . . . and that time has come. Any clever strategem to nullify the election, delay a hand-over, or otherwise cause trouble will, at this point, be seen for exactly what it is.

The neocons would find themselves trying to rule a country full of totally pissed people:

Don Quijote said...

NRC says Indian Point, other radioactive eaks led to mistrust

A federal task force concluded Wednesday that leaks of tritium and other radioactive isotopes at nuclear plants including Indian Point have not endangered public health but may have damaged public confidence in the industry.


Indian Point emergency message sent out by mistake

An emergency message that claimed "an alert has been declared" at the Indian Point power plant was sent out in error this afternoon, the state's Emergency Management Office said.

The cryptic emergency message, which was sent out via e-mail at 1:53 p.m., put people within 10 miles of the nuclear power plant on warning "to tell you there is a problem at the Indian Point Power Plant." The message recommended people consult state Emergency Planning Guide booklets.

At Least 2 Failures in Indian Point Siren Test

BUCHANAN, N.Y. -- Two of the 156 emergency sirens around the Indian Point nuclear complex failed to sound during a test Wednesday evening.


Indian Point Leak Found

BUCHANAN, N.Y. (AP) -- Officials at the Indian Point nuclear power station believe they've found the leak of the radioactive strontium 90 that has contaminated the groundwater beneath the reactors.

Jim Steets, spokesman for Indian Point owner Entergy Nuclear Northeast, said a leak that dates back to the early 1990s from the spent fuel pool at the Indian Point 1 reactor apparently had escaped the system in place to contain it.

Indian Point 1 was mothballed in the 1970s but its old fuel rods remain on the site, immersed in water to keep them from emitting radiation. The water is highly radioactive. When the old leak was found, an elaborate draining system was installed to collect it, treat it and release it into the Hudson River.


And you expect people to trust the Nuclear industry?

they can't seem to prevent radioactive leaks and they can't run an alarm system, what else can't they do and aren't telling the Public about?

Don Quijote said...

2) A repeat of the last two elections (2000 and 2004) where chicanery, FUD and ferocious spin keep the power in the hands of those least deserving of wielding it

My money is on option number 2. The Dems could f*** up a wet dream and will.

James Aach said...

Stewart Brand, who's reconsideration of nuclear power you mention, has also been kind enough to endorse my novel of nuclear power "Rad Decision". It is available at no cost to readers at - and they seem to like it, judging by their comments at the homepage.

I've worked in the nuclear biz over twenty years, and my chief concern when pundits and the public dicker over the topic is that few have a firm base of knowledge and perspective to argue from, pro or con. The real world of nuclear power is much different from anything on TV, in movies, in magazine articles, or in textbooks. It's a weird mix of technology, politics and social science. I lay all this out in an entertaining thriller format in Rad Decision. It's an insider's portrait of atomic retail that you won't get anywhere else.

"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand

(I may have mentioned this some months ago - please forgive the repetition.)

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile hundreds of coal-burning powerplants have *intentionally* dumped tons of CO2 into our atmosphere as you read this sentence. More tons each second.


Heavy metals too, like mercury, arsenic, selenium


NOx and SOx


Uranium and Thorium particles too


PM-10 and 2.5


But it apparently the status quo is preferable to nuclear.

Funny thing about energy luddites - they always refuse to acknowledge just how ephemeral and unreliable *their* preferred power sources are.

David Brin said...

They also react out of reflex and habit, but never ever recognize that times have changed and call for habits to be re-evaluated. In fact, the lefty reflex aversion to nuclear power has almost nothing to do with the industry's almost perfect safety record, and everything to do with a romantic reflexive hatred of all things technological.

If the neocons despise science, the lefties hate engineers. The neocons' push for a return to feudalism is matched by the lefties' romantic zeal for the "wisdom of ancient tribes." It's all a parcel, except...

that the neocons own a political party, all branches of government, most media, half of the nation's boardrooms and many other levers of power...

...while the lefty flakes don't even control the democratic party. All they have is all the nation's college English, lit and soft-studies departments. I am not afraid of them. Very not afraid...

...except that they can F$%#@#@ us politically by insisting on falling for Rove's traps again and again. Waging culture war instead of cleverly ending it.

As for December surprises, relax. It won't be sudden because a shift in Congress won't INSTANTLY deny them power or throw them in jail. There must be hearings, subpoenas, witnesses and henchmen protected. All that takes months.

We won't be stabbed till February. Maybe not till May.

daveawayfromhome said...

I'm with Anon here. Shall we choose radioactivity that can be made relatively safe with careful attention (although who are we kidding, we are talking about human beings here, somebody will screw up somewhere), or fossil fuels dumping millions of years of stored CO2 into the atmosphere in a century's time, altering the thermal balance of the planet?
Oops! too late.

My point is that nothing is safe. You have to be careful with everything. Fossil fuels, wood-burning, nuclear, even hydro-electric (dam-burst, anyone?). Solar is safe, I guess.
Nuclear provides a lot of power for a small amount of waste. And if we havent figured out how to get rid of the waste before the 100,000 years is up, then it'll probably be because we're all dead (hopefully not from a nuclear "accident").


Any October surprise wont take the form of anything that might push up gas prices, or not until a very few days before the election.
As for the election, my money is on #2, but I actually think that'll be better for the country anyway. It'll give the BushCorp two more years worth of rope to hang themselves with, and Dems wont be blamed for anything that happens (whatever other shoe drops) between now and 2008. (Okay, they will be blamed, but it wont stick as well as it would if they were "in charge").
As the Democratic party stands now, does anyone really think they have the stones to properly investigate Lord Bush?

The Democratic party, in its hunger for corporate money, has forgotten that they're supposed to be the party of the People. Howard Dean showed them the way (internet campaign and collection), but they ate him alive.


February or May? Put me in the pool for August.

Ben Tilly said...

Random observation, only tangentially related to this post.

Noticed that gas prices are improving? Anyone want to bet whether this is tied to the upcoming election?

Tony Fisk said...

Thanks for the pointer, James.


As James infers, it is a perception thing. You don't see all the little deaths emitted by coal because you're used to them, and they blend into the background.

On the other hand, that big cloud from Chernobyl or Indian Point means we're gonna die... even though you'd be as hard pressed to definitively prove that a death arose from exposure to the Chernobyl fallout as opposed to your friendly local soot belcher!

What this means is that the nuclear industry has a big psychological hurdle to overcome before it is accepted as a solution to global warming. It had, therefore, better be open in its dealings with the public!

Accidents aside, I've read indications that the nuclear industry isn't quite as clean and carbon neutral in it's normal operations as it's made out to be. I haven't followed this up, yet.

I suspect that there's no comparison between nuclear and coal in terms of safety and environmental degradation. Even so, it would be nice to lay this out in the open for comparison.

(I'll leave the solar card for the moment)

@Ben: Yes, I have! So have a number of other people.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:55 here again...

Thanks for agreeing David (and others). Maybe at some point there will be a thoughtful discussion of nuclear energy, but ya have to wonder if we'll ever get to the necessary level of mutual respect and trust.

Clearly there is a great deal of mistrust out there of engineering and technology. I find this fascinating, because even as luddites rail against how electricity is generated, they do so using the internet. They live in heated/air conditioned homes, drive to work, refrigerate their milk, and use PCs that require hundreds of toxic chemicals to make. Paradoxical. Embrace it and use it while hating the people/institutions who provided it.

I can't resist pointing out a final delicious irony here: These same pottery-making lefties used to sport bumper stickers exhorting us to "Split wood, not atoms" :)

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this counts as a February/May surprise, but look for Cheney to retire "for reasons of health" somewhere in that time frame. Right now, the coalition that hijacked the Republican party has no heir apparent. A drawn out and vicious primary could either seriously weaken a neocon candidate or even result in someone who isn't in the little tent inside the big tent getting the nod.

Cheney is a) too old and b) unelectable under the best (from their point of view) of circumstances. He has to go and be replaced by a vigorous, younger candidate, who also has to be given enough time to establish himself and his claim to be the heir before the primaries take off.

Blake Stacey said...

Ah, if only nuclear waste could be turned into a weight-loss treatment.

(Or if we could extract energy from all the keystrokes needed to type trollish blog comments.)

Is is too early to make casting recommendations for the voices in Kiln People?

Anonymous said...

I find it strange that the Sci Fi Channel has set up a Visions of Tomorrow campaign and doesn't have an SF authors on their Advisory Board. David, you might want to get in touch with them.

James Aach said...

In followup comments, Mr. Brin said:

"All [lefty flakes] have is all the nation's college English, lit and soft-studies departments. I am not afraid of them. Very not afraid..."

Actually, I believe there is a signficant problem here, as that soft-studies reach extends well into the publishing, television and movie industry in both the fiction and non-fiction areas. These, in turn, effect the outlook of a huge number of Americans. As long as we live in a democracy, bulk public opinion still counts for a lot, whether it's based on sound logic or glossy entertainment.

I've written a humorous essay about this based on my own experiences, available at the E-Zine Lab Lit site at .

The whole site is based at least in part on the premise that there is little good story-telling out there that reflects real science. It is worth a look.

Rob Perkins said...

A thought:

People opposed to panicking over global warming seem to have a confidence that whatever problems begin to appear in the medium term future, our descendants will be able to adapt to them and solve them.

Isn't that the same kind of optimisim expressed by nuclear power advocates, regarding handling of nuclear waste?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you'll get my respect when you earn it.

You are using cliches and straw men.

You are using a spook-word, "luddite," and inane chliches like "pottery making lefties."

"Split wood, not atoms?" I haven't seen one of those for decades.

Get over yourself. Labeling the opposition as irrational will get you nothing but a nice, warm, smug feeling.

If you want to see what real modern day environmentalists are up to -- the children of Brand's technologically aware Whole Earth movement -- please check out:

While the few remaining flower children are chatting harmlessly in the last remaining food co-op, and the armchair activists are parroting industry talking points, these people are getting their hands greasy trying out (and sometimes failing at) new solutions.

* * *

I'll call myself pro-nuke, but I want new, bright innovative companies to enter the field. Not the defense-industry spin-off dinosaurs who mucked up the job the first time around.

Mark said...

Actually, I believe there is a signficant problem here, as that soft-studies reach extends well into the publishing, television and movie industry in both the fiction and non-fiction areas.

Perhaps, but industry reaches into the publishing, television and movie industries as well, so it tends to balance out.

But besides all that, entertainment is focused most on being entertaining which in turn leads to many strange consequences. For example, you can basically blame Hollywood for the current belief that torture is useful and should be allowed in the name of all that is good.

Anonymous said...

If academia is part of a sinister conspiracy by World Socialism to turn our children into dogma-spewing lefties, then World Socialism should demand its money back.

David Brin said...

Rocky, I doubt the SciFi Channel would react as well to a note from me, as it would from a massive groundswell of public opinion that they oughta have sci fi "visionary" authors involved in that worthy effort.

James Aach... sorry, I have very little patience for the mantra of the right, that a bunch of university lit and softStudies profs are even a scintilla of a gnat's toenail as dangerous to American values and our renaissance as the neo-feudalist putsch that's being staged by the far right.

I have spent half my life around those lefty flakes. I have occasionally suffered at their hands. My disgust and disdain for them is strong and I view them with clear eyes, recognizing enemies of the Enlightenment, of science fiction, of modernism, of a civilization that has given them everything. I know what they are...

...and what they are is pathetic whiners, For every student who is sucked into their mantric romanticism, five go away to varying degrees disgusted. Indeed, one of those five gets recruited into neocon-dom. They do as much harm to themselves as good.

Moreover, suppose their messages get spread. Big deal! Ninety percent of what they say is "Hypertolerance! Diversity! Multiculturualism Yippee!"

Nu? You are really afraid of that? I agree it has pervaded Hollywood. Movies are filled with hypertolerance messages... most of which should only bother you if you actually want us to be less tolerant! If you have a thing against gays, for example, this really should seem satanic. Welcome to the culture war. On the other hand, if you are a modernist, you already dig tolerance, and merely find their smarmy indignation to be a pile of yattering, chattering excess. Sometimes even useful in pushing a common agenda of enlightenment.

Oh, it is dismal and pathetic how the flakes do not get any of the ironies. For example, in their fetish to scream "Tolerance!" at the top of their lungs, they are actually saying "We in this civilization are great! OUR values are better than those of any other culture ever! Because all other cultures were LESS TOLERANT THAN OURS! Hence, we are the self-righteous bigots who despise all other cultures that did not share our hypertolerance fetish!"

You may have to read that a couple of times to get the contorted logic, and then chuckle. These are real "I-don't-get-it-and-don't-care" hypocrites.

Still, in fact, I don't disagree much with them at all! In fact I believe we should go forth and CRUSH every other world-view that doesn't promote tolerance!

The difference between a moderate and a flake is that we chuckle at the irony. We get it.

Note: the neocons may claim that they took us into Iraq in order to "crush intolerance." They don't get it either. But they are different from their romantic flake cousins in one way. They have spent half a trillion dollars and countless lives and all our international prestige on utter nonsense. Compare that to the number killed by the utter nonsense spouted by campus flakes.


Rob, I have dealt with the insanity of Faith in Blind Markets many, many times. There is a big difference between their mad worship of an unsapient deity and my desire to use Yucca Mountain for its designed purpose of containment of a temporary problem.

Stefan you got it. The grand deal over fission should offer one per year, each a prototype SAVAGELY criticised and scrutinized and each one better than the previous one. Yes, that may make the energy cost higher than solar... AND I DON'T CARE about the dollar cost. Amortize it as research. Meanwhile, we get carbon free power and the designs get rapidly better.

The left should WANT that, since nukes are going forward rapidly in dozens of countries that are NOT subjecting designs to Citokate.

The best thing would be for us to underbid all foreign nuke plants and pay whatever it takes to make all new plants engage in this process of rapid forced-evolution.

SpeakerToManagers said...

First, let me make it clear that I agree that we are going to need nuclear power, and any other kind of non-combustion power generation we can get. Having said that, there's a very real reason to be concerned about the way that nuclear power is implemented in the United States. This is not so much because we can't trust the nuclear power industry (although firm oversight should be maintained), but because we can't trust the existing governmental agency with primary authority in the area. Most anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest is aware of juat how little the Energy Department pays attention to the needs of the job, at least as far as the Hanford site is concerned. We do have high-level waste leaching into the aquifer there, and headed downslope towards the Columbia river, and the bill for the cleanup continues to climb and the schedules continue to stretch.

It's not so much that the problem can't be solved, it's that a lot of people are highly suspicious of the motives and competence of the institution that's supposed to solve it. I, personally, would be a lot happier about the nuclear option in this country if the Energy Department were removed from oversight and control, and replaced by something more competent, or at least, less bureaucratic and more technically-aware.

Anonymous said...

Time for an "October surprise" is running out. Absentee balots will being going out shorty...

The cost of America shifting to nuclear power is so large that it would have to be a national effort run by the federal government.

Nuclear power + huge government program strikes me as a political orphan...nobody on the left or right would champion it.

David Brin said...

I have a 1,000 word "letter" relating the Foley scandal to gerrymandering.

Befor I blog it, I want to offer it to editorial pages. For a guest editorial.

Could you guys post here the email addresses of your favorite openminded letters-editors. Local papers are okay. I need to update my list anyway. Of course 1,000 words is longer than most want.

Rob, could you copy them down as they come in?

Blake Stacey said...

I cannot resist the temptation to make this thread even more miscellaneous than it was before. We can call this process "multi-threading". (The people who laughed at that, myself included, need to make more friends.)

First, New Scientist reacts to Greg Egan's criticism but plainly isn't willing to swallow their dose of CITOKATE.

Then, has Prof. Penny Smith solved the Navier-Stokes problem? Frustrated cranks are already preparing their demonstrations of why it ain't so; others are moving on to the Riemann hypothesis. (-;

Finally, disturbing graphs compare eigth-grade U.S. science performance with Far Eastern countries.

James Aach said...

Just to be clear on my point above, I hopefully was not echoing the right's mantra of liberal university studies being dangerous, nor was I endorsing anyone's political agenda, nor saying my concern was the biggest problem out there.

I was merely pointing out that those involved in the publishing and entertainment industry likely have a limited understanding of, and affinity for, science and technology. The same is often true of journalists, if you care to separate them out. (It's likely these folks were good at speech or literature and bad at chemistry and physics in high school, and it just snowballed from there.) There's nothing wrong with people being good at different things, and pursuing different interests, but...

I believe it is not just public apathy in science that keeps it from being well covereda and represented in the media, but also the disinterest of those who provide and control the media content (no matter what their political views). This results in very little good science being placed before the public in a popular context and on a regular basis. Instead we get scary cartoons. and these cartoons, over time, become ingrained in our culture's outlook because there is no better perspective to refer too. The result is an unquestioning, viscerally negative response to some news - like a leak or release of any size at a nuclear power plant. And because politicians are popularly elected (at least in theory), they must respond to these knee-jecrk reactions, whether they recognize them as such, or not.

Good storytelling, with good science, is a good idea. And it's not happening. That's ultimately my only point.

Andrew Smith said...

Here's an interesting article. Google boss Eric Schmidt want's to use the internet to enable the citizenry to keep its government accountable.

"People would be able to use programs to check seemingly factual statements against historical data to see to see if they were correct."

Imagine watching C-SPAN with a ticker underneath relating in real-time whether the politician speaking is telling the truth or not!

Anonymous said...

I think there is reason for some hope on the science / technology in journalism front.

There is a lot of really good sci/tech journalism out there. It's just not as visible as it could be. These often come from "Third Culture" writers; typically, scientists who have learned how to write.

There is a yearly series, The World's Best Science Writing, that is worth checking out.

Some really good science reporting can be found in places like Harpers and The New Yorker. The latter has published a lot of John McPhee's essays, for example.

* * *

The BIG problem for scientific literacy is just plain literacy. Many people don't read; others just read crap.

But then again . . . it's ALWAYS been like that, hasn't it? In fact, it is likely that it was way worse.

David Brin said...

Andrew, thanks for the Google ref. In fact, I am giving a company-wide talk there on the 17th on similar topics... happens also to be the day my patent issues.

“Imagine watching C-SPAN with a ticker underneath relating in real-time whether the politician speaking is telling the truth or not!”

Um anyone care to add this to the wiki prediction hits from EARTH?????

Stefan is right that there’s tons of good and bad science writing. The problem is ATTITUDE. Not just people who misunderstand science, but who don’t want to and desperately need to envision it as another incantatory system.

Woozle said...

Nuclear power:

Here's the Issuepedia page on the subject, and I'll reiterate here a note I made on that page:

Personally, I'd be very interested in seeing a new approach to nuclear power plant management using information-age tools, and the "many eyes make all bugs shallow" approach: webcams on every console, doorway, and access point; publicly-accessible telemetry data; a wiki and blogs maintained by plant workers; chat rooms for workers to let off steam (or mention their worries) during lunch breaks (with convenient computer terminals in the snack rooms); cooperative ownership of the plant, with residents within "fallout" range automatically given priority in voting; and so on. Only in this way can we be sure that safety issues will not be shoved under the carpet, as is apparently being done at Indian Point as well as at Shearon-Harris, our friendly neighborhood nuclear plant here in North Carolina. More nuclear plants without these tools will be business as usual, but a nuclear plant with these tools in place might have a chance to actually be a positive thing.

Google power:

That's a large part of what I want to do, with Issuepedia being the part I actually have the means to carry out. So far, the silence in reaction to Issuepedia has been deafening; what am I doing wrong?

James Aach: Have you tried Analog? My understanding is that they are specifically interested in people-oriented accurate-hard-science stories, and that Stan Schmidt is known for offering helpful suggestions on pieces that are good-but-not-quite. (I don't remember where I heard this about Dr. Schmidt, so I may be inventing it.) Also that Baen project of which Dr. Brin approves and which doesn't seem to be mentioned anywhere on, go figure, so I can't quickly locate the name or web site...

James Aach said...

I agree there is some good science writing out there (I'm a McPhee fan), but I suspect it is already reaching the converted or at least the intellectually curious. I don't think giving up on the rest of the population (40%? 60%? 80%?) is a good idea - particularly on key societal issues that have a large science/technology component. The approach I've tried to take to bridge the gap is to put a lot of accurate information in a popular entertainment format that doesn't have the "Yuk! Science!" factor - the airport fiction paperback.

Woozle - thanks for the references, I wil check them out. My novel is full length (93K) and not really amenable to being cut into short story pieces, but you never know. I've never had criticism on the quality of the writing, per se - only the general topic and the amount of science and tech issues. (There's probably about as much in the whole novel as you'd find in a good two part science magazine story.)

Regarding your nuclear suggestions: other than a few die hard extroverts, I doubt if anyone would want to work at a job in front of a webcam every day. Some of your other suggestions of public involvement seem workable up to a point. Telemetry data for instrumentation monitoring release rates and site boundary rad levels, for instance. (Of course, a plant can always be accused of altering the data.) There are already reporting requirements for this data. At some point further telemetry becomes impractical - you'd need 3 people on staff to answer questions about every little item for each one who is actually doing something. The operations of a nuclear plant are not something the casual watcher can grasp readily. (But you may not have meant that kind of stuff when you said telemetry data, anyway. Also, there some security issues once you get to internal plant parameters.) I believe there are states which have personnel at or frequently visiting sites, in addition to the NRC inspectors always working at a site. If the state isn't trusted by locals, I doubt if there would be too much objection to a full time county person - although it does mean the plant has to have an extra person or two on staff full time to do research, answer their questions, and address their comments.

I'd invite everyone again to take a look at my book, which is presented in episodic form (or as a PDF file) at . My knee-slapping commentary on science in fiction is at .

And thanks to Mr. Brin for the opportunity to discuss this stuff.

Anonymous said...


I just finished an article in the New Yorker on String "Theory."

I didn't realize so many others think it's just twaddle, too:

Good stuff.

JuhnDonn said...

Try the St. Pete times?

Anonymous said...

As far as newspapers go, I might suggest the Eagle Tribune up in North Andover, MA. Yes, they let me go from my job there (Classified Rep., I kind of made my boss look like the Dilbertian fool he was so they eliminated my job) but as newspapers go it's a fairly decent one. Until a year ago it also was one of the last independantly-owned newspapers; I think it was finally bought up by a conglomorate.

There's also the various Daily News newspapers of MA (ranging from the Salem Evening News, the Newburyport News, and so forth) that the Tribune had bought up and which ended up costing too much which is why the Tribune was sold; they're also decent papers.

To tell the truth, Mr. Brin, I'd be tickled pink to see your editorial in these papers. It would be fun to see someone intelligent and well-spoken writing about something significant for a change...

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

This is an interesting initiative:

Transparent Business suggests that, via xbrl, company accounts will soon be available online for all to see. (From a quick glance, I may not have that *quite* right but, as I say, interesting)

Anonymous said...

Completely offtopic, but David, one of the democratic candidates is taking your idea of using the Contract on America as part of his platform.

Woozle said...

re Analog: They regulaly serialize novel-length works; many of the best-known SF novels originally appeared there. See Wikipedia.

re working under webcams: My understanding is that high-security / high-risk jobs often involve rather harsh conditions – compared to which the presence of web cams would be minor – and that the benefits provided by such scrutiny (including greatly expanded ability to complain about adverse work conditions) might well outweigh the inconvenience.

Personally, I'd rather work under a camera where I could access the feed myself (even if the rest of the world could too) than under a camera only accessible to security personnel and their bosses (which is common in many offices these days, including the last place I worked). Not that I'm trying to score points or anything, but have you read The Transparent Society by one David Brin? ;-) (Who, I believe, has been published in Analog on a number of occasions as well...)

Security issues would need to be addressed, yes – but without knowing what they are, I couldn't even make suggestions at this point. I would only add that good security should be able to withstand close scrutiny.

And yes, I'm talking about every kind of telemetry feed, including the intensely technical. Every feed need not come with a manual (much less Nuclear Power Plant Design And Operation for Dummies); it is enough that it is there, and can be recorded for posterity by impartial witnesses, and is available for inspection by a few people who might actually know what it means. Explanations can gradually accumulate on the wiki... (It also seems entirely possible that availability of real-time data will allow the creation of new, perhaps better, monitoring applications, written by those crazy open-source people.)

reason said...

David Brin said...

Rob H. got email addresses for those editors?

Francis... somebody oughta write to that Candidate and see if he’s seen:

In fact, EVERYBODY get your local candidate pointed to that article. If they just picked ONE of the platform planks... (My favorite? IGUS... the Inspector General of the United States.)

Tony, cool about TRANSPARENT BUSINESS. We have many good people at the third and below levels of government who are not crooks or suborned, but who even today are trying hard to make civilization work.

Woozle, nice plug!

James Aach said...

Hi Woozle,

I didn't know Analog did the full length thing. Will look into it - thanks.

We'll just have to disagree on the aspect of working in front of a camera full time. We can take no pictures inside the security area without security oversite, so it's hard to see how full time feeds would pass muster with the NRC or others concerned about such matters.

Regarding showing all telemetry, one of the real sticking points for those of us inside the security fence is that knowledge or understanding about what nuclear data points mean doesn't seem to be a criteria for raising a media or legal ruckus. Your proposal of impartially archiving them and then only letting knowledgeable people examine them sounds good - but it's easy for me to see someone working for an anti-nuclear group with a smattering of knowledge [frankly, that describes many in this field, though not all, and a lot of pro- people too] claiming and winning the right to see this info. Nothing wrong with that - -until all the bad press starts about all the bad stuff they've found. It's always possible they'll hit the jackpot and find something real, but more likely it will be lots and lots of false positives strewn about the media. There is a real-life example of this in my book. And the first news always trumps any followup correct reporting. My thoughts anyway from the inside. Were I not here, I can see viewing things differently.

David Brin said...

There is a solution to the problem you raise. It is called the Honest Broker.

The sides agree in advance on a series of threshholds that would be worthy of increasing levels of public attention, then had the raw feeds over to a SIG or special interest group of individuals acceptable to both sides. Maybe a hundred people who have calm, not-too-excitable reps and a willingness to take a basic course grounding them in what a meaningful accident might look like. Let them be the third source of information, in addition to the company and regulators.

Naum said...

Arizona Republic has an online submission form for letters to the editor:

Woozle said...

If the NRC mandates no pictures, then we need to understand why this is the case. The current rules are no doubt built on the old monolithic "security by obscurity and really, really thick doors" model, and could probably use some major overhaul.

Also, I was not proposing limiting access to the telemetry. I was suggesting that for any given piece of data, there would be some collection of (outside) people who could understand it, and whom laypeople would be more inclined to trust than An Industry Spokesman.

As far as the legal attacks... yes, that obviously is a problem, but who is doing the attacking, and why? This is a problem worthy of analysis.

If the attacks are coming from the community, for example, then maybe the plant should have been built somewhere else; the decision to build should be fully as transparent as the plant's operation. If the plant is only built with the full cooperation of whatever community it is in, then this should never happen. I know this sounds a little idealistic, but that's what we're here for, isn't it?

It should also be set up so there are no entrenched interests involved; if any safety issues arise, it should be designed in such a way that it is entirely feasible to shut the plant down. (And remember, the community owns a large chunk of the plant, in this scheme, so if the plant loses money...) Perhaps if the construction included a coal-fired plant right next door, which could be brought online in relatively short order when the nuke plant had to be shut down to address concerns... after a few days of coal fumes, you should have the townfolk rallying in support of their nice, clean nuclear power. If not, then you've done something wrong.

With enough well-designed transparency, the real story will triumph over the initial sound bite.

Working-with-webcams is apparently another issue needing study. I suspect that today's constantly IMing, SMSing, emailing, webcamming, and cellphoning-with-live-video youth might have a different attitude towards internet-based "surveillance" – and by the time any plant we plan today is ready to go online, they will be the generation being hired (give or take a few years).

Dr. Brin's Honest Broker solution may be necessary, though I strongly prefer a solution which doesn't depend on any particular party's honesty. Perhaps the Honest Broker can be used to decide which security issues legitimately need to be kept secret. Perhaps a separate Honest Broker can then have the job of monitoring and reporting on those details, via some kind of Solomonesque you-cut-I-choose trade-off...

A highly related question: You say (and I can certainly believe) that people tend to avoid delving into the complicated technical details of nuclear power, and that's why you wrote this novel (and posted it online, which I applaud vigorously), to make those details more digestible. But where can the technical details be found? Are there any good, accurate, technical resources online?

James Aach said...

Mr. Brin: Not a bad idea, though it might be hard to find a group of people that neither side would be overly suspicious of - you would probably have to train interested bystanders from scratch, using material from both camps. But it could be done.

A couple of years ago the NRC set up (and now maintains) an on-line threshold meter showing those plants which had gone over a conservative risk standard in one or more areas - both those areas statistically easy to measure and those where the NRC applied some judgement. Some watchdog groups cried foul because they felt the standards were too easy to meet. Also, the subjective measures depend on the NRC's ability to properly capture and categorize cultural problems or other significant issues that might escape the standard data format - and to find actual problems escaping notice, such as the degraded Davis Besse reactor vessel of few years ago. (Watchdog groups aren't impressed with the NRC's performance in this area, either.) So if NRC (and sometimes state) regulators aren't enough, I would say a nearly full-time local inspector on site would be more apt to bring such problems to light and satisfy public concern.

But in the bigger picture, your proposed solution does have level of straightforwardness that gives it a lot of merit. Thanks for weighing in.

Now if only I could get folks to read my entertaining nuclear novel so they'd have a clearer perspective.... (Also, in a month or so it will be a paperback available at Amazon (on which I'll earn no royalties).) I think the next novel will have more sex and less science.

James Aach said...

Hi Wooze,

As far as pictures, if I wanted to show you a picture of a specific piece of equipment, I could likely do it. It's pictures that could serve more as maps that I believe are the issue, but I can't be sure. I'm afraid I don't and can't discuss security issues in any detail, which is easy since I have no real expertise. The blockade on nuclear info is kind of a microcosm of some bigger issues on the validity of secrecy.

Generally, my understanding is that communities near nuclear plants (within the 10 mile evacuation zone) heavily favor the plants - employees live there, tax base issues, etc. I suspect the love drops off as you go farther away.

I agree that the siting and building should be transparent. one question is how much of a community must be in favor. If 80 - 90% are in favor, but the rest are rabidly against it and will take whatever legal means there are to slow or stop it, is it reasonable to not build it there? Tough call. Often these folks have significant support from regional or national organizations, but I suspect there is always some local involvement.

In my personal experience, I've never seen a plant delay shutdown for a legitimate safety issue due to economic concerns. (That's a popular story conceit.) The NRC can also order a shutdown at any time, I believe. I don't have detailed knowledge of all 100+ reactors to make sweeping claims, however. One of the benefits of having three huge national power grids that each cover about a third of the country is that one plant shutting down doesn't effect things too much.

Regarding literature, I've looked more at written books than all the online stuff. The problem with most technical stuff (online or otherwise) is that it really only gives you half the picture of what's going on. The human and political elements factor in heavily. (Then there's the radiation vs. health arguments, where you've got the official safe values and much, much, much smaller values being promoted by some other groups.) Of course I'm going to tell you my book is the best starting point, but beyond that probably a good online source is, which is run by a longtime nuclear worker. I believe he includes a lot of links. For the written word, the best I've found is Nuclear Choices: A Citizens Guide by Richard Wolfson from 1993 or so. A more historical look is Robert Pool's Beyond Engineering, also from the early 1990s. For a nuclear critic who's pretty well-respected, Dr. Frank Von Hippel has some books out there. There have been some other academic and technical books released in the last couple of years I'm not as familiar with. (But that's not the audience I want.) There are also some books on both extremes of the argument, of course.

Also, each nuclear plant has a Public Document Room nearby - typically the public library. This contained a lot of design materials at one time. Much of it was quickly pulled in the wake of 9/11, but I suspect a lot is now filtering back in. The NRC's official site has some merit too.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

If the Democrats win control of Congress in November, by December the President will declare martial law and prevent the new members from being sworn in.

Since there aren't enough troops to neatly enforce martial law -- they're off in Iraq, and who thought that sending the NATIONAL GUARD out of the country on a more-or-less permanent basis was a good idea, a way to save money because they don't get full regular army benefits??? -- what troops are still stateside will have to enforce martial law not neatly but brutally.

David Brin said...

Doris, while I am certainly not averse to a little paranoia, now and then (!;-) I must doubt your scenario.

You really need to study up.

In fact, the neocons are at least five years away from being able to rely on a purged and re-aligned US military. As things stand right now -- amid the fury over his oppression of the US Officer Corps -- if Bush tried a coup, he would be able to count on the Presidential Band.

That's about it. Even his Secret Service agents would be untrustworthy.

In fact, the only forces he could utterly rely upon would be cousins of...

...Osama bin Laden.

David Brin said...


Pelosi describes something VAGUELY like a Contract With America...

will someone yammer at her please about how much better it would be to aggressively DO IT CLEARLY?

Even if she doesn't state it as a "contract" per se. OMG there are things on that agenda that would prove they mean what they say. Like IGUS...

Don Quijote said...

was suggesting that for any given piece of data, there would be some collection of (outside) people who could understand it, and whom laypeople would be more inclined to trust than An Industry Spokesman.

That's what the NRC is supposed to be...

Sounds like you don't trust them, how long do you think it'll take the Industry to capture your collection of outsiders?

If 80 - 90% are in favor, but the rest are rabidly against it and will take whatever legal means there are to slow or stop it, is it reasonable to not build it there?

Ask Lilco about that?

OTOH you are far likelier to get something like this to work and for a whole lot less money.

matthew jones said...

Here's the contact for the Oregonian in Portland, OR

It says that they have a 500 word limit, but...

Woozle said...

"Sounds like you don't trust them, how long do you think it'll take the Industry to capture your collection of outsiders?"

That's part of my point. Any particular body of outsiders is subornable; if the information is widely available, then there are no clear targets to be suborned. (And there are new engineering and physics graduates every year.) This is part of why transparency is important.

Side note: It's not so much that I don't trust the NRC (although I have my doubts), but that I know most people who are against nuclear power do not trust the NRC.

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Gary S. Hurd said...

The Cal Academy article on Mary Schweitzer's research was surprisingly poor, and the sort that feeds creationists some quotes.

My articles on the Schweitzer research and the creationist (and popular media) misrepresentations are hosted on the TalkOrigins website.

Dino Blood and the Young Earth

Dino Blood Redux

James Aach said...

Regarding windmills as a new power source (Don Quijote provides a link above), they are a nice adjunct to the grid and I'd like to see a lot more of them. (Personally I think they are rather attractive too.) They do not generate all that much power individually, however, and this generation is often over-reported as well, because maximum theoretical capacity is used vs. the actual amount generated considering maintenance time, wind conditions, etc. Adding these corrections in can drop the generation number down by 75%. (For the average US nucear plant the average drop would be 10% BTW.)A quick calculation shows if the correctionss are taken into account, one of the two Indian Point reactors outside NY would need 2500 1 MW windmills to replace it. (Less if you go with the giant 5 MW models in use in Europe.) Also, one still needs either baseload capacity or energy storage for the times the wind isn't blowing, etc. A lot of folks might feel 2500 windmills is a good replacement for a nuclear reactor, and they may be right. It just needs to be realized that the number is 2500 and not 250. As to costs - I don't know.

As I may have mentioned before, one of the biggest problems with moving toward our energy future is that the vast majority of the population has no real grasp of the energy present. I did have a nice discussion with a windmill advocate awhile back and I think we came to some common ground on the facts if not the ability to actually make the change.

James Aach said...

That link was

then: cpc/2006/01/long_now_nuclea.html#more

Anonymous said...


With the possible exception of nuclear power, doesn't all our energy come from the sun?

What is oil and coal but stored solar power? Bio-diesel, hydro, wind and, yes, solar power all come from the sun.

I see two questions:

1. What's the most cost-efficient way to extract solar power.

2. Will extracting that solar power cause any problem?

Is there any downside to wind power?

Could we actually alter weather patterns by taking energy out of our atmosphere this way?

Rob Perkins said...

I don't have the impression that Pelosi knows how to be clear, and agressive, at the same time.

Even so, every single last one of those 100 hour proposals sounds really, really good to me, with the possible exception of the stem cell research one, which could probably be tackled with a little more care and be accomplished in the second 100 hours.

If that's really what she'll plan to do, I'll throw my weight behind it. She should make it a public statement and get Dem candidates (and maybe even not a few Republicans) to sign their names to it.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there are a few energy sources, besides man-made nuclear reactors, that don't originally come from the sun. One such source is the rotation of the Earth (and Moon); the energy in ocean tides comes from this source. Geothermal energy, which comes from the heat in the Earth's core, is another source that is independent of the sun. (One could argue, though, that geothermal energy is actually a kind of nuclear energy because the Earth maintains its temperature because of radioactive decay.)

Anonymous said...

Monkeyboy wonders:

"Could we actually alter weather patterns by taking energy out of our atmosphere this way?"

Spitting in the wind would effect weather patterns to some extent. Really extensive use of wind and tidal power would have more of an effect . . . but really, we're not talking about tapping all that much in the big picture.

SF reference:

In Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men, the far-future race of "third men" makes extensive use of tidal power.* So much so that the orbit of the moon is effected.

Stapledon didn't think small . . .


* Oh! Another cutesy: The civilization of the "first men," descended from a power-mad America obsessed with joy-riding in personal aircraft, falls into ruin when the coal and oil runs out. Scientists who warn about the shortage are dismissed as loons; the public instead listens to crackpots who claim that the coal beds are being replenished from below.

James Aach said...

The only additional answers I can give to Monkyboy's questions are:

1)while technically fossil originates with solar energy, it is not viewed that way in the common venacular, so I prefer to discuss it separately. Many folks don't seem to make the connection that wind power is solar power - which is much more direct.

2) the one strong potential downside I've read with respect to wind power is its effect on bird life. A big installation chews up quite a few of our feathered friends, and there's concern that placing large groups of windmills along major flyways could make it worse. (Often these flyways are along the windy coasts. The birds typically fly higher than the windmills but will switch to lower altitude in some weather conditions.) Beyond siting changes, I know companies are working on other methods to prevent this, including slower blade rotation. One could argue many of our other sources are already not wildlife-friendly. A lesser secondary problem reported is that some folks find the sound unpleasant.

3) Beyond the need for developing a large workforce to operate and fix solar and wind power equipment (why not?) it's possible there could be some resource issues with large scale solar cell production(rare element availabiity) and toxic waste issues, but again there's a lot of activity in this field (and it's not like our current energy sources don't have problems.)

I'm not the expert on these energy types, so I mention only possibiities. On last thought: I always try to make the point that the first, second, and third priority in any energy plan should be conservation since the best and cheapest energy is that which isn't used.

David Brin said...

October is VERY busy. Little time for blogging. But here's a few small bones... Thrive all...

AND go after those wavering voters.

"Everybody kind of wishes he was still president." -- British Labour
delegate Christopher Wellbelove, describing his party's repeated
standing ovations for Bill Clinton's speech at their annual gathering last

"Everyone agrees that the Orinoco Belt has the biggest reserves in
the world. What Chavez will do with them is another question, but
there's no doubt that Venezuela will take Saudi Arabia's place as No. 1." --
Alberto Quiros, Chavez critic and past president of Royal Dutch Shell

"I think what those people [the Bush administration] have done is
protected themselves from learning by counterpunching every time anyone
lands a blow and turning what should be very difficult strategic policy
questions into, essentially, part of a permanent campaign at home to
win a political argument." -- George Packer, ibid.

Last week, for the first time in modern history, China's global
exports of goods outpaced the U.S., as July figures for the former
settled in at $80.313B, vs. $80.337B for China. China's exports have grown
at 19.5% for ten years, vs. 4.8% for the U.S., 7.0% for Germany, 5.6%
for Britain, and 4.0% for Japan.

Anonymous said...

Don't call it "conservation."

Call it "higher efficiency."

The word "conservation" powerfully stimulates the anterior ascending Resentful Sorehead gyrus of many American males.

Tell 'em they have to cut back and you may as well have offered to whack off their private parts so they have less to wash in the shower.

Tell them they can do the same job for less money, and they'll blink suspiciously but grudgingly accept the notion.

Now if you tell them it's part of the War on Terror and you're helping starve terrists...

matthew jones said...

On the subject of solar power sources - has anyone ever seen any discussion side effects of the "shadow" from a large solar power generation farm? Say some of the proposed 10+ square mile surface kind?
It seems to me that the creation of so much shade / reflective surface would profoundly change the nature of the surrounding microclimate / eco-system. Has anyone seen any links to this type of thought?

On another subject, check out the news regarding the possible solving of another one of the Clay Institute's Millennium Problems in mathematics.
This one is for the Navier - Stokes equations (describing fluid or gas particle motions in 3D).

Penny Smith's paper (

Kudos if this paper ends up passing the peer review - it is far too rich for my poor rusty differential equation / number theory skills - but hopefully we have just knocked out another of the "great unknowns" in math.
As I understand it, her paper is basically proving the existance of general solutions to the Navier - Stokes EQ's in 3D.

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Rob Perkins said...

Vernor Vinge gave it some casual thought. His "bobbles" doubled the amount of sunlight available for crops in their vicinity, since they were perfectly reflective. But that was just a story.

I have absolutely none of the skills required to judge those Navier-Stokes proofs.

Stefan, what you say with pessimism ought to be promoted using every advanced marketing skill our society has. The "It's CHEAPER!" message might do better seperated from all the stigmas associated with environmentalism in the minds of so many people.

Anonymous said...

Random thoughts:

Solar cell farms would cast a shadow, and the land underneath might be a bit cooler as a result . . . but remember that the actual panels are in the atmosphere, and considerably darker than most crop / soil / ground covers.

The heat they absorb while doing their light-to-electricity trick has to go somewhere.

Tony Fisk said...

Related to the effect of solar cell farms, and following on from a recent WC piece*, I've been wondering whether or not aircraft exhausts can be modified to alleviate the blanketting effect of con-trails, perhaps even make them net radiators?

It's not as monumental as a proof for Navier-Stokes, but more visceral: you can play 'spot the rover' in this recently released photograph. (via The Planetary Society blog)

Heck! You can just about make out the roadkill that's been gumming up one of the front wheel drives!

* Incidentally, the book's nearly out!

Rob Perkins said...

The heat they absorb takes partial form as electricity, which is dissipated as heat elsewhere, either as network inefficiencies or consumed as electricity for whatever purpose. The net gain/loss from the cycle is just about zero, I think.

Tony Fisk said...

...and the smidge of politics.

Since David has been so starkly comparing and contrasting the handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, one has to wonder how the aftermath in both countries has been handled under Rumsfeld's sure authority, and what might happen in Afghanistan now that NATO have taken over.

Gen. David Richards seems to be wondering as well!

Kelsey Gower said...

Well, this might be a little late for this thread, but I've been hearing news lately about the movie "The Death of a President". I'm wondering if this could be the October Surprise for the Republicans. Or maybe they could make it one...

Anonymous said...


North Korea did it.

What does it mean?

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that North Korea is reacting to the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to China. They really can't stand being out of the spotlight.

The only thing that has really changed is now that we really know for sure that they're both crazy and armed.

So, why aren't we threatening to regime-change this known terrorist state?

Ah. No oil. "Duh!"

* * *

Interview with Wil Wright on his upcoming game Spore:

The Long Zoom.

Anonymous said...

North Korea isn't a known terrorist state; the only terrorism they seem to be doing is within their own borders. They are invoved in criminal activity, though; they've been caught counterfeiting US currency and have been accused of selling and smuggling illegal drugs. (Specifically, they were accused of producing methamphetamine for export.)

I think we can live with a nuclear North Korea as long as they DON'T SELL their bombs to terrorists. It's quite rational of them to be pursuing a deterrent against an attack by the United States, and as far as I can tell, they really don't want anything more than to be left alone. They seem to have no particular drive to change the rest of the world, only to hold it at arm's length.

Tony Fisk said...

Meantime, the plot thickens over at Groklaw, where the focus is currently on the IBM vs SCO case.

The story so far: SCO are the pleasant guys who wanted to own Linux. They tried suing IBM (and a few others) for use rights. IBM didn't play the game, and did a bit of suing of their own. As part of their campaign, SCO got $50m from a venture capital outfit called Baystar, who got it from the Royal Bank of Canada (who subsequently got bought out) and...Microsoft.

This is old news, but it seems, from a recent declaration, that Microsoft's role was a bit more involved than a 'rogue' VP, and could result in them getting another set of anti-competitive lawsuits pinned on them. A few whiffs appear to be coming from the Republican camp too, but it's too early to say that with any confidence. (I do recall that, apart from reducing border patrols, one of Bush's first acts as president was to withdraw from the Microsoft antitrust case.)

Worth keeping an eye on.

Rob Perkins said...

The guys running SCO, I think, are the same ones who earlier ran Novell with a distinctly anti-Microsoft stance, who went on to whichever company kept the DR-DOS IP and ran it with a distinctly anti-Microsoft stance, who then up and bought SCO and UnixWare and ran *that* with a distinctly anti-Microsoft stance, before deciding to sue IBM and whomever etc etc.

NoOne said...

On the SCO saga:

The ownership story of SCO is a bit complicated. I think it was first run by a bunch of ex-Novell guys and had funding from The Canopy Group. [Ray Noorda, the ex-head of Canopy and once CEO of Novell died today at 82.] SCO's Unix server business was purchased by Caldera in 2000 using Canopy funding. In 2003, after going back to the SCO name, SCO launched an attack against IBM, Redhat etc. with Microsoft (and Sun!) probably providing secret financial assistance. The rest is history or will be soon.

I found a good SCO timeline here.

Rob Perkins said...

Caldera! The Canopy Group!

Those were the names I was missing.

RIP Ray Noorda.