Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Peering into the cosmos

Let's take a break to look upward. First a quick roundup of some interesting links:

- Fast Radio Bursts release ginormous amounts of energy in fractions of a second, detectable across the cosmos.  One occurring in our own galaxy let astronomers tie it to a fast-spinning magnetic pulsar of magnetar. Fantastic.

- Elsewhere I describe how the second confirmed interstellar visitor comet 21/Borisov is emitting far more carbon monoxide than most of our local comets. This could be because Borisov’s home system had a different composition. More likely, it formed in that system’s outermost regions, helping explain also why it got torn loose to drift into our own system.

Nineteen asteroids, known as the Centaurs, were first spotted just a few years ago with “strange” orbits, largely retrograde. Anyone with good orbital mechanics instincts would guess one possible explanation – the one I offered in Existence – that some or all of these might be past interstellar visitors that got whipped around by close-passing Jupiter, which robbed much of their momentum and sent them into solar orbit.

- A stunning-gorgeous depiction of the newly discovered binary of super-duper black holes where the smaller one crosses the bigger ones’s accretion disk with flashes bright as a trillion suns.

- The latest “zoom out into the cosmos” perspective fly-through is pretty darned amazing.

- Researchers believe "quasar tsunamis” could explain a cosmological conundrum: why there are so few truly enormous galaxies in the universe.  A quasar tsunami, heats interstellar material to billions of degrees, flinging it into interstellar space. Once a galaxy reaches a certain size, the theory goes, its central black hole goes postal in a quasar tsunami — and the rest, as they say, is history.

- Researchers looked at a black hole that "feeds" off a nearby star, pulling material onto a flat accretion disk. By looking closely at the X-ray light coming from the disk a team found imprints indicating that some light had been bent back toward the disk and reflected off, confirming Einstein's general theory of relativity in a new way.

- NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made an unexpected discovery last year, spotting a black hole emitting a massive cloud of X-rays some 30,000 light years away.

== And more spaaaaace! ==

- Through NASA JPL, NIAC Fellow Jonathan Sauder has launched a public challenge to help develop an obstacle avoidance sensor for a possible future Venus rover, using no heat sensitive electronics. See: NASA Tournament Lab, Mechanical Obstacle Avoidance Detector - Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover.

- A terrific article compares concepts for “relativistic interstellar flight” (obeying Einstein’s speed limit) on the 60th anniversary of Robert Bussard’s fantastically persuasive Interstellar Ramjet idea, that seems to find a way out of the trap of the Relativistic Rocket Equation, by sucking in its fuel as it goes. SF author Larry Niven exploited this notion with wonderful results, in novels of the 1980s. Though Poul Anderson’s earlier epic TAU ZERO won all the awards as a true classic of space fiction.

BRUIE, a buoyant rover with two independent wheels, is designed to drive along the underside of ice crust covering ocean worlds like Europa, Enceledus and even possibly Titan. 

- With fascinating implications, researchers saw that galactic clusters with the same properties, with similar temperatures, appeared to be less bright in one direction of the sky, and brighter than expected in another direction, suggesting that the universe is anisotropicThe weird observations may have something to do with dark energy. The anisotropy can’t go all the way back… we’d see that in the images of the earliest eras in the microwave sky background.

== Shouting (nearly alone) that U.S. should avoid a loony lunar trap ==

- “NASA watchdog says Trump’s moon mission could cost a staggering $50 billion.” Would this fritter away all chance America might (in partnership with Japan and Europe) pioneer where all the real wealth is, out there, asteroids and maybe Phobos? Sure. There is no argument for a US manned lunar "footprint" mission that stands up under scrutiny and the light of facts. That's is 100%. But for this administration all of that is not a "bug." It is a feature.

Dig it again and again. HUMANITY is going back to the Moon! China, India, Russia... all are desperate to go, for their rites of adulthood. Their bar Moonszvahs, like we did 50 years ago. Fine. Mazel tov! Hope you find stuff to prove me wrong about that barren plain, where there's a little polar ice and absolutely nothing else of value. Except tourism.

We should be doing what others can't! Going where trillions in wealth and opportunities await. 

Oh, sure, we can do some lunar stuff to keep a hand in. The Gateway and letting Musk & Bezos rent landers and hotel rooms in lunar orbit to all those tourists.

== And finally... ==

- From Cornell University research: "We report the discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a low-mass star called Kepler-1649. The planet, Kepler-1649 c, is 1.06+0.15−0.10 times the size of Earth and transits its 0.1977 +/- 0.0051 Msun mid M-dwarf host star every 19.5 days. It receives 74 +/- 3 % the incident flux of Earth, giving it an equilibrium temperature of 234 +/- 20K and placing it firmly inside the circumstellar habitable zone. Kepler-1649 also hosts a previously-known inner planet that orbits every 8.7 days and is roughly equivalent to Venus in size and incident flux. Kepler-1649 c was originally classified as a false positive by the Kepler pipeline, but was rescued as part of a systematic visual inspection of all automatically dispositioned Kepler false positives. This discovery highlights the value of human inspection of planet candidates even as automated techniques improve, and hints that terrestrial planets around mid to late M-dwarfs may be more common than those around more massive stars."

Is it cool to be a member of a civilization that does this sort of stuff? You'll have to fight to keep it.


Alfred Differ said...

I was listening in on an astro-politics show last night and the speaker made the argument that we are currently in a space-race with the Chinese. It's not well known to the public, but the people making decisions have obviously bought into it.

The other part of the argument he made is that this goes back a bit before the current WH occupant. Look at our unwillingness to cooperate with China on space projects. We don't share with them willingly. The argument is that we are geopolitical opponents right now (hence no sharing) and this is spilling into other decisions.

Not sharing military tech is typical during geopolitical struggles, but racing the opponent unnecessarily is a brain fart. We win little if we succeed because we aren't publicizing it. We lose lots if we fail... because we played on a field of their choosing, at their level, and they beat us. That's what we did to the Soviets in reverse, so we should know better.

scidata said...

Pulsars, CHIME, FRBs, etc. Dr. Brin, if you posted once in a while in my LinkedIn Astronomy group, you'd likely attract many high-calibre followers (the Atacama crowd), not muckers like me :)

A German Nurse said...

Just curious: Can it already be determined if a planet is rotating or tidally locked?

And humanity should, PLEASE, in the near future, create an international naming commission for Systems with Exoplanets ... All those Keplers, Glieses and HDs become boring and difficult to distinguish & remember :-)

David Brin said...

Scidata alas I am so swamped. Say hi to the group for me? Lik to Contrary when it's space stuff?

AGN: if we can separate out light from the planetthen we might see intensity or spectral variations indicating rotation. But we don't discover planets by their light (so far) only by how they affect their star.

GUYS! Any of you eager and fast readers who might want to reread THE POSTMAN and THE PRACTICE EFFECT for rapid fun? I have a list of pre readers but am't getting enough responses this time.

matthew said...

From the last thread, Alfred mentioned that his kepi is a Sergeant's kepi.

So is mine, but with the crossed cannon to signify my trade. My step-dad had a 6 lb blackpowder naval cannon that we used to shoot a few times a year. I credit the cannon with making me want to be a metallurgist.

Thinking of my step dad a lot right now. He did 3 tours of duty as a Green Beret in Vietnam (OK, actually Cambodia for most of it), 65-68. He was a Sergeant by the end of his first tour. He was going to go back home after one tour but his CO took him aside and told him that if he left the whole platoon would die. He stayed. Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Came back and went to Bragg to teach jungle warfare for a few years, trying to teach greenhorns what to do in a rainforest. He was capable of doing things that I've never seen anyone else do.

He came back home to Oregon and was a very early/ founding member of the American Indian Movement, which became the number one target for law enforcement in the US eventually (Black Panther Party may disagree with the last).

He was a cop at the time, working for his County Sheriff's office. That ended about the time of the Pine Ridge Siege. Can't be a cop and an activist all at the same time. The FBI has been listening to my family calls for most of my life, we are all certain. The FBI must have had a nervous fit when I was working at the Center for Explosives Technology Research.

My step dad was a funny guy. Used to always wear a Washington Redskins cap everywhere. Irony, thy name is Indian. His favorite person was John Wayne fer crissakes.

The KKK and white pride types I grew up around were mostly through him. He traded guns and art with a lot of marginal people. All the neo-Nazi survivalist types I grew up around were *very* careful in what they said around him. He terrified and intimidated all of them. I still laugh at the mental picture of all these damn racists that were too scared by him to spout their usual BS. Such polite scared white boys.

He passed two years ago. I wish he was here to talk to about being a good cop and being a Native and being a vet and having the FBI follow you, all while loving America with a passion. I miss him every day. I want to talk with him so badly right now.

Thank the spirits for complex good men.

He was a barbarian, for sure. And a Master Sergeant. And a cop. And an artist. And a historian. And a Hero. And an activist. And my Dad.

And that's why I have a Sergeant's kepi.

duncan cairncross said...

You can put me down for the re-reading
I have got a ton of books I should be reading - but yours are better!

I have both in paperback - but I would love an ebook version

Zepp Jamieson said...

Re the Zoom-Through video. To quote Douglas Adams, "Space is big. I mean really big."

Zepp Jamieson said...

Re: Space race with China.
Shouldn't surprise, given the love/hate relationship Trump has with China. He can't stand having the Chinese show him up in any way.
Interesting show on Netflix: Space Force (and Netflix got a copyright on the name, so the US is going to have to call it something else). A bit uneven, but uproarously funny when it's clicking. Steve Carrell, John Malkovich and the late Fred Willard are in it. Worth checking out.

matthew said...

I'd love to re-read both The Postman and The Practice Effect. Two of my very favorites.

David Brin said...

Matthew what a story about an amazing guy. Wow.

The special operations forces have a hierarchy, upward from airborne divisions to ranger and delta battalions and marine raiders, to those hyped Navy Seals for insertion to grab or kill.

But the Special Forces guys are different. Nearly all sergeants who speak 6+ languages. Grizzled and in their forties or even fifties, they aren't about rappelling from copters, but embedding with tribesmen, making friends and leading them into battle. They are the reason the Taliban fell so quickly.

Matthew and Duncan you know how to email me.

Unknown said...

Yo David, when are we going to get a post praising the ACAB Spring, Marx, and socialism? Google "crisis theory," my man—all kinds of economists, not just Marx, are aware of the tendency of global profit to decrease and ultimately collapse. And without profit, capitalism cannot exist! At that point, it's either socialism or the barbarism explored in classics like "The Postman." Did you drop your NY Times subscription after they published Cotton's call for the military to exterminate all protestors? Sorry for spamming you and, sincerely,

A fan

Larry Hart said...

ALL lives matter? Emphasis mine...

While a bit over two-thirds of Americans support the protests of the killing of George Floyd, close to one-third don't. A group of them held a counterprotest Tuesday in Franklin Township, NJ, in response to a peaceful protest there. The highlight was a man with his knee just above the neck of another man who was playing the role of George Floyd. They were barking: "Black lives matter to no one," "Blue lives matter," and "It's his fault that he's dead, not the cop."

Darrell E said...

I'm game for the reading gig.

Tim H. said...

Remember when conservatives complained about the coarsening of society, rather than actually coarsening it? Not forgetting that many paleocons prepared the way for where we now find ourselves...

A German Nurse said...

Apparently, the UAE try to build their own space colonization program:

Hadn't them on the screen.

Acacia H. said...

Here's an essay on how all cops are bastards, written by a former police officer. It talks about how their behavior is institutionalized during training and further reinforced while the police are rookies, how they use obscure laws to ensure people can be jailed over and over again, and more. I suggest everyone read it.


David Brin said...

Dear “A Fan.” No problems. You are welcome here. Alas, though, while you and I share common enemies — the monsters trying to destroy our western enlightenment and restore feudalism — you and I disagree mightily about Marx & capitalism. Indeed, I probably know a lot more about Marx than you do and I respect his contributions, especially earlier in life. But he became a tendentious guru whose predictions all failed to materialize and whose incantations were used to justify a particularly vicious form of feudal rule.

In fact, Adam Smith and the US Founders rebelled against feudalism effectively, And oligarchs are trying to wreck the systems we’ve set up to keep market competition flat and fair. I do not have time here to explain, alas.

Darrell if you think you can give rapid turnaround, it’s a light reading task since the MS are pretty clean. Email me (you can figure out how. ;-)

A German Nurse said...

"In fact, Adam Smith and the US Founders rebelled against feudalism effectively, And oligarchs are trying to wreck the systems we’ve set up to keep market competition flat and fair. I do not have time here to explain, alas."

With all due respect, you forget on what the Founders' wealth originally was based on, too:

Cheap slave labor and taking the virgin soil away from the indigenous people.

European Nobility was replaced with a caste of plantation owners, and later industrialists, then Wallstreet sharks, and now techoligarchs. They have no titles, yet considerable influence.

The tragedy of marxism was: The diagnosis was right, the cure wrong. Rhine capitalism, social market economy, is more suited to it.(Just a thought: When did capitalism (American Style) took off their gloves? In the same moment Communism failed or showed signs of the near collapse.)

David Brin said...

AGN, sorry, but while what you said was true, it is also screamingly false.

What is a revolution that replaces anti-competitive monopolistic crony feudalism and market warping by a ruling caste of 0.001% inheritance brats with rule by 20% (white male land owners) who compete in relatively flat-fair markets? That Bourgeoise Revolution is EXACTLY what Marx prescribed and called one of the most important forward steps in all of human history -- with different versions taking place in the Netherlands and then, gradually, Britain, then violently in France.

If you're going to cit Marx, try reading and understanding him. Adam Smith was one of his heroes. Washigton & their ilk brought us to the highest level of participation seen in Periclean Athens or Florence...

...but they also institutionalized something Marx never fully understood. A system that could expand those privleges in an ongoing fashion. Marx saw Bourgeoise Revolutions as inevitably temporary, as up-down business cycles would enable voracious cheaters to absorb competitors and bring consolidation of ownership and power back toward feudal levels... only now with an educated and sophisticated and angry working class preparing for the final stage. What Marx never understood was the notion that bourgeoise revolution could CONTINUE.

While Jackson will deservedly be ejected from the $20 bill next year, he represented another expansion of franchise to poor farmers on the frontier. Yes, at the expense of native peoples. But now it was about 40%.

The Civil War expanded it yet again... in a horribly incomplete way that we are paying for, still.
Womens' suffrage and then other rights and political power... that trend means nothing to your cynical view? IT NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE IN WORLD HISTORY. But you can shrug off the significance of this ongoing process?

Marx never imagined anything like FDR or the institutionalizing of unions and workers becoming truly middle class. And yes, you and I are fighting the feudalist fools whop would reverse that,

The sanctification of MLK? The ubiquity of interracial couples in every movie and show? Um... Obama?

Your justified wrath blinds you. WOrse, it make you LESS effective and I want you to be effective.

Phaedrusnailfile said...

Dr. Brin I know that you have written countless words on the subject above and do not wish to waste your time but I do have a question. Did Marx fail to take the system of US government into account in his analysis because of eurocentrism on his part? Another question that comes to mind is whether or not his analysis is incomplete due to the fact that he did not foresee virtual property as a vehicle for wealth creation?

David Brin said...

PhaedoHarirclipper, Marx was not much concerned with governments and constitutions. He believed they were instruments of power by the dominant class. Wheh bourgeoise revolutions are young and vigorous, those systems and the Rule of Law can enhance the productivity and creativity of competitive enterprise and commerce, benefiting all. But he saw as inevitable a steady winnowing of the ruling class to ever fewer families whose influence would make a mockery of egalitarian law.

And yes, we are seeing exactly that now! But he never figured on BR being a continuously refreshed procrss, incorporating the working class and empowering their children and thus neutralizing revolution.

There are "american" aspects to this... a rampunctious individualism that was a key part of the refreshing process.

DP said...

Interesting concept, orbiting a space station around the Moon.

Which raises a question. Which is the best - most cost effective - way to explore a planet:

Boots on the ground, manned landing on the surface with habitats and living off the land for long term stays, etc.


Explore from the high ground of orbit while operating drones, rovers, etc. in real time from the orbiting station (in the case of Mars that would be a hollowed out base inside Phobos).

Phaedrusnailfile said...

Dr. Brin thanks for the response it gave me a chuckle and those aren't easy to come by online these days. It convinced me to go buy paper copies of your books at one of the few remaining actual bookstores left and I would be glad to participate in the reading. And in the future I will take a cue from another of the people here and just sign out by my actual first name so no one needs to type out my overly long handle.
P.S. this is my actual name and not a plea for you to rescue me from Jack Palance and ride of into the sunset. I do appreciate you giving it a go though.

David Brin said...

Once... just once (okay?)


Okay. Never again. ;-)

duncan cairncross said...

In contrast to Acacia's essay on "cops"

I suggest reading one of Malky McEwan's books about being a policeman in Scotland
I have just finished "The really funny thing about being a cop"

I have finished reading "The Practice Effect" - I had forgotten how much fun it was - when it comes out as a proper ebook I will just have to buy it

I will probably get the sack as a reviewer - as I could not find anything to change

I was once used as a "food tester" by my housemate - he was planning an expedition to a deep cave and was trying to make some cheap dried foods that they could take with them

I thought they were good!
When he tried them out on some of the other cavers .....

I got the sack as a food tester!

Larry Hart said...

Covid-19 is a liberal/Democratic hoax? Apparently, the Trump campaign tacitly admits otherwise:

As President Trump moves to resume indoor campaign rallies, his campaign has added a twist to his optimistic push to return to life as it was before the pandemic: Attendees cannot sue the campaign or the venue if they contract the virus at the event.

“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to Covid-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” a statement on Mr. Trump’s campaign website informed those wishing to attend his June 19 rally in Tulsa, Okla. “By attending the rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.”

"By including in your official terms the admission that "an inherent risk of exposure to Covid-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the Trump campaign acknowledges that covid-19 is not a hoax.

Trump lied, and people died!

Keith Halperin said...

@Phaedrusnailfile/Shane: What's a "bookstore"?

David Brin said...

Duncan thanks and no worries. We had worked hard to make this version clean. I'm glad my editings didn't introduce many new errors. You are emblazoned on the honor roll at the back of the book.

Acacia H. said...

Perhaps, Duncan, I should add the caveat that the police officer was speaking of policing in the United States. Other nations have different types of police (though undoubtedly America's involvement in rebuilding the West following World War II allowed some aspects of American policing to appear in those nations, and thus the tendency of police to look at people as stupid sheep needing protection and predators that have to be put down). But American policing has a history of white supremacy and hunting down black people that it honestly hasn't outgrown in its many decades of existence.

While I'm not for union busting... in the case of the Police Unions, those organizations need to be completely dismantled and the police either undergo significant retraining, or be let go permanently and any new police trained far differently while expanding significantly on social services.


Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,

Our host has already pointed out how our revolution is a continual one with gradual improvements in freedom. I won't add much to that except to point out that many people point this out about us. It's a big part of the 'American Experiment'. Basically… how far can we go with it? Is there a limit? To vote when I was born, one had to be 21 years old in many places. Yet we sent young men to war at 18 after drafting them. See the problem? One of the fastest amendments to our Constitution to get passed was that one.

What I'll add is that you are also laboring under a mistaken belief around why we are wealthy. It is a common one.

Cheap slave labor and taking the virgin soil away from the indigenous people.

It is the 'stolen future' error. Basically, the world is zero-sum and we stole the founding wealth others would use to get where we are now.

It isn't true. Yes… There was a theft. That's not what made us rich, though. The numbers simply don't work because the causal link fails. All the land we took didn't make us wealthy. WE used the land to make ourselves a little richer and then we did something few people on Earth were trying. We liberated ourselves and dignified our neighbors efforts to improve even when they failed. We weren't perfect at it, but we were better at it than everyone. Literally everyone.

Where the land DOES help is at the margin. Because the Greater Mississippi River Basin connects several large rivers through a fertile region with predictable rains to the sea, our transportation costs were very low across a vast region. If the people occupying such a region are producing a moderate surplus (we were, but the native peoples were not), wealth will explode simply because it can't be invested fast enough. If it trickles in, it is invested as babies and the population grows. If it comes in like a tide, though, everything changes.

The wealth produced by slave labor is a tiny fraction of what happened. The explosion in wealth didn't happen in those regions anyway. No surprise either. Places that tolerated slave labor did NOT liberate their neighbors and dignify their efforts even if they failed.

We took the English idea that they stole from the Dutch with a new king in 1689 and then the Dutch empire shortly afterward. That idea worked its way through to the Scots and some of the most unruly people in Great Britain… and then came here. Smith understood the idea. Quite well in fact.

On the Continent, the idea made its way eastward into Germany and then south. It suffered a major pasting in the failed rebellions of 1848-49. After that, many of the intellectuals formerly for liberalism committed treason and moved toward socialism. WE did not… and we are filthy rich for it.

Our internal river system DID help, but only at the margins. The American Experiment points to a deeper decision we made and to which we kept loyal. Mostly. Our 'conservatives' conserve much of what pre-1848 liberals would have recognized as their own ideas. Strip away the religious nonsense within social conservatism in the US, and those rebels would have recognized our conservatives. Not our confederates, though. They'd know them as reactionaries. Defenders of Aristocracy.

David Brin said...

For the first time in the history of party politics in the US, the Republican Party seems bent on keeping the 2016 election platform as its document - verbatim - for 2020. All sorts of reasons are given, like social conservatives not wanting to see anti-gay planks revised to reflect the nation's general softening on such issues. But the real reason is simple. The Trumpists don't want the delegates to be reminded that they are - officially at least -- sovereign powers who can convene and actually debate and vote on stuff. Imagine the rubber stamp Chinese legislature actually debating even the smallest thing! That sort of thing can get out of hand.

But since there will be no edits, the platform will include this verbatim section:
"The President has refused to defend or enforce laws
he does not like, used executive orders to enact
national policies in areas constitutionally reserved
solely to Congress, made unconstitutional “recess”
appointments to Senate-confirmed positions,
directed regulatory agencies to overstep their
statutory authority, and failed to consult Congress
regarding military action overseas. He has changed
what John Adams called “a government of laws and
not of men” into just the opposite."

Alfred Differ said...


Which is the best - most cost effective - way to explore a planet

I think a lot depends on whether one intends to do science, engineering, or economic development.

The last one requires a lot of the second, but not as much of the first. Consider a lunar example project…

Company X decides our host is incorrect and intends to prove they can profitably extract minerals from the lunar surface. Doing that will require a great deal of engineering be done ON the surface. They must learn how to deal with the dust, the heat, and the cold. They must develop systems that deliver material to customers and turn mineral into ore or something more finished. It is unlikely they can do all that form orbit, but quite likely that they'll need orbiting infrastructure. After a lot of effort, they might fail to turn a profit, but they will have demonstrated some ideas that future projects will copy and many other ideas that future projects will avoid.

Will they have to do some science? Yep.
Will they have to do some engineering? Definitely. More of that than anything.
Will they have to do some fancy footwork convincing investors to buy in? Heh. Good luck. THEY will look around and wonder where the buying customer is and then point out they are all on Earth right now.

People wanting to do science might reasonably object to all the boots on the ground. I get it, but I"m not that sympathetic. I AM a scientist and I'm still not sympathetic. I want more people in space. I want so many out there that no one mistakes the actual count as a round off error for zero. That means boots on other ground AND in orbit.

Mostly, I want our civilization to spread out so our social experiments effectively speciate.
Science can be done along the way.

Tony Fisk said...

Getting back to the topic for once (*gasp!*), the first results of the parallex experiment using the ~48 AU baseline between Earth and New Horizons are now available.

A German Nurse said...

Ongoing Revolution?


I still have to think about that, though I won't use that term - Ongoing Evolution seems more fitting to me, IMHO. And I'll admit that, from 1789 on, many human rights have been recognized, legally acknowledged and enforced since then. Adjusting to reality and recognising errors in the texts of law is more a reform than a revolution to me.

Revolutions, like civil wars, have the nasty habit of leaving a large number of people behind dead, injured, angry or grieving, so it doesn't sound totally positive in my ears.

But I will leave this to you.

Soil: I should have expanded on that further.
In Europe, soils more often than not were depleted and drained by the agricultural methods. Whole regions in my home state were sandy deserts, grazed blank by sheeps in the middle ages. This, in turn, affected population growth, hunger and poverty, too.
Having suddenly a large portion of highly fertile lands at disposition might have led to a healthier and wealthier population, too - and might have increased the attractivity for new settlers to emigrate into the US. In additon to be free of feudal landowners, and raging infections. Here is another indicator: Height.

Question: I somewhere read that the economic downfall of the southern aristocracy was them, among other reasons, monopolizing on cotton, eschewing other goods. Is that assertion right?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

We took the English idea that they stole from the Dutch with a new king in 1689...

It's kind of jolting to be occasionally reminded how much North American colonial history took place between the Mayflower and the Revolution. From the way history is taught in grade school, I was always under the impression (made almost explicit in Schoolhouse Rock) that the Pilgrims came to America fleeing the tyranny of King George III, and revolted shortly thereafter. It was quite sobering in high school when I first realized that the time between 1620 and 1776 is roughly the same as the time between 1776 and WWII.

A lot of stuff must have happened in those first 160 years that we barely learn about. About all I can think of is the Salem witch trials.

Dr Brin:

But since there will be no edits, the [Republican] platform will include this verbatim section:
"The President has refused to..."

Somehow, I think they'll manage to not say that part out loud. Or to say "President Obama has refused to..."

Although it will be funny if they say that part through as written and only realize as they're speaking it what it actually says. Kinda like when the Tea Party decided to read the entire Constitution into the congressional record until they realized it wasn't exactly making the points that they thought it would.

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman tells us what we already know...

...Trump, and most of his party, are reactionaries. That is, as the political theorist Corey Robin puts it, they are motivated above all by “a desire to resist the liberation of marginal or powerless people.” And Confederate iconography has become a symbol of reaction in America.

That’s why some Republicans in Maine objected to making a song about the 20th Maine — the volunteer regiment whose heroic defense of Little Round Top played a crucial role in the battle of Gettysburg — the state ballad. It was offensive, they said, to “say that we’re any better than the South was.” Um, the South was defending slavery.

The reactionary impulse also explains, I believe, why some privileged white men, from the editor of the influential Journal of Political Economy to the (now former) C.E.O. of CrossFit, have been unable to control self-destructive outbursts attacking the Black Lives Matter protests.


For reactionaries, however, the horror of the situation isn’t the possibility that protests might turn violent. It’s the fact that the protests are happening at all.

And that’s why people like Trump and Tom Cotton have been so eager to send in the military. They aren’t concerned about keeping the peace; if that mattered to them, they would have reacted harshly to the spectacle of armed right-wingers threatening Michigan’s State Legislature. Instead, Trump tweeted his support.

No, America’s reactionaries don’t want law and order; they want an excuse to crush social justice protests with a mailed fist.

Tim H. said...

Acacia, concerning police training I feel it's worth considering how much it reflects the attitudes of the "1%" in the cities they serve, bearing in mind that many of that 1% see the 99% as non-entities.

Larry Hart said...

presented without further comment...

It was this month, 162 years ago, when Abraham Lincoln accepted the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate and gave his famous“House Divided” speech in Illinois. This wasn’t, as is popularly believed, a call for unity in the face of division. Just the opposite. It was an attempt to make clear the stakes of the conflict with the “slave power.”

“I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free,” he said. “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

We cannot be a free and equal democracy and a country of inequality, unaccountable police violence and Trumpist exclusion. We will have to be either one or the other. The protests represent millions of Americans announcing their allegiance to the former. It remains to be seen whether that brings a reaction of similar scope in defense of the latter.

Robert said...

Larry: "A lot of stuff must have happened in those first 160 years that we barely learn about. About all I can think of is the Salem witch trials."

If you study Indigenous history you'll learn a bit of what you're missing.

scidata said...

@Tony Fisk re Parallax
Fascinating, thanks for posting the link. VLBI and Parallax have been a lifelong interest of mine. I've probably told the story of how my grade 10 math teacher (Mr. Bose) and I (Mike Will), once developed the Bose-Will Theorem for parallax (long since lost and forgotten (by me at least) ). I'm currently trying to contort Google's TensorFlow dongle for use with the Raspberry Pi and galaxy identification (for citizen science). The cure for confederate romanticism is objective scientific literacy.

Keith Halperin said...

@Everybody: Re Transparency (and why it may be harder than you think to achieve nad not for the expected reasons)-

@Dr Brin, @Everybody: Re:Atlantic Council talk:
I was curious about this Atlantic Council (,
who I'd vaguely heard/but knew nothing about, so I went to "TSOAK": aka, "The Source of All Knowledge" aka, Wikipedia (
It seems to be one of those internationalist ("from the moderate internationalist wings of both parties"), neo-liberal organizations like the Tri-lateral Commission and the Council of Foreign Relations about which much paranoia was spread a few decades ago-
the kind of place where Thomas K. Friedman would speak, along with OGH.
Looking at who are some the major supporters/members:
there seem to be a fair number of RASRS- you should bring/have brought many copies of "Polemical Judo".
Looking at who funds it:
"In 2015 and 2016, the three largest donors, giving over $1 million USD each, were US millionaire Adrienne Arsht (executive vice chair[12]), Lebanese billionaire Bahaa Hariri (estranged brother of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri[13]), and the *United Arab Emirates.[14][15]The full list of financial sponsors includes many military, financial, and corporate concerns.[17]The leading donors in 2018 were Facebook and the British government."
What particularly caught my eye was this:
"The Ukrainian oligarch run Burisma Holdings donated $100,000 per year for three years to the Atlantic Council starting in 2016.[16]"
Does the Atlantic Council know what you think of "olies"?
Do you care that an "olie" funded/funds the Atlantic Council?

Stay Well

*The Emiratis are closely allied with KSA, and supported the 2013 Egyptian coup of a democratically-elected government in Egypt ( How "anti-olie" can they be?

Keith Halperin said...

And now for something completely different and FUN!:

David Brin said...

I have worked closer with the Potomac Institute than the Atlantic Council. But the AC has done interesting things like help publish GHOST FLEET, the novel most read by military folks in the last decade.

Kal Kallevig said...


All the land we took didn't make us wealthy. WE used the land to make ourselves a little richer and then we did something few people on Earth were trying.


The wealth produced by slave labor is a tiny fraction of what happened. The explosion in wealth didn't happen in those regions anyway. No surprise either. Places that tolerated slave labor did NOT liberate their neighbors and dignify their efforts even if they failed.

That is the narrowest definition of wealth I have seen lately. It reminds me of the GDP, a virgin redwood forest has no value until it is cut and destroyed.

And your implicit definition of slavery is pretty narrow too. After the civil war only convicts could be slaves. Funny thing, we have more convicts than anyone else. Only slightly more enlightened is providing the choice of working for minimum wage or less, or starving. Not technically slavery, but a distinction with very little difference.

duncan cairncross said...

Re- Oilies

Electricity at $13.5 per MWh
Compared to Hinkley Point (Nuclear) at $116 per MWh

David Brin said...

Abu Dhabi's solar farm... Impressive, though what do they do about dust storms? So, while Saudi+Kremlin shills in the US have sabotaged American sustainables development, we see the smart money doubling down on it.

Robert said...

And your implicit definition of slavery is pretty narrow too. After the civil war only convicts could be slaves. Funny thing, we have more convicts than anyone else. Only slightly more enlightened is providing the choice of working for minimum wage or less, or starving. Not technically slavery, but a distinction with very little difference.

A good book for this is Slavery By Another Name by Douglas Blackmon. Won a Pulitzer in 2009.

PBS turned it into a documentary, but I have no idea if that is any good. The book is.

reason said...

I think what happened un the US is that after they subjegated or killed the native population ( or they were killed by plagues) they fistributed lits of goid fertile land freely and widely so that in the north at least there was a large independent and relatively egalitarian polulation, selected for energy and innovativeness by the effort involved in getting there. Fir me an egalitarian society trumps all other considerations. Without it progress inevitably stagnates.

A German Nurse said...

How To Police Space?

If I assume correctly, our host time and again suggests humanity will, when we start conquering space in earnest, will do so as an enlightened, unified species.

I do not believe so. Humans are and will be Humans after all. Unless we are replaced by the Homo Metasapiens Superior one day, our actions, reactions and societies will be driven by the same instincts, problems and troubles that drove the ancient times. We have set more barriers against the worst of it - hence Rule of Law - but there is an neverending assault on these barriers, and no one can be sure that they might hold forever. Even science is not exempt from it.

Space is unregulated. It is a lawless frontier region, no superior authority exists that sets checks and balances to a development; in essence, it will be the law of the jungle governing the relations of spacefaring nations and corporations. And as it is now, we will probably have space colonies policed by individual corporations, states and philosophies, radical free marketeers as well as communist party cadres as well as emirs ruling by the sharia.

Imagine a corporation or conglomerate builds a self-sustained colony on Mars. The population one day decided to go We The People, and the corp objects since it considers their employees and other assets as their property. How to address that?

Imagine a lucrative field of asteroids is contested by several parties. How to avoid armed conflicts?

Imagine a commercial vessel crashes into an orbital habitat. Who can make whom accountable if no agreed-upon laws exist to address this?

Any ideas on this?

Larry Hart said...

Last night, Bill Maher implicitly asked the same question Dr Brin has been posing about RASRs for a few years now--In their private conversations among themselves, do Republicans acknowledge anything that Trump could do that would make them break with him? Going through the list of outrages that they've already been silent about, the answer sure seems to be "No".

Phaedrusnailfile said...

A German Nurse, what you describe is kind of similar to the plot of The Expanse where Earth is post scarcity authoritarian. Mars is scientific militaristic authoritarian. The belt miners are loosely affiliated tribal clans. I find it interesting that all the factions are post racial and the loyalties lie with the faction more than race religion etc. I thought I remember reading that our host has an advisor role somewhere on this show but it may just be my memory playing tricks on me.

David Brin said...

Alas I wasn't an advisor for EXPANSE, which we quite enjoyed... except the last, nonsensical season. I did advise other less-successful shows. I hope that's not why!

Some cynical aspects of EXPANSE are justifiable as plot drivers. I just don't believe Earth's level of poverty was plausible, when you have vast automation and asteroid resources. Not unless human females were popping out babies at a prodigious rate. And the very last thing that would be unavailable would be education. Vast numbers unemployed? Maybe. But with spectacular numbers of masters and PHDs and hobbies... but then... that's a world that *I* have written...

and now onward


Alfred Differ said...

Kal Lallevig,

I'm with you regarding convicts as a form of slavery, but not so much with minimum wage. Early proponents of minimum wage were highly interested in keeping out the riff-raff. By modern standards, we'd probably judge them to be racist, classist, or some such thing. As for proponents today, I think they labor under a bad assumption. Those kinds of jobs are not things to cherish. Many are soul-crushingly boring. Want fries with that? Ugh.

I've worked at minimum wage jobs. By choice. It was useful at the time, but obviously no a long term solution for sustaining the way of life I intended to create. Oddly enough (heh) that phase of my life came to a crashing halt when I met the women I fell in love with and intended to marry. Amazing, huh? Poverty and marriage should not be mixed if one can help it since a huge divorce risk involves financial stress. I knew the theory, but that wasn't what moved me to change course. Biology did.

However, if I had been deprived of those minimum wage jobs because the employer could not make the business case work at a higher wage, I would have been harmed. I need supplemental income while I was looking for a teaching position. The credit cards don't pay themselves. I had rent covered another way, but not much else. Paycheck-to-paycheck was coupled with worry and hope. I did temp work when necessary and had no intention of staying at that level, but I could see that my employers didn't expect more than that from me either. They knew full well that all of us doing that kind of work would be there one day and gone another… and they were okay with that.

'Wage Slaves' are rarely coerced to stay, so I prefer not to call them slaves. What keeps them? Unfortunately, it is often learned hopelessness. That's damn hard to beat. No wage improvement will do it.

Alfred Differ said...

Oops. Didn't mean to post that here. It should be dumped in the trash. 8)