Saturday, August 28, 2021

Space & science! (starting with a wee bit of pertinent theology?)

Before getting to news from and about Space and the Universe(!)… how about a marginally-related overlap of biology, current events and… theology?  This from Leviticus 13:45 – 46:


 “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.”


Cover the lower part of their face and social distancing? Alas, Leviticus is only for citing the parts you like at the moment. 

More generally/cogently, here's my talk about dozens of biblical riffs you might use to ease your cousins out of the dark corners that their parasite preachers have painted them into, including the War on Science. So You Want to Make Gods... one of my best speeches. Entertaining, funny (if I do say so) and a classic of contrarianism!

== Starship’s ‘mundane’ or Earthly use interests the Air Force ==

Recent ‘justification’ documents suggest Air Force officials are intrigued by the possibility of launching 100 tons of cargo from the United States and having the ability to land it anywhere in the world about an hour later.  The described capability – of course – can only be approached by SpaceX. Accordingly, the Air Force science and technology investments will include "novel loadmaster designs to quickly load/unload a rocket, rapid launch capabilities from unusual sites, characterization of potential landing surfaces and approaches to rapidly improve those surfaces, adversary detectability, new novel trajectories, and an S&T investigation of the potential ability to air drop a payload after reentry," the document states.

Available for Kabul? One could dream.

Mysterious Venus was the first planet NASA explored, in the groundbreaking Mariner 2 mission that flew by in 1962, breaking our hearts with news that there were no jungles or oceans of SF fame. Now our hot twin world will get two NASA missions with some concepts we first funded at NIAC. As for those oceans? Well, might a million comet-falls remake them? See my novella "The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss" (now also a cool screenplay!) in my new Best-of-Brin collection! 

Says NASA space biology researcher Chris McKay, the clouds of Venus hold far too little water to support any kind of life we now imagine, but – "Jupiter looks much more optimistic," McKay said. "There is at least a layer in the clouds of Jupiter where the water requirements are met. It doesn't mean that there is life, it just means that with respect to water, it would be OK." High levels of ultraviolet radiation or lack of nutrients could, however, prevent that potential life from thriving, the researchers said, and completely new measurements would be needed to find whether it actually could be there or not. 

== Both totally tubular AND globular? ==

Globular clusters are often considered 'fossils' of the early Universe. They're very dense and spherical, typically containing roughly 100,000 to 1 million very old stars; some, like NGC 6397, are nearly as old as the Universe itself.

In any globular cluster, all its stars formed at the same time, from the same cloud of gas. The Milky Way has around 150 known globular clusters; these objects are excellent tools for studying, for example, the history of the Universe, or the dark matter content of the galaxies they orbit.

But there's another type of star group that is gaining more attention - tidal streams, long rivers of stars that stretch across the sky. Previously, these had been difficult to identify, but with the Gaia space observatory… "We do not know how these streams form, but one idea is that they are disrupted star clusters." The Palomar 5 stream appears unique in that it has both a very wide, loose distribution of stars and a long tidal stream, spanning more than 20 degrees of the sky… 

... populations of black holes could exist in the central regions of globular clusters, and since gravitational interactions with black holes are known to send stars careening away, the scientists included black holes in some of their simulations.  sims suggest  more than 20 percent of the total cluster mass is made up of black holes," 

"They each have a mass of about 20 times the mass of the Sun, and they formed in supernova explosions at the end of the lives of massive stars, when the cluster was still very young."  In around a billion years, the team's simulations showed, the cluster will dissolve completely. Just before this happens, what remains of the cluster will consist entirely of black holes, orbiting the galactic center. This suggests that Palomar 5 is not unique, after all - it will dissolve completely into a stellar stream, just like others that we have discovered."

Oh, and then...

Cosmic filaments are huge bridges of galaxies and dark matter that connect clusters of galaxies to each other. They funnel galaxies towards and into large clusters that sit at their ends.” Hundreds of millions of light years long, but just a few million light years in diameter, these fantastic tendrils of matter rotate, a degree of angular momentum never before seen, on a truly cosmic scale.  “On these scales the galaxies within them are themselves just specs of dust. They move on helixes or corkscrew like orbits, circling around the middle of the filament while traveling along it.”

 It’s been supposed that there is no primordial rotation in the early universe. As such any rotation must be generated as structures form.

== Getting competitive up there? ==

Apparently China is further along in developing reusable rockets than many of us thought.  “China conducted a clandestine first test flight of a reusable suborbital vehicle as a part of its development of a reusable space transportation system. The vehicle launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and landed at an airport just over 800 kilometers away at Alxa League in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.”


A burgeoning boom in venture capital and SPAC investment in space-related startups.


Peering inside Mars - an excellent WIRED article updates what has been learned about the Martian interior by the Insight seismic lander.


Long-predicted as the source of type 1a supernovae, a teardrop-shaped star has been found, caused by a massive nearby white dwarf distorting the star with its intense gravity, which will also be the catalyst for an eventual supernova that will consume both.” As soon as the dwarf has stolen just enough to surpass the Chandrasekhar Limit.  And since all such events have exactly the same mass-trigger, supernovas from such star systems can be used as ‘standard candles’ to measure expansion of the universe. HD265435 is located roughly 1,500 light years away, so don’t lose sleep. Over this, at least. But close enough to put on quite a show.  (Alas, this article has a couple of boner paragraphs.) 


The alternative, a supernova created by a sudden stellar merger… is not quite as ‘standard” as a pure type 1a.


== More space! More space! ==


For the first time, a NASA grant has gone to a joint team of astronomers plus the Breakthrough Listen Project to sift data from the TESS planet hunting mission that might (maybe) indicate alien mega structures. Or else big, natural light-blockers like comets. ‘If alien megastructures exist in our galaxy, there’s a decent chance that they might be hiding in the TESS data. But there’s also the possibility that the Breakthrough Listen team will come up empty-handed just like every SETI search before them.’ 


The Vasimir electric propulsion engine, ready for prime time, at last?


Caltech is announcing that Donald Bren donated over $100 million to form the Space-based Solar Power Project (SSPP), capable of generating solar power in space and beaming it back to Earth. The donation was made anonymously in 2013, but nears a significant milestone: a test launch of multifunctional technology-demonstrator prototypes that collect sunlight and convert it to electrical energy, transfer energy wirelessly in free-space using radio frequency (RF) electrical power, and deploy ultralight structures that will be used to integrate them. SPP aims to ultimately produce a global supply of affordable, renewable, clean energy. 


SSPP aims to ultimately produce a global supply of affordable, renewable, clean energy. The project's first test, in 2023, will launch prototypes solar power generators and RF wireless power transfer, and includes a deployable structure measuring roughly 6 feet by 6 feet.


Friday, August 20, 2021

Woke Media vs Bill Maher. A tiff that only serves the KGB-confederates.

First, a reminder to all Californians... to vote. Mail that ballot in! I assume, since you are visiting Contrary Brin, that you're sane enough to vote: "No." 

Only now, since I've gone several weeks without posting anything provovcative or controversial, let's see what a storm I can provoke.

== Bill Maher, sellout or standard bearer for the Roosevelteans? ==

Well, it's an ecological niche that only Bill Maher occupies, alas. 

While I like and enjoy many of the late-night liberal show hosts - especially fellow sci fi nerd Stephen Colbert, who gave me a cap! - I do wish more of them will draw lines in the sand and admit: 

"Yes, there does exist some crazy among the good guys, too. And that crazy sometimes hurts the cause of justice and progress, more than it helps." 

Before you scream in outrage and/or wander off in disgust, let me reiterate what you see here frequently, that our greatest danger is from an insane and treasonous Mad Right - a risen Confederate lunacy - that is waging open war - at the behest of oligarchs, mafiosi and Kremlin agents - against not only justice and tolerance but vs. every single modern fact-using profession. That last aspect gets underplayed in liberal media, but it is the core hate-and vendetta of the oligarchy. Especially Fox News.

Having said that, I assert also that you would be nuts not to grudgingly admit that our side has some flaws, including a passl of real nut jobs and bullies. With this major distinction!

* Yes, the FAR left CONTAINS some fact-allergic, troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality and symbol-fetishes on you. 


* But today’s ENTIRE mad right CONSISTS of fact-allergic, troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality and symbol-fetishes on you.   


There is all the world’s difference between FAR and ENTIRE.  As there is between CONTAINS and CONSISTS. 

So sure. We must spend 99% of our current attention reinforcing humanity's sole hope - a rationally-tolerant and self-critically improving enlightenment experiment, fighting for its very survival against Putin-Murdoch and their hirelings! 

And yet, our Union side of this desperate latest phase of the 250 year American Civil War is harmed by the far-fewer but still horrible nut-job bullies on our own side. Splitters who helped make today's demographically-challenged GOP the force that it is and remains. 

== More voices needed ==

I must cite especially, Maher's recent riff about "cultural appropriation," a far-left guilt trip fetish that has no redeeming qualities. It's not an exaggeration or conflation of something good... it's just simple, flat out insanity.

Oh, I'll grant that original sources should be credited and acknowledged! Like Greece always leading the parade of nations at the Olympics. 

Sure. If any Hawaiians show up at a surfing competition, they oughta get - in perpetuity(!) - the right to go first! And first-pick naming rights on anything in the entire universe that's discovered by mighty observatories now using the one, great and unambiguously miraculous gift of Poli'Ahu, the crystal clear skies on Mauna Kea. 

And if there's a Black musician or Jew in a Jazz band, they get to choose the order of their instrument solo.... fine. And for the record, real theft, like native lands, should get major redress! But that's not the purpose of "cultural appropriation!" Which is sanctimoniously chemical. 

Elsewhere I discuss the worst addiction and most harmful one in the modern age... self-righteous indignation and sanctimony, which poisons every political extreme, especially the extreme that has completely taken over the U.S. mad Right... 

...but that also fluxes across elements of a farthest-left that - while wholly justified to impatiently demand progress - rejects any notion that they are beneficiaries of generations of vigorous but pragmatic reformers who had (and needed) much thicker skins and suffered far worse indignities in order to open doors for today's "trigger-warning" activists.

The indignity of proclaiming that one is fragile - dealt crippling wounds by the slightest error of wording - is one that Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman and Robert Smalls and Mohandas Gandhi and Rosa Parks and MLK and Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X would have found puzzling, if not bizarre, even pathetic.

 The dissing and shit-hurling at ALLIES (as some will hereupon hurl at me) is less-surprising (read Orwell's Homage to Catalonia) but just as impractical, unhelpful and spectacularly self-indulgent.

== Loudness doesn't make you the leader of liberalism ==

In an article - The Specter of Illiberal Anti-Racism - by Nathan Gardels, Noema Magazine considers work by a person who takes this counter-argument farther than I would.  Into Bill Maher territory. But this passage is one to share:

"Fortunately, sober voices with irreproachable anti-racist credentials such as Barack Obama — “anti-anti-racists” in Torpey’s phrase — are calling out the extremists. Torpey cites Obama saying in 2019 that “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff … you should get over that quickly. … The world is messy; there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.” Obama, notes. Torpey, went on to say that “among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes of: ‘The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough.’ … That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far."

On Bill Maher's show, he talked about "progressophobia", a term he claimed Steven Pinker coined to describe "a brain disorder which strikes far-liberals and makes them incapable of recognizing progress." Not a new observation for anyone who has spent time here. 

The punch line: "It's like situational blindness, only the thing that you can't see is that your dorm in 2021 is better than the south before the Civil War."

And yes, so much as mentioning Maher’s name makes me eeeeevil!  This despite the fact that he (and I!) have done more for progress in any month than most of those fuming at me right now have, across their entire lives. 

Alas that he and Barack Obama - along with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and AOC (see below) - seem to be among the last voices for the most effective reform movement the US ever saw… Rooseveltism, that finally got progress in gear after beating back the oligarchs, invigorating labor unions, crushing fascist monsters and beginning a long, long, too-long grinding climb out of Jim Crow and the chasms that seem built-into human nature. 

Refusing to see how powerful that coalition was has led the left to make a series of mistakes that drove working whites into the arms of confederates, leading to Reaganism and our long slide. 

== Polling Americans ==

The Pew Research Center, which does some of the country’s best polls, classifies all Americans as being in one of nine different political groups. The categories range from “core conservatives” on the right to “solid liberals” on the left, with a mix of more complicated groups in the middle. While I am suspicious of many categorization attempts, this one makes a hugely important point, that on average most US racial minorities -- blacks, hispanics etc -- tend to be liberal of course, but also highly skeptical of the most-woke or leftish component.

"Much of the recent political energy in the Democratic Party has come from solid liberals. They are active on social media and in protest movements like the anti-Trump resistance. They played major roles in the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as the rise of “The Squad,” the six proudly progressive House members who include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"All six of those House members, notably, are people of color, as are many prominent progressive activists. That has fed a perception among some Democrats that the party’s left flank is disproportionately Black, Hispanic and Asian American.

"But the opposite is true, as the Pew data makes clear.

"Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters are to the right of white Democrats on many issues. Many voters of color are skeptical of immigration and free trade. They favor border security, as well as some abortion restrictions. They are worried about crime and oppose cuts to police funding. They are religious."

This is not to undermine "solid" liberals devotion to wokedness. You be you! And we'll get nowhere without conscience-prodding! 

And yes, as an old fart I know I must adapt to shifts in vocabulary and get more woke in some ways!  My kids, in their 20s, make sure of that!

Still, the fact that the very minorities that PC foks call clients sometimes sniff dubiously does help explain some electoral disappointments. And if you want these groups to be fully mobilized in 2022, it might be best NOT to assume all folks of color are clones of the most-visible activists. 

We need to be flexible enough to negotiate our coalition's best tactics... I tried to point out in Polemical Judo.

== Oh, one last point about AOC ==

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is rightfully hailed as one of the savviest politicians of a new generation. But many of her fans don't know the half of it. 

Look more carefully! She is playing her role as a left-ish gadfly working with Liz and Bernie to keep the DP's Overton window from conceding too much. But she is not at all like the rest of her 'squad' in many ways. She very clearly wants Joe Biden to succeed, for example. And, like Bernie, her goal is re-establishment of the Greatest Generation's Rooseveltean social contract.

Watch what'll happen in 2022, when some of you will start trawling around for excuses to denounce Biden as "corporatist" ruled by Democrat-lite sellouts, as you go prepping to sit on your hands or otherwise betray us... the way the left betrayed us in 1980, in 1994, in 2000, in 2010 and 2016. 

Just watch how AOC and Stacey Abrams and Jamie Harrison and Bernie will come after you. With a stick.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Reaching for the Heavens - and expanding our vision

I won't mock them, or get involved in their reciprocal tiffs, because for all their faults, they are at least doing what Republicans promised (lying) that all of the rich would do with massive tax cuts. That is, investing in new capabilities. (Maybe Supply Side woulda worked... if the other 99.99% of rich folks did that, as promised.)

Well. While Branson and Bezos do their suborbital jaunts, SpaceX plans to send half a dozen civilians – with no professional astronauts aboard – into orbit possibly as early as mid September. 2021. This is making my novel Existence darned prophetic about zillionaires in space. (Watch the video trailer!) Apparently, this crew Dragon capsule will have a cupola window and toilet combo (!!) where the docking hatch would usually go. Yipe. A loo with a view.

A MAGA Congressman, Louie Gohmert, recently suggested that the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) attempt to solve global warming by altering the Earth’s orbit. While Gohmert’s sarcastic dig was just another salvo in the mad-right’s all-out war on science, it did get some folks re-evaluating ways to supplement carbon-emission-reduction, e.g. with sunshades or geoengineering. Or else… sure, why not talk about what it would take to alter Earth’s orbital radius outward by about 3 million kilometers, enough to reduce ambient temperatures by about 3 degrees? (Across the next billion years 'we’ will have to do it several times, as the sun grows hotter. And by 'we' I mean our vastly-better heirs who are reading this 'now,' in the year 35640c.e.. and not you, my fellow ancestor sims.)

Could we move the Earth? In a Scientific American essay, Maddie Bender started by offering a cogent appraisal of the energy transfers needed – only about a billion billion times the annual energy use of today’s human civilization. Which makes the whole thing seem… not-so-ridiculous! Given that we need to use other, much quicker methods (like carbon-pollution reduction) in the short term, it is suddenly actually conceivable that advanced descendants might deal with the long term warming by gradual orbit-altering over tens of millions of years. 

Alas, the author then goes on to describe methods for doing this orbital velocity augmentation, by listing nothing but absurd non-starters, like the jibbering-loony notion of flying massive objects past the Earth-Moon system over and over, millions of times, without ever suffering an ‘oopsie” accident.'

As some of you know, I have offered a much better way for a future advanced civilization to do this with utter safety – if patiently – across the requisite time scales. See my video: Let's Lift the Earth! Spaceflight-explanation-maven Scott Manley even referred to the method, recently. (Perhaps someone will tell Scientific American or @MaddieOBender.)  

Meanwhile though, let’s stop with the carbon poisoning, eh? And science-hating meme-poisoning, too? Retiring crazy-moronic traitors like Gohmert to sipping their mint juleps on a virtual veranda, while the nerds they hate save the world for them.

== News from Beyond ==

A large asteroid… or up-size comet… that’s almost big enough to call a  minor planet is about to make its closest pass to the Sun on its 600,000-year highly-eccentric orbit, whose perihelion will come (apparently) within 11 au in 2031.  If it is cometary in makeup (ref. my doctoral thesis) then it may put on quite a show and it’s certainly a good candidate for a flyby mission.

Alas, its passage through the ecliptic, a bit later, will apparently be in August 2033. And that’s NOT good news… not for real world reasons but because we can expect a maelstrom of insanity that year, around the time of the 2000th Easter, as I describe here.

Mark Buchanan has an article in WaPo offering an argument I've also made about the foolishness and utter irresponsibility of those attempting METI "Messaging to Aliens." My own missive about this, refuting every METI argument in much more detail, including the "I Love Lucy" falsehood, is “Shouting At the Cosmos” – about METI “messaging” to aliens - and can be found on my website.

== And more fun sci-stuff! ==

In detections that came back to back, just 10 days apart, in January 2020, gravity wave detectors revealed events happening a billion years in the past, when black holes ate neutron stars. One had a mass nine times bigger than our sun and gulped a neutron star with about two times our sun's mass. The other black hole had about six times the mass of the sun and ate up a neutron star with 1.5 times the sun's mass. One member of the LIGO team calculates that a black hole eats a neutron star roughly every 30 seconds somewhere in the whole observable universe, though scientists would have to be looking in the right place with the right kind of equipment to detect it. Within 1 billion light-years of Earth, it happens roughly once per month.

A few weeks ago I linked to the new, better images of the M87 black hole showing powerful polarization effects. Now rapid simulation work suggests that the MAD theory of tightly rotating magnetic fields may explain the super-tight jets that spew north and south from many black holes. Wow, what an age we live in.

And further proof of amazing times. From lab experiments, measuring momentum effects in tritium beta decay we have an upper bound on the mass of the electron neutrino at about 1.1ev and from "astronomical oscillation data" a lower bound of 0.5ev... a narrow and narrowing gap. The presenter of a talk I saw yesterday suggests - and she was persuasive - that the number density across the universe is about 330 neutrinos per cubic centimeter.

AND I just read that they are studying the microbiome of Southwest Pueblo Native Americans from 1000 years ago to recover lost symbionts. (Might one turn into Larry Niven's "booster spice"?)    Again amazing times.

== You want more science. Here's more! ==

 A newfound tiny white dwarf, named ZTF J1901+1458, just 130 light years away, is immensely massive, just shy of Chandrasekhar’s Limit where the mass triggers a type 1a supernova, probably having formed when a binary pair of stars – each having become a white dwarf separately, whirled, emitted gravity waves, and slowed into a merger that created incredible angular momentum (rotation) and magnetic fields. (How’s that for a sentence?) Now this. It would take very little added mass to tip this thing into a too-close-for-comfort 'pop'. And did I mention it's just 130 l.y. away? Sci fi folks take note. 

Through a long standing partnership with World Book, Inc., NIAC is proud to announce the second eight books in the Out of This World 2 series! This award winning STEM book series is geared towards kids with a 4th – 8th grade reading level so they can explore the next frontiers of space through the lives and work of researchers 3ho competed for seed grants from NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC) (I am on the Advisory Council.) The 2021 NIAC Symposium will be held  Sept 20-24 via Livestream here: 

Discover second skin space suits, leaping bots, expandable space habitats, solar surfing probes, clockwork rovers, and more in this easy-to-read series about complex space science topics. Stunning imagery and interactive activities will entice and challenge readers of all ages. The Out of This World 2 series features early stage NASA projects that hope to develop bold new advances in space technology. Contact World Book directly, or your local library/bookstore to find out more.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Explaining what should be obvious about ‘transparency' yet again

FIRST a brief note for SF fans with e-readers!  Startide Rising, my Hugo and Nebula award winning novel, is on discount today.

Get hooked(!) only today with this ebook bargain at $2.99! Refreshed-updated with new cover & introduction and Uplift Universe timeline!

== The Transparency thing that gave us everything we value ==

I still give a lot of talks on this topic... though I suspect in some cases I'm invited in hope of using me as a strawman "foe of privacy," to be knocked down.  Some find it disappointing to learn that I fear both Big Brother and loss of privacy, as much as (or more than) they do, pointing out that only one thing ever thwarted tyranny or nosy neighbors, and that's light, the ability -- your ability -- to catch would-be oppressors and denounce their misdeeds.

Very few peoples and nations across 6000 years were ever able to apply this power of reciprocal light and accountability. Indeed, we don't sufficiently appreciate the power it gave citizens. Certainly the world's despots know it, and are desperately creating protected shadows for themselves. And lacking upward transparency (sousveillance), a return to feudalism... or much worse... is inevitable. 

With it, you might prevent Big Brother, only to reap a second layer of fearful oppression... by a judgmental majority who demand conformity, using democracy against those they do not like. The nightmare portrayed crudely by books/movies like The Circle and much better in that Black Mirror episode "Nosedive."

Ironically, this is exactly the scenario - fear of oppression by 'the mob' - that Fox/KGB and their pals are now spreading across the MAGAsphere, in order to discredit democracy itself! They must, because if U.S. citizens truly recover voting sovereignty, there would be no political future for today's Mad Right/putinist version of confederate conservatism.

Still, there is an underlying point that they're exploiting, a fear that Ray Bradbury illustrated in Fahrenheit 451. If transparency is universal, but the culture is immature and judgmental, then you don't get Big Brother. Rather you get lateral oppression by that 51% majority - an oppression that's totally legal, democratic and above-board. Indeed, this is how "social credit" might make crude, Orwellian Gestapo-tactics unncessary in future despotisms, as the People themselves enforce conformity, laterally.

Hence, our narrow path of freedom requires a third ingredient, at the level of values. If transparency is universal AND we have a culture that scorns gossips and bullies and privacy busybodies and voyeurs and judgmental conformity-enforcers, then MYOB can prevail.

What's MYOB?

Mind Your Own Business.

It means if I'm not hurting anyone, then my quirks and eccentricities merit protection, same as yours. Lest a day come when I am not tolerated... followed by you.

Yes, I have learned that this simple idea is almost impossible for most folks to wrap their heads about, even though it's a fundamental, base level zeitgeist of our present society! Indeed, I show how Sci Fi books and films have been at the vanguard in promoting appreciation of individual eccentricity, in my recent nonfiction book: VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood.

Tolerance is actually encouraged best by transparency, especially when gossips and bullies and privacy busybodies and voyeurs are caught in the act... but only when gossip and bullying and conformity-enforcing are in disrepute.

Again, yeah it sounds counter-intuitive. Yet, it is exactly the baseline value system of a majority of westerners now.  It's very likely your baseline value!  And it is the only way we'll get beyond the danger zone to something decent.

== MORE ==

Under a broad program called "signature reduction", it is said (in this article) that the U.S. Pentagon supervises a secret force more than ten times the size of the clandestine elements of the CIA, that “carries out domestic and foreign assignments, both in military uniforms and under civilian cover, in real life and online, sometimes hiding in private businesses and consultancies, some of them household name companies.” This is in part to deal with the difficulties of modern intel gathering when adversaries have massive files and face recognition. Also: “The explosion of Pentagon cyber warfare, moreover, has led to thousands of spies who carry out their day-to-day work in various made-up personas, the very type of nefarious operations the United States decries when Russian and Chinese spies do the same.”

Which raises a basic question. How will we evade this devolving into:

1) A deep state that is unaccountable to constitutional systems*… or

2) The sort of tit for tat conflict of reciprocal sabotage that the great science fiction author Frederik Pohl warned about in his terrifying novel The Cool War.

Neither of these outcomes frighten adversaries of the West, who are fully committed to these tactics in order to prevent the psychic collapse of tyranny that their models predict, if the Enlightenment is not toppled soon. But both outcomes should worry us.

Those currently in our intel/military/law officer corps are likely loyal to constitutionalism and law and all that. Moreover they need tools such as these, in order to wage a desperate struggle on our behalf.  But these methods can all too easily anchor into habit. Habits that prevent our servants from even noticing an alternative suite of weapons that have far better long term prospects. In fact, those alternative methods are the only ones that can lead to our sole victory condition.

Weapons of light.

== ...Philosophy is a walk on the slippery rocks... ==

Finally… Two notes on philosophy.

1) UCSD Professor Benjamin Bratton - author of Revenge of the Real - is fighting for us on a front that seems obscure to 99.999% of us, but is actually important -- the ongoing effort by 'postmodernist' philosophers (especially on French and US campuses) to denounce and discredit science, democracy, so-called 'facts,' and the very concept of objective reality. I recommend his article for those who would blink in amazement over Ben's depiction of the rage-howls that fulminate from elite subjectivity spinners, who demand that their incantations get paramountcy over the evidence and models we laboriously build out of a clay called 'reality.'

2) I had a note from someone else who felt caught between two philosophical “rocks.”

Is there an intersection between ephemerality and nihilism - lately I have found myself fully seated in ephemerality - not as a negative - but - rather - as an awakening of the transitory aspect of my physical engagement with the universe  - it has awakened my creativity - am I way off – thoughts?” 

My answer is the same one I give at commencement addresses:

You can be large. 

More than one thing. 

Study the phrase "positive sum" as opposed to "zero sum."  Sure your individual life may be short to the point of apparent pointlessness. So is a bee's. But the hive does mighty things. 

We are building a civilization of extraordinary magnitude! One that has accomplished prodigious things, perhaps unprecedented across the galaxy, and we did it by standing on the shoulders of ephemerals who stood on the shoulders of ephemerals who clawed their way a little higher, out of a muck of ignorance. These accomplishments - forged in the spirit of our ancestors - are just hints at what might yet come.

You don't have to accomplish great things to be part of all that. Or even remembered! You will know the things you did, to be part of that rising pyramid of shoulders. Feel the weight of future generations on them. 

You have our gratitude.