Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Space News - is Planet X a black hole? And those Russian rocket explosions... and more...

Planetary Radio gives you an hour-long podcast on solar system news! Especially glimpses of the weird and wonderful projects we’re funding at NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC). Plus a tribute to Alexei Leonov. Matt Kaplan is a terrific and engaging host…. and the projects truly are worth your tax dollars! (Well, most of them ;-)

Separately, at the recent Starship Conference in San Diego, Matt Kaplan, the Voice of the Planetary Society, interviewed me for Planetary Radio.  

Need more Brin-blather about what might be going on out there? Let’s move out from the mere solar system. Should we be revealing ourselves to the cosmos? What if the first aliens to discover us do so thanks to our own transmissions, and, more disturbingly, what if those aliens are less than benevolent?” On StarTalk All-Stars, astrobiologist and host David Grinspoon also tackles METI, or “Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” With co-host Chuck Nice, Dr. FunkySpoon invited David Brin, the Hugo award-winning science fiction author, scientist and NASA consultant who was on the committee that drew up the protocols for what to do if we do make contact with aliens. 

You’ll learn why the “barn door excuse” – that we’ve already sent out radio and television transmissions that may have sealed our fate – is scientifically incorrect, but why new plans to send planetary radar focused beams into space would pump up the volume exponentially. We discuss whether the general public has the right to determine whether we broadcast our presence to the universe, or whether a “scientific elite” gets to decide humanity’s fate. 

One proposed theory explaining the "Fermi Paradox" is that civilizations reach a "competence limit," especially if they do what elites always do in feudal-oligarchic-despotic societies -- crush the corrective light of criticism.  Want a daunting example? Here's an interesting dissection of the kinds of "nuclear rocket that Russians may have been testing in Archangelsk, before that recent, horrific explosion. And yes, such desperation plus incompetence combinations are really scary.

Note also it was one of three disasters just that month! Watch this amazing footage from the munitions dump going off in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. And then ponder how that gangster mafia is on the verge of ruling the world.

== Planet "X"?  Or a hole? ==

A new paper suggests the gravitational pull that we’ve long associated with a missing Planet X could come from a primordial black hole – a type of small singularity that scientists have theorised formed during the Big Bang"We advocate that rather than just looking for it in visible light, maybe look for it in gamma rays. Or cosmic rays."  Or else maybe the distortion of background stars? Or Hawking Radiation? 

On average, the mysterious body is calculated to orbit the Sun 20 times farther than Neptune, every 10,000 to 20,000 years, versus Pluto's 248 years. Far-out!

Another possibility…. A wormhole gateway? For alien lurkers? Or waiting for us, as in the Expanse

More mundane (slightly.) Scientists have discovered what could be the largest neutron star on record.  Starting at  around 1.4 solar masses, more recent measurements have revealed increasingly huge examples.  This one is estimated at 2.14x solar mass and 20 km across. Once a star reaches 2.17 times the mass of the sun, that star is doomed to collapse into a black hole. This suggests that J0740+6620 is "really pushing that" limit, providing an amazing laboratory for gravity radiation and stellar evolution, plus the possibility of something dramatic.
The second verified interstellar visitor object is more active than ‘Oumuamua. It’s cometary activity will be visible for months, allowing analysis of many elemental/chemical traits. Astronomers will attempt to compare C/2019 Q4's shape to the (arguably) cigar-like structure (or even odder) of 'Oumuamua, which looked different from anything we've yet seen in our solar system. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, expected to come online next year, should be able to spot large numbers of interstellar objects as they fly through our solar system.

Another spectacular new ‘eye’ (among many) is , the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) on the Mayall Telescope in Arizona, is a huge leap in our ability to measure galaxy distances – enabling a new era of mapping the structures in the Universe. See the amazing new map of the filamentary nature of our universe.

Dust from a huge asteroid collision out there might have obscured enough sunlight to trigger the Kirschvink or Iceball epochs on Earth, about 466 million years ago.

== A few curiosities ==

The mass of the proposed superheavy gravitino lies in the region of the Planck mass—that is, around a hundred millionth of a kilogram. That’s immense. In comparison, protons and neutrons—the building blocks of the atomic nucleus—are around ten quintillion (ten million trillion) times lighter. Their large mass means that these particles could only occur in very dilute form in the universe – “one actually wouldn't need very many of them to explain the dark matter content in the universe and in our galaxy—one particle per 10,000 cubic kilometres would be sufficient.”  This has another effect. It means these particles needn’t be invisible to EM interactions… they could interact with light and matter relatively normally and still not have been detected till now.

If so, interplanetary space contains them sparsely but everywhere. Might 4.6 billion years of collisions with Earth left ‘tracks’ in old rocks? (Much as my gravity laser beans do, in Earth?) Might these present obstacles to fast ships, and hence help to explain the Fermi Paradox?

And finally... Though almost desperately fluffy, the “In Search of” shows can be amusing and occasionally interesting. Here’s one about aliens where I go along… 

Heh!  NIAC has even funded some Mach Effect studies.  I think just to keep a reputation for openmindedness that keeps the better minds hanging around. 


Alfred Differ said...

Even without a hunt for Planet X, I like the idea of broad spectrum maps of our immediate vicinity... which extends to 'out there'. 8)

Just seems like something a space-faring civilization should do. Look around and get a feel for the neighborhood.

Alfred Differ said...


Glad I could help. Thought you needed someone to cheer you up. 8)

[I'm pretty sure our Senator is meaner, though. There is a reason we picked her earlier as our AG. Warren too. Just watch her talking about the big finance banks getting away with stuff a decade ago. ]

One thing we are learning from the paid trolls is they aren't tryin to change our minds. They are trying to get us entrenched in our current ideas so we don't compromise. That's what splits us along cleavages already existing.

So... if you don't let them get you to where you are certain of your righteousness, I'll work on a similar defense for me. Sounds like something all of us can do.

duncan cairncross said...

Interesting article about reactionless drive

I think the author of the article is correct about it not working - but his explanation is convoluted and just plain WRONG

Thinking about Jim

I have been commenting on Quora about Nuclear power

I did a course on Nuclear Engineering way back in the 70's - and I thought about entering the field but I decided not to as I could see a career spent checking and rechecking

Today Nuclear power is just as expensive as it was back then - but it's competition - Wind and Solar - are about a fifth of their cost back then

In my career I spent a lot of time improving manufacturing systems - most of the improvement has come from thousands of tiny steps - over a few years they massively reduce the costs

I suspect that with Nuclear none of the possible "tiny steps" would clear the "risk/benefit" analysis
So after 50 years they have not made the improvements

Back to Jim
He wants to prevent the tiny steps
In "Manufacturing Speak" he is

Allowing the Perfect to become the enemy of the better

And that leads to NO IMPROVEMENTS

Jon S. said...

Black hole? Wormhole?

Obviously, it's the Charon Relay. I just hope we manage to talk with the turians before they start shooting because we were activating relays willy-nilly across this cluster. (To the humans, it was the First Contact War. To the turians, it was the Relay 314 incident.)

Alfred Differ said...

I give Jim a little more credit than that. He says he feels burned by the hype/promise of the 2008 Obama campaign. I'm inclined to believe him because I've seen others in that state. They hypnotized each other during the last few months and BELIEVED Democrats were offering something much closer to perfection. It was quite a sight that couldn't go anywhere but down after the real man took office in 2009.

I recall Nate Silver analyzing Obama a bit to try to figure out where he was on the political spectrum. This group believed here. That group believed there. His result was somewhere just to the right of center suggesting a lot of people were going to wake up one day very disappointed.

Presidential candidates don't get squat done on their own. Congress has to cooperate. Since America is not as far left as Sanders and Warren, a win by them will lead to some future disappointment in all their voters... especially the former non-voters who were taught to BELIEVE this time. Lucy with her football shows up to all our elections.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
While I agree that "theoretically" the President should NOT make that big a difference as a pragmatic engineer I would have to say that historically the economic wellbeing of the USA lines up with the presidency very very well!

Dems do better than Goppers - and if they get a second term Dems get better and Goppers get worse

Practice v Theory

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I give Jim a little more credit than that. He says he feels burned by the hype/promise of the 2008 Obama campaign. I'm inclined to believe him because I've seen others in that state. They hypnotized each other during the last few months and BELIEVED Democrats were offering something much closer to perfection. It was quite a sight that couldn't go anywhere but down after the real man took office in 2009.

Hmmmm, who else does that remind you of?

Except that they've stayed hypnotized for three years.

Maybe we need our own news network to broadcast a stubborn insistence that our side is doing all the wonderful things that we want them to. It couldn't be straight fake news the way FOX is, because as Dr Brin points out, liberals have a limited attention span for such propaganda, and we're much less inclined to simply believe what The Party says two plus two is today. So it would have to be something like Steven Colbert-like comedy. The viewers are in on the joke, and know the facts being asserted are crap, but the story is funny and compelling enough that we willingly go along to the extent of keeping support for the Democratic presidents and legislators who are the protagonists of the story.

There's personal precedent for this. When I was a wee lad of 15, I knew little of the candidates or the parties yet, but I knew that I wanted Gerald Ford to be re-elected in 1976 for one reason--so Saturday Night Live could keep "doing" him.

So this plan is so stupid it could work!

Larry Hart said...

Adding to the above...

1976 was the last election in which I was too young to vote, but if I could have voted that year, I would have voted for Ford, and "so that Saturday Night Live could keep 'doing' him" would have been sufficient reason. I suspect the same holds for many Trump voters, especially the ones who state quite clearly that they know he hasn't delivered on fill-in-the-blank, but they applaud at his rallies anyway. Some of it is Democrat-hate, but that's not the entire explanation. The ones who have given up on both parties doing them any tangible good might simply be voting for Trump for his entertainment value.

After all, were Benedict Donald constitutionally capable of speaking truth, he could truthfully say, "You're not getting this kind of entertainment up and down the dial."

For Democrats to win elections, is it conceivable that what we need to do is to be more entertaining than Republicans? I mean, Trump excepted, how hard would that be?

Now those among us with more integrity will blanch at this idea, but hear me out. I'm not suggesting we compromise our principles--just that we play the game as it is in order to get the power we need to accomplish good things (or at least to put a stop to the bad things). I'm not suggesting we beholden ourselves to billionaires, trading our souls for victory. I'm just suggesting a path to victory that we might wish we didn't have to resort to, but that it would cost us little to make use of, and might even be fun in the process.

Because this is the position we are in:

You need the votes!

No, we need bold strokes. We need this plan.

No, you need to convince more folks.

James Madison won’t talk to me, that’s a nonstarter.

Winning was easy, young man. Governing’s harder.

They’re being intransigent.

You have to find a compromise.

But they don’t have a plan, they just hate mine!

Convince them otherwise.

What happens if I don’t get congressional approval?

I imagine they’ll call for your removal.


Figure it out, Alexander. That’s an order from your commander.

Larry Hart said...

scidata under the previous post:

And of course Pascal's "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time."

Heh, I hear that. The co-worker whom I most want to impress routinely chides me for writing novel-length e-mails. It's just my tendency to include any possible piece of data and show all my logic leading to a conclusion. I think of that as being thorough, but I can practically hear her saying in an Archie Bunker voice, "Get to the pernt, Edit'! Get to the pernt!"

Speaking of Archie Bunker, Dr Brin, I didn't miss the "an archie de-bunker, if you will" pun in Kiln People. The wealth of puns in the book is both entertaining and painful. It is of interest to this reader, anyway, how you went for a more comedic approach to the future you extrapolate in that book than you did in either Earth or Existence. In both of those other books, I got the sense that you were very methodically trying for a realistic depiction of the social and technological state of the world in a near-future timeline. Both books did introduce a fantastical element into the mix, but that element was introduced into a world that one could believe came about from our own. While there's some of that in Kiln People too, I get the sense that you weren't quite as concerned at making that world plausible as an extension of our own--that you were ok with more leaps of fancy, the same way that a tv or film gets away with wilder premises if it's a comedy.

None of that is meant as a criticism. I say it because I believe writers want their readers to "get" that sort of thing, and I'm letting you know that at least one reader did so.

TCB said...

This sounds to me like it might? work: using lasers to shorten the half-life of radioactive waste.

The idea is, radioactive isotopes want to break down anyway, so maybe you can speed that process up, a lot, by poking at them with energetic photons.

David Brin said...

LH: Heh! Well I'd be richer if I always wrote the same thing and got a slavish following. My readers say "Take me some place new." They aren't as numerous. But I enjoy being... diverse. And funny can be good. You'll soon see when I self-pub my new comedy.

matthew said...

One of the best articles I've read this year, focusing (briefly for you tl;dr types) on legal money laundering. An article that plays harmony to our host's main melody.

David Brin said...

Again and again, till it sinks in:
* Turnout is of course key, and enthusiasm! It worked in 2008 and 2010 and we count on Resistance Enthusiasm to save Western Civilization, in 2020. If you want to help, then in order of impact:
(1) Join registration and GOTV efforts like led by Stacey Abrams.
(2) Help flip a red-held state assembly seat where it matters most; the candidate will know your name! And that’s where the Civil War is won or lost.
(3) If you’re a lefty or libertarian, help Lessig push for Rank Choice Voting, which is the only way new parties can rise up. And while sowing those seeds for the future, help the flawed dems to win. Do both.
(4) Use my Polemical Judo methods to corner and convert RASRs, because each one will spread lasting ripples and help demolish the edifice of fox-lies. And finally
(5) Get all in a lather over WHICH Democratic candidate from a roster of very bright and solid folks you prefer to love or hate. Sure. Do that. It’s lowest in priority because it matters way-least.

* Turnout is NOT the only ‘key’ to ending the treason and getting America back on track. Because millions who turned out in 92 and 2008 then lapsed back into torpor and cynical laziness in 94 and 2010, betraying Clinton and Obama and letting the GOP-Confederacy of oligarch-mob-Russian shills come roaring back, stronger than ever.

* Despite that, Pelosi and the 111th Congress got a lot done in the 72 days they could over-ride McConnell filibusters. 72 days across 25 years.

* The lesson. Be vigorously involved in 2020! Lift your ass, open your wallet. And avoid prissy purity dogmatism, because getting this done will take a wide coalition. While AOC types rise to power in deep blue districts - that's fine, earn it - we must support the hairbun and crewcut veterans who actually invade red and purple ones and TAKE TERRITORY from the Fox-Putin-Treason Cabal. Territory that can be held for more than just two frenetic years, when the indolent and lazy will predictably come up with prissy-purist rationalizations to lapse back into cynically self-righteous torpor.

* Make it about the right’s War on Facts and All Fact Professions. Your RASR cousins can’t deny that’s what’s happening. And to whatever extent your lefty friends are doing the same thing… go after that, as well. United we stand. We win, for our grandchildren and the stars.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Despite the Doctor's belief that Deomcratic candidates are pretty much equal because they are better than Trump, or anyone else the GOP vomits up, the fact is they are wildly different, even if all north of Trumpland. The WaPo had a quiz: 10 issues, who do you agree with the most. My own results were:
Number of times they agreed with you (out of 10)

Sanders 9
Warren 6
Booker 4
Yang 4
Harris 3
Steyer 3
Biden 2
Buttigieg 2
Gabbard 2
Klobuchar 1

The quiz is here if you're interested in seeing what the actual issues asked about were.

But it's foolish to pretend that someone like me will be as avid to support Klobachar as Sanders. Especially since some of the issues under consideration are literally life or death for me, such as universal health coverage.

"Not Trump" might be enough to win in 2020, but if that is the best the Democrats can manage, they will get slaughtered in 2022, and probably again in 2024 if the Pubs can find a half-way charismatic boob to run as their next figurehead.

Appealing to a non-existent centre is self-defeating. The next Dem must be full-throated and vociferious in standing for things other than "I'm better than Trump." I have a cat box with items that are better than Trump. Aim higher.

Larry Hart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

Since I'm one who argues frequently in favor of supporting whichever Democrat runs against Trump, let me again clarify. I have no problem with a vigorous fight over which Democrat gets the nomination. What I have trouble with is the attitude of "If the Dems end up running a candidate I don't favor, then I'll punish the Democrats by withholding my vote and letting Trump be re-elected." There's a big difference between contention within the party before the nominee is chosen and afterwards.

Two words of caution though, for you to do with as you will...

One--your correlation of agreements with a candidate should be weighted by the chances that candidate has of winning in November. It does you no good to perfectly align with a candidate who is going to lose.

Two--since a large percentage of those candidates are sitting Senators, consider that removing a Senator whose policies you align with might be worse than having that person become president.

David Brin said...

Anhd again, many of your disagreements with these folks are "ZOOM IN" disagreements. The difference between Medicare for all and the Public Option may seem huge to you. It is no difference to the enemies of the republic, who are terrified of each and who know that it will be easier to scream at MFA.

Criminy. Look again at

Tell me which of those 31 basics you don't like or honestly avow that some dems would oppose. If we got all 31, it would be the most accomplished Congress since the New Deal and 50 million newly empowered poor/minorities/women would be poised to be convinced by socialists to do more, as THEN would be the time to do some carefully calibrated "splitting." After evading the 94/2010 failure mode and winning big in 2022.

Want more lefty stuff? Fine. Then primary old "corporatist" dems in deep blue districts, like AOC and her ilk have done. Knock yerself out. Earn it. But only if you ar ALSO helping OTHER moderates to take red and purple territory.

Prove you can think positive sum.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: As I said, any Democrat will be a major improvement over Trump. You know that, I know that and 90% of Democrats and (probably) 70% of independents know that.
But in an era were elections are often decided by razor thin margins, you don't want a candidate who will fail to inspire. (One thing we can all be doing is rigging the conversation so right wingers and right-leaning indendents feel uninspired).
No matter who the Democrats nominate, the Republicans and the fascist propaganda machine will scream "socialism!" "radical" "unAmerican!" and "unelectable!" Look at the lengths Trump went to to smear Biden already! It doesn't matter who the Dem candidate is as far as the propaganda goes.
Doctor: Personally I would support public option. But the Dems have bad form on that: Obama ran in the primaries in '08 on the public option, abandoned it before he was inaugurated, and wound up negotiating away 300 items (compared to none by the Republicans) before ending up with Romneycare. And yes, it was a major improvement, but in the end the structure was so weakened by the giveaways that the Republicans are finding it fairly easy to destroy it outright.

You had the wrong link for your 31 tenets, but I do remember reading them and generally agreeing with the premise. I don't dispute that mainstream and leftist Democrats support them, or that they are worth supporting.

But corporate Democrats are what were Republicans a generation ago. And many of them will endorse the 31 items you list, but their sincerity is open to question. Remember, money is extremely corrosive, especially in our current political and social climate. Do you really think Steyer or Bloomburg will fight whole heartedly for even public option, knowing it will cost the insurance industry hundreds of billions and themselves millions in stocks and more in influence?

And as I mentioned, just about any Democrat will get the support needed next year because the Republicans are so utterly bloody awful. Of the ten on that quiz, I'll support nine of them (one I think is a Russian ringer). You don't have to worry about splitters next fall.

But in 2022, Democratic voters and independents are going to look to see what the new President has done, or at least tried to do. Did he or she serves the needs of the people, or nullify their stances in order to maintain support from Wall Street? Who will the voters believe the president is serving? And you won't have Trump to scare everyone into line at that point.

Remember, 2010 happened because Obama was seeing as going to easy on the banksters, and Obamacare was seen as a flawed compromise. That's when the Obama coalition fell apart, and millions of voters didn't bother.

You can say "It's us or Trump" this year, and it will be good enough. But it will bite you on the arse two years down the road if "Us" haven't delivered enough to convince voters they are really on the same side.

David Brin said...

"Fail to inspire" is the leftist fear catechism.

"Radical socialists giving RASRs an excuse to cling to old (now despicable) loyalties" is the flip side of the coin.

There's arguments on both sides. Except for thia -- WE have some control over what "inspires" us. We can choose to be pragmatic and go for a coalition that will get us 80% and not let the perfect be the enemy of the almost perfect.

Here's the link:

Larry Hart said...

NY Times's Marueen Dowd 's conservative brother explains what Democrats and liberals look like to much of the country. This is what we're up against.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Over the last three years, Maureen has frequently sent me reader emails demanding to know how I can still support Donald Trump. My short answer is always the same: Have you looked at the alternative?

The liberals still sneer at religious conservatives. I wouldn’t let them come with me to the Knights of Columbus bar. In August, the D.N.C. passed a resolution saying “religiously unaffiliated Americans” are the largest “religious group” in the party and “overwhelmingly” share Democrats’ values. And certain House chairmen are waiving the words “So help me God” from swearing-ins.

God help me.

I support the president for his economy, his jobless rate and the record numbers of the stock market that his deregulation fueled. I applaud his unconditional support of the police at a time when I worry we’re returning to a ’60s-style “police are pigs” mind-set. (Michael Bloomberg should stop apologizing for reducing violent crime in New York City.)


And it goes on from there. The people who inhabit this alternate universe are not going to be enthused by Warren or Sanders, or any Democrat really. They're not even motivated to be rid of Trump. I didn't want to copy and paste too many column inches, but further down, the guy is even convinced that Trump did nothing wrong in the Ukraine scandal, and that the Democrats simply can't get over the loss in 2016. To them, we are clearly the bad guys.

What is the result when a majority in a democracy (or in the US case, a majority in a majority of states) is in favor of eliminating the constitutional guarantees of that democracy? When the party fighting for the religious freedom of minorities is seen as infringing on the liberty of those who would infringe on that of others? When the party fighting for equality is seen as infringing on the right to supremacy of their own group? And where the candidate who promises to protect the anti-democrats is hailed as a defender of freedom?

As I often ask, how do we fight this? And I'm not sure that I buy "By running a socialist, because that will excite voters" as an answer.

Is there some way to convince Americans in general that equality, tolerance, and freedom to live one's own life as he chooses is a good thing rather than an existential threat?

Zepp Jamieson said...

@LH: "And I'm not sure that I buy "By running a socialist, because that will excite voters" as an answer."

As far as Dowd's brother and the tens of millions like him, there's nothing the Democrats can do to convince them to vote for a Democrat. All Democrats are evil, godless librul commies. I suspect that impeaching and convicting Trump may put some cracks in that bubble, but mostly it's just going to take time, and defeat.

The Dem nominee doesn't have to be a socialist, of which there is only one anyway. They just have to not only voice Democratic ideals, but show willingness and determination to fight for them. They'll get called socialists by Dowd the Slightly Dimmer anyway, because all Democrats are socialists and commies.

Zepp Jamieson said...

@Doctor: "WE have some control over what "inspires" us. We can choose to be pragmatic and go for a coalition that will get us 80% and not let the perfect be the enemy of the almost perfect."

Indeed so, and now, in the run-up to the primaries, is the absolute perfect times to discuss and debate the course the party should take going forward.

One element of next years election we agree on 100%: fight like hell for Democrats to win in the red and purple states. ESPECIALLY in the state houses. Next year is a reapportionment year, and in many of those states, the party controlling the state lege gets to draw district lines.

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

They'll get called socialists by Dowd the Slightly Dimmer anyway, because all Democrats are socialists and commies.

I know that. My despair was no longer talking about which Democrat to nominate, but whether it matters at all if people like that have enough electoral votes to keep Republicans in power. I suppose I really should have avoided news coverage at all on Thanksgiving.

Alfred Differ said...

I'd be happy enough with 0 of the 31 as long as the next President stops the bleeding. She/He could call a moratorium on doing much of anything except what the Congress can agree upon with a veto-proof vote and I'd manage.

Alfred Differ said...


Dems do better than Goppers

I don't lump 80's GOP with post-Cold War GOP the way our host does, but other than that i agree.
[We were fighting a war for the world in the 80's, so I look on Reagan and Bush Sr different than Bush Jr.]

What concerns me more is Congress. They matter more to our economic state than our President. They allocate the cashflow.

David Brin said...

Alfred, bereft of the ability to legislate, for the last 6 years of their 8 years as president, all Clinton and Obama could do was be kick-ass incredibly good managers, tuning the executive branch to work well with a highly professional civil service.

And yes, just getting that back would easily save us. But it would not be enough to win and restore confidence and move forward into a new century.

David Brin said...

THere is one thing that penetrates the impervious defense mechanisms of rationalizing, incantation spouting conservatives like Maureed Dowd's brother... but it works becaus it utilizes a machismo-based sensibility that liberals cannot grok or imagine ever using. It can be summarized in two wods:

"Wanna bet?" Demand that every rationalization be backed with real stakes and thus a willingness to dissect it in comparison to objective reality. Across all the years I've been saying it, the record is perfect. They flee, 100% of the time, Waffling, whingeing, shouting distractions or hunched against the word "coward."

That, in itself, provides some satisfaction. But what matters is the 5% of them who can be seen to shift, a bit. Not enough to bet. But enough so's you can see cracks in their confidence in their Fox mantras.

5% defection would destroy the confederacy, utterly. Especially as these are their best residual RASRs.

duncan cairncross said...

First Epstein - now the Banker who signed off on Trump's loans from Deutsche Bank

Starting to be a bit of an epidemic of suicides

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

Yah. Even with a reluctant Congress, I suspect any of the Democratic candidates could get 11 of the 31 mostly on their own. These are executive functions needing only a decent leader.

* Restore our alliances.
* Deter acts of war (cyber/electoral/trade etc.) against our nation/institutions,
* Children out of cages, refugees given safe places to live and process,
* Restore science, R&D and technological leadership as national strengths,
* Whistleblower protections and rewards for those revealing corruption and blackmail,

* Basic, efficient, universal background checks,
* Basic-level Net Neutrality for consumers,
* Civil Service protection,
* Reject racism, gender-phobia, nazism etc. as evils while calming all sanctimonies,
* Restored respect for things called facts. Support professions that use them,

* Ease out of the damned drug war (at least don’t impede states),

David Brin said...

#5 (above) could lead to all the rest.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

"Wanna bet?" Demand that every rationalization be backed with real stakes and thus a willingness to dissect it in comparison to objective reality. Across all the years I've been saying it, the record is perfect. They flee, 100% of the time, Waffling, whingeing, shouting distractions or hunched against the word "coward."

That's fine if I care about winning an argument. If they flee like cowards but still vote for Trump, McConnell, etc, then what is gained?

Ahcuah said...


That's fine if I care about winning an argument. If they flee like cowards but still vote for Trump, McConnell, etc, then what is gained?

As Dr. Brin said, you're picking off the 5%, moving the needle just a bit, planting seeds of doubt: But what matters is the 5% of them who can be seen to shift, a bit. Not enough to bet. But enough so's you can see cracks in their confidence in their Fox mantras.

Unfortunately, it does not produce some big flashy, bigly success, or any assurance that one is doing it right.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

First Epstein - now the Banker who signed off on Trump's loans from Deutsche Bank

I can't seem to find the story you're alluding to. Where might this be reported?

Tim H. said...

Try here:
It may have little to do with Trump, but it is suggestive.

Larry Hart said...

@Tim H,

Yes, the Trump connection seems entirely coincidental in the article. Still, whenever someone who might have a story to tell conveniently dies instead, my default suspicion is that he had help doing so. Maybe I just watched too many 1970s detective shows.

Zepp Jamieson said...

...or it may just be a genuine suicide, and the only connexion is that he was in deep legal trouble for his role in facilitating Trump loans. Or nothing to do with Trump at all.
I'm sure the conspiracy nuts will be yammering about this non-stop, but unless other evidence actually does emerge, I'll just treat it as someone's personal tragedy and leave it alone.

David Brin said...

Are they 'cleaning up' inconvenient testifiers? Don't these guys (like Epstein) have "insurance" evidence caches, like Rudy brags he has? I've said for two years, the smoking gun that could topple Trump, McConnell and everyone in the mafia oligarchy is Deutsche Bank. Connections to laundering money from Putin-pal Russian mob-oligarchs... all of them former commissars who grew up reciting leninist chants and are now heroes to US televangelists.... Can any Clinton Conspiracy Theory compare to all this and more?

None of which matters as much as the insane treason of average American Republicans, whose chant boils down to "I don't want to know! Don't look! Refuse subpoenas! Never testify! Block investigations! Don't look!"

Their entire defense of this cesspool - everything Fox rails - amounts to "We don't want to know!"

Alfred Differ said...

5% movement WOULD be a big thing. It would be enough for them to loose the WH and Senate and cause a wave of relief to arrive in 2021. Progressives could do a lot with that because Centrists would be swept along in the emotional high.

This here classical liberal would ask politely that y'all do good with that power. Don't treat us ALL as if we were/are monsters.

Alfred Differ said...

Epstein probably had a lot of stuff on a lot of people. A conspiracy related to him makes some sense.

For lower level banking folks, I don't see it. Probably couldn't face reality, but the paper they all generated will speak long after his death. Think they'll destroy it all? That's harder to do than many realize. Copies of copies of copies and some are digital. Good luck with that. 8)

Larry Hart said...

When I said I was suspicious, I didn't mean at Trump in particular. Any "convenient" suicide triggers my spider-sense. But I'll admit that the Deutsche Bank one isn't as insultingly-suspicious as Epstein in a jail cell with the cameras that happened to not work at the crucial moment.

Alfred Differ said...

One of the dangers with lots of sunshine exposing wrong-doing is ULE which would encourage us to force the ratchet back a notch on what we chose to enforce. Before that happens, though, the murder rate could go up for a while.

I'm sure we will all work this out. 8)

David Brin said...

A.F. Absolutely. If your car's speed is always known, voters will quickly act if cops ding everyone for $500 for going 5 mph above the limit. It will become a tariff a lot more like old long distance phone calls.

scidata said...

Space news - what's going on at Blue Origin?

It's starting to feel a bit like Spain in the early 1500's (no, I'm not quite that old).

Lorraine said...

Chuck Nice and Dr. FunkySpoon? This is reminiscent of the reggae science pundit in your novel.

Alfred Differ said...

Okay. I'm trying to arrange my first wager with a guy who is deeply skeptical of many things and been useful to me and my friends in that state. However, he doesn't seem skeptical with respect to Trump. He imagines far worse things that could happen and then sticks with Trump since he perceives him to be the lesser problem.

The wager I'm trying to set up is this.

* Trump will be impeached by the House before the California 2020 primary election.

The next question should be one that leads to a discussion of odds. The way I put it is I place $100 on the table. How much is he willing to risk to win it from me?

My question for all of you is roughly how much would YOU risk? If it is less than $100, you are saying the odds favor my position. What I'm wondering is just how much the odds favor my position. Care to help?

Larry Hart said...

@Alfred Differ,

I would not take that bet because I'm pretty sure your position is the correct one.

I do wonder what point this makes to your friend. If he's a Trump fan, he might easily believe the House will impeach because they're intent on a partisan witch hunt. If he accepts the wager or refuses, what does that prove?

TCB said...

Not apropos of anything at the moment, but hoo boy! USSR: Moscow 1990??? Grocery Store It's even sadder than you'd expect.

David Brin said...

Oh, I doubt very much that there won't be impeachment before March. The devil is in the details.

The way I'd do it is to listen to his assertions about the horrible dem opposition and pick three assertions to demand that he back up with stakes.

More important... "If you have to pay up three times, might you admit you are swallowing incantations in order to avoid admitting your "side" has gone insane?"

Here's wager grist, though a bit old:

Though I have whole chapters of the stuff in polemical judo

Larry Hart said...

In the space of a few weeks, Mr. Graham, who has long prided himself on being an institutionalist, has gone from expressing an open mind about impeachment to becoming a leader of the president’s counterattack. He has angrily denounced the House inquiry — “Salem witches got a better deal than this!” he tweeted on Wednesday —

Oh, if only! In my Doonesbury's summer daydream, Benedict Donald gets a worse deal than Sarah Goode and John Proctor.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Hmm. 14, 15 weeks until the primary? I'm hearing rumours they'll have drawn up 4 articles of impeachment by the end of next week. Then Xmas break. Start formal hearing second week of January, maybe. Call it six weeks for the hearings.
That's cutting it close. I would ask for 3-2 on that 100.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor: "...demand that he back up with stakes."

Democrats are smiling and assuring Trump that if he wants to have a say in the deliberations, by all means, he or any representative of his choice, is free to participate in the hearings. No, really, they would love to have him attend.

Could add a chapter to your Polemical Judo book just on that one.

john fremont said...

Eric Garland (@ericgarland) Tweeted:
Wow, Russia’s so busted they’re just dropping all pretense and exposing that Iran is their client state. Well, saves energy at this point!

Alfred Differ said...

Getting him to back his statements with a bet probably won't be an issue. I don't think he will slink off. 8)


...and he's hearing that Pelosi doesn't actually want to impeach, thus she will find a way to scuttle this. Something will look too weak to actually win? Someone can be blamed for hanging the whole effort and it dissolves into a fund-raising campaign. This guy is good at imagining unlikely outcomes and we tap him in our community for finding the business outcomes we don't want to contemplate when funding start-ups. Often enough he will speak to a low probability, high impact event if you let him... and then we can try to avoid it. He IS useful that way, but with Trump I think his skill is misleading him.

So... if impeachment is likely, he should offer... what... $10 to win my $100? That would suggest he agrees the odds are against him at around 90%, right? My aim is to get to a bid/ask situation. He offers $10, but I ask for $20. If he doesn't run and chooses to negotiate, he's agreed the odds for impeachment are between 80-90%. Right? Am I doing the math right?

What I'm curious about from people here isn't whether they believe impeachment will happen before the CA primary. I'm asking how MUCH you believe that. Would you risk $10 to win $100? Would you risk $5? $1?

Alfred Differ said...


So you are saying I should ask for $150 from him to win my $100 because of the deadline I picked?

David Brin said...

Naw. Make bets that (1) they can't win because it's based on on "odds" but absolute willfull delusions...

and (2) draw attention to those delusions. That's the point.

I'd offer a bet that every GOP defense tactic in this whole thing will boild down to "Don't look at anything! We shouldn't know! My leaders have a right to hide whatever they want!"

Ask if he has any red lines -- like exposure of massive money-laudering. Can he say now he won't normalize that?

Larry Hart said...

@Alfred Differ,

Ok, now I see the point of betting on whether impeachment actually happens. I also see what you want to do to elicit odds. My brain just doesn't work that way, though. I think impeachment will happen by March, so "what I'm willing to bet" to get your hundred amounts to how much I'm willing to throw away on a potential long shot. I'd probably take the bet if I could do so for between 1 and 5 dollars, probably balking at 5 if it came down to it. That has very little to do with what I think the odds are, though. More like how much I'd be willing to spend on a lottery ticket.

Now the person you should have had this conversation with was my daughter when she was about five years old. We used to watch that game show with Howie Mandell, "Deal or No Deal". If you remember the game, the players are prepped and cheered by the audience to refuse a deal for the longest time, but that's not really the best way to maximize your take. The odds of specifically winning the million were never good. The way to win is to have a mathematical sense of when there is enough money left on the board in order to elicit a decent offer from the banker and to strike the deal at the right time.

My daughter liked to watch the show, even though at five years old, she had no idea what a million dollars or a hundred thousand really meant. But she had an uncanny knack for knowing just when the contestant should take the deal. Of course, they never did, but if they had listened to her, they would have won a lot more money than they did.

Zepp Jamieson said...

AD: "So you are saying I should ask for $150 from him to win my $100 because of the deadline I picked?"

Yeah, only reading the things you wrote about what he further said, I would offer more generous odds. Pelosi waiting on formal impeachment hearings out of pragmatism, and not fear or sympathy for Trump.

Also, Trump's talent for self-destruction seems to be metasticising. He has expressed a desire to participate in the House hearings, an offer that puts him in a no win position. The case against him is about as iron-clad as such a thing can be, and he'll either be luring his supporters into seeing just how bad things are for him, or he'll back down in a situation where his supporters will NOTICE.

And he's still dumping on the people he needs the most. Did you see the way he utterly humiliated Mulvaney with that ridiculous golf-caddy space cadet outfit in Afghanistan. The expression on his face left no doubt Mulvaney knew he was being humiliated.

Zepp Jamieson said...

FWIW, I did win a hundred dollars on a bet I made six days before he resigned with a Nixon supporter who was convinced Dick would stay the course. The SC had already made their 8-0 ruling, and I knew Nixon's fate was sealed.

Larry Hart said...

continuing the theme of betting and odds...

There's a qualitative difference between professionals who place a large number of bets, expect to lose a fair percentage of them, and are concerned with average return, vs an amateur making a single bet to back up a belief in a particular assertion. If normal people played the long-term odds rationally, no one would ever buy a lottery ticket or play at a casino (except possibly a Trump property) because it is self-evidently true that the long-term odds favor the house. But individual bettors don't play for the long term average. They hope to be lucky and win big enough to cover the losses it took to get to that win--and in my case, at least, I only bet what I'm willing to write off if I'm not so lucky. If you use my willingness to lose a set amount of money as an indication of what I expect the odds are of winning, you will get skewed results.

At greatest remove, I would probably be willing to go to $2 to win your hundred, just as a kind of exercise in "Well, why not? What's two bucks anyway?". I would also be willing to drop $2 on a lottery ticket to win $200 MILLION. The ratio of bet to possible winning is literally orders of magnitude different in the two cases, but it has little to do with a comparison of odds between the two bets. It's more like, I consider both to be longshots, and I'm willing to throw away $2 on a longshot.

The dynamic also might be different if I was the one making an assertion and asked to back it up with a bet. In this case, I'd be betting against the assertion I believe to be true. So what you're asking is how much would make it worth my while to be wrong, not how confident I feel that I'm right.

Larry Hart said...

Interesting advice for Democrats, backed up by an actual study...


An influential analysis of national polling data by Professors Ellis and Stimson suggests that the most effective candidate in a national election would combine the most popular feature of the Democratic Party, progressive economic policies, with the most popular feature of the Republican Party: the invocation of conservative ideology and values like patriotism, family and the “American dream.”

But are candidates free to mix and match their policies with their symbolic politics? If a Democratic candidate pursued such a mixed strategy, would it work? Or would it make him or her seem hypocritical or incoherent?

To investigate these questions we conducted two experiments, one using a nationally representative sample of Americans, in which we looked at Americans’ support for “Scott Miller,” a hypothetical 2020 Democratic nominee. The participants in our studies were presented with excerpts from Scott Miller’s speeches — but we systematically varied the content of the speeches to analyze the effects of policy platform and symbolic politics.

We found that the most effective Democratic candidate would speak in terms of conservative values while proposing progressive economic policies — with some of our evidence suggesting that endorsing highly progressive policies would be best.


Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: Your sociologists make a good point and of course candidates are well-served by reminding voters that love of freedom, love of country, freedom of belief and so on are NOT "conservative values" and never have been. The are values some conservative share with everyone else.
One cravat: it's easy to fall into the trap of right wing dog whistle: "American dream" for example, usually translates to unchecked and out-of-control capitalism and consumerism. "Family Values" is code for religious bigotry, "cultural heritage" evokes the Confederacy, and so on.

Treebeard said...

Right Larry, that’s what Jim and I were talking about before. From what I’ve seen, Americans are generally culturally conservative, but they aren’t libertarians who think free market capitalism has all the answers. They also want some sense of collectivism, not an atomized society of warring identity groups ruled over by billionaires. The major parties have been hijacked by the two extremes – libertarian hyper-capitalists and cultural radicals – leaving a huge demographic out in the cold. This creates an atomized society with the high level of pathologies we’re seeing. Someone who rejects the two extremes and reclaims the ignored center would be quite successful, I would think. There will probably be a re-alignment to reflect this, which Trump started in one party and someone else (not the current candidates) will have to start in the other party. But of course none of this will be welcome by the current elites, who will brand it various flavors of evil.

David Brin said...

LH: by those criteria, it would be Mayor Pete hands-down. Problem is that the socio dynamics of that are way-risky...

David Brin said...

I must ask a favor of community members who are gamers. I've yet to post anything about the new Kojima/Sony hit "Death Stranding," which is impressive and likely Game of the Year. Before I do, could some of you chime in with links to reviews etc that noticed the "obvious connection"?

Here's a few I already have, starting with a clever one from a Malaysian newspaper:…/death-stranding-post-apocalypt…






If you've come across OTHER reviews that explicitly make the 'obvious connection', could you offer links below, in comments? Oh, and here's the extended, dramatic and lavishly done trailer. Well worth your time!

And yes, I am remaining neutral and bemused about this... for now... promising to philosophize later

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH: by those criteria, it would be Mayor Pete hands-down. Problem is that the socio dynamics of that are way-risky...

Well, so was President Obama. But I agree that the zeitgeist doesn't seem quite right this time around.

Larry Hart said...


From what I’ve seen, Americans are generally culturally conservative, but they aren’t libertarians who think free market capitalism has all the answers.

It still blows my mind that Ayn Randism has become synonymous with libertarianism. I learned the term back in the 80s, when I felt it had more of a connotation of people should be allowed to live however they wished as long as they didn't infringe on the rights of others--that there should be no such concept as "victimless crime". I even considered "libertarian" as a good label for what I thought I was back then.

I can squint and look over there and kinda see where the same principles would imply that government should not restrict economic activity. What I never understood is how the " long as they don't infringe on the rights of others" dropped out of the equation, and how libertarians became advocates for the law of the jungle--that whoever claws his way to the top by any means deserves the spoils of war and none may say him nay.

Libertarians, even Randians, used to consider force and fraud to be off limits, and worthy of being countered by laws. But now, it's like, whatever gains you make by force or fraud, once you've made them, no one has a right to say otherwise. It seems like a betrayal of libertarianism rather than libertarianism itself.

They also want some sense of collectivism, not an atomized society of warring identity groups ruled over by billionaires.

Most Democrats and liberals want the same thing. The trouble is in the messaging. Where I see (for example) Black Lives Matter as a cry for justice, "Black people must be accorded the same rights as everyone else not to be shot on sight by police", you hear a pleading for special rights that should be accorded to black people and no one else. Likewise, I see many different formerly-discriminated-against groups each asserting their right to entrance into the big tent, while you see that same thing as representing "warring identity groups."

Finally, it's not liberals who think "ruled over by billionaires" is a good idea. Any attempt to reign in the socio-political power of money is opposed by conservatives. Not just corporate big-wigs either. Remember "Joe the Plumber" who railed against the taxes that Obama might have levied on him had he actually started a lucrative business instead of just thinking about doing so someday. There are plenty of rugged-individualist conservatives who are fine with billionaires ruling, because they expect to become one some day, and when that happens, they don't want anyone standing in their way.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

I was about to laud Treebeard for making some interesting points for a change... then realized it was LarryHart who started
by citing treebeard. Ah well.

I've just been invited for the SIXTH time to speak at a major libertarian gathering... that's twice the number of times I've been invited to major Democratic ones. The most remarkable (to me) libertarian trait is that maybe a quarter of them exhibit a willingness to argue and enjoy a good tussle, and many of those wind up on the speaker committees. Hence, I get invited back, even after raising uncomfortable points... the fact that the core word for the entire movement should be COMPETITION, the greatest creative force in the universe. It is to the extent that it liberates true flat-fair-open competition that FREEDOM gets pragmatic justification, rendering all the vague, pompous, self-righteous shoutings of the "F-Word" both unnecessary and often sanctimonious excuses for its opposite.

If an activity markedly increases the number/fraction of people who are liberated from constraints to engage their talents and work and all pertinent knowledge to compete in open-fair-flat markets, then a burden of proof falls on anyone who claims "that's an assault on freedom!" And yes, that means libertarians should favor public education, public health, anti-poverty interventions, civil rights and infrastructure development... efforts that are COOPERATIVE, that wind ujp enhancing COMPETITION. While vigorously criticizing specifics of implementation -- proposing less-governmental and less-paternalistic approaches -- any honest libertarian would admit that a baseline of state involvement just makes sense.

Heinlein did! Try reading his prescriptive utopia BEYOND THIS HORIZON, which portrays a wild and woolly competitive future in any realm that involves creativity, but in which his alter ego character says "Of course, food and shelter are free! What kind of people do you take us for?"

Alas, feudalist-oligarchs have used oceans of money -- and whore-shill faux "academes" like Cato and Heritage -- to subsidize a tsunami of invectives shifting the libertarian movement's focus from Competition to the P-Word... utter defense of Property, Power and Privilege, at all cost. This despite the balatant historical fact that 99% of nascent flat-fair-open market systems across all of history were destroyed NOT by government bureaucrats or do-gooders, but by feudalist-oligarch owner-cheater lords, bent on replacing flat-fairness with inheritance of Power for their sons, who never created any goods or services at all.

There are no greater enemies of flat-fair-open competition, which threatens their sons with the worst of all possible fates... having to earn their own way in the world.

Those oligarchs are desperate to maintain this hypnotic trance. They know that libertarians would have influence far beyond their numbers, if they ever rediscovered the C-Word and its fundamentals. Hence at all of these gatherings, you see giant screens raving against bureaucrats and nosy lib'ruls... and nothing at all about those who were the foremost Enemies of Freedom across nearly all of 6000 years.

David Brin said...