Saturday, July 30, 2022

Some great science podcasts - tune in!

Couple of years back we offered a list of excellent – if sometimes specialized – podcasts and YouTube channels about science and related things. Time for an update?

== Great Science (and other) Podcasts! ==

Let’s start with Into the Impossible - hosted by my friend Dr. Brian Keating, co-director of UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Generally a deep dive into aspects of physics, but also space biology, tech and the latest insights into the nature of imagination. Example video: What is Dark Matter?

A colleague of Brian's whom I also admire: Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder -- Science and technology updates - "without the gobbledygook". Example video: Are Singularities Real?

As I said then… Scott Manley is one of my favorite YouTube explainer guys, especially when it comes to spacecraft. If there's some kind of milestone in rocketry, for example, he'll clarify it for you, within a couple of days. (Manley was also designer of the "cycler" spacecraft in the 2021 movie "Stowaway".) But this particular posting goes a bit farther in space and especially time, as Manley  talks about how to Move the Earth, citing especially my own postings on the subject.

Other favorite explainers include Anton Petrov for well-delivered and timely updates on the latest science and space discoveries, starting each with "Hello Wonderful Person!" Example video: James Webb Just found the most distant galaxy

Dianna Cowern, Physics Girl, presents  physical science demonstrations, experiments and explanations of new discoveries. Example video: We were wrong about the Big Bang.

Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur provides in-depth explorations of galactic stuff like the Fermi Paradox. If it involves space and destiny, you can bet he's got an engaging what-if riff. Example video: Black holes & Dark Matter.

A pal of Isaac (and me) is John Michael Godier's Event Horizon, whose podcasts are a little closer to Earth than Arthur's, but still vividly entertaining futurism, featuring great interviews. How do I know this? Example video: What's eating the Universe?

== A golden age of Chatauqua explainers? ==

Fools and feudalists who try to diss the high repute of science, calling it just another orthodoxy, know nothing about the impudent competitiveness taught to most bright graduate students, along with the central catechism of science: "I might be wrong!" No other 'priesthood' ever even remotely did that. Nor spawned the phenomenon displayed here... of so many top researchers and experts rushing onto PBS or podcasts to eagerly share everything they've learned... and address every unanswered question!

Here are more! Including some favorites offered by other folks.

Dr. Becky Smethurst (Dr. Becky) -- A day in the life of an Astrophysicist at Oxford, with a focus on astronomy and cosmology research. Example video: An Astrophysicist's Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries.

Mark Rober, former NASA engineer, produces videos on popular science and gadgets, as well as science-related pranks, with over 22 million subscribers. Example video: World's Tallest Elephant Toothpaste Volcano. (Note Rober is hugely popular with young folks.)

Jade Tan-Holmes (Up and Atom) -- Kids level explanations of high-end physics concepts. Example video: What is The Schrodinger Equation, Exactly?

Steve Mould -- Mix of science/engineering topics. Example video: Pythagorean Siphon - Inside Your Washing Machine

Amy Shira Teitel, The Vintage Space -- History of the space program, branching into "How it works" on related subjects. Example video: Vladimir Komarov was Doomed to Die on Soyuz 1.

Prof. David Kipping (Cool Worlds) -- Great selection of topics. Okay the presentation can ponderous. Why You're Probably Not a Simulation.

Kurzgesagt -- Distinctively animated videos on science/space topics.  Example video: The Day the Dinosaurs Died - Minute by Minute.

Brew -- Animated videos on a variety of subjects, with an extra serving of body horror. Example video: The Country Made from 14 Stranded Ships.

Dr. Rohin Francis (Medlife Crisis) -- Cardiologist with an acidic sense of humour.
Example video: Can You Legally Buy a Real Human Skeleton.

Johnny Harris -- Deeper dives into specific odd subjects. Non-political example: The Real Reason McDonalds Ice Cream Machines Are Always Broken (Except everything is political.)

Joe Scott (Answers With Joe) -- Wide variety of topics, often science/space/tech focused: The Immortal Woman Who Saved Millions Of Lives"

Tom Scott -- Variety of subjects, from "this is an interesting place that exists", to linguistics, to infotech, to very random projects that catch his interest. 
Interesting place: The Artificial Gravity Lab.
Infotech: This Video Has 32,251,959 Views (title subject to change.)
Language: The Language Sounds That Could Exist But Don't.

Derek Muller (Veritasium). Science and engineering videos. Example video: Fritz Haber: the scientist who killed millions but saved billions.
Tim Dodd (Everyday Astronaut). Bringing space down to earth for everyday people, with updates on rockets and space launches. Example video: Raptor 1 vs Raptor 2: What's the difference?

Destin Sandlin (Smarter Every Day) explores the everyday world using science. Example: How do nuclear submarines make oxygen?
PBS Spacetime: Our Universe Explained, with Dr. Matt O'Dowd - is the best in my opinion. Example video: The Edge of an Infinite Universe.

== Terrific Miscellaneous ones... and sci fi! ==

Savor Podcast delves into the science, history and cultural connections of food and drink: why exactly we like what we like. Example podcast: Fictional Foods: Doctor Who.

This science fiction insight podcast had a short run, but is fabulous. 

A couple of political-historical channels that I think have been mentioned here:

The History Guy: History that deserves to be remembered. Forgotten moments of history presented in an entertaining manner.

Beau of the Fifth Column -- Lefty perspective made in the style of a right-winger.

Cody Johnston (Some More News) -- Lefty perspective made in the style of... errr, a crazy basement dweller trying to drag you down with him?

And to balance that... Bill Maher. yes, I said it. If no one will listen to my advice how the Union side of our civil war can win with innovative tactics, then at least pay attention when Maher chides you to stop deliberately losing with abysmally stoopid ones. 

Quirky (and stylistically immature, but a bit fun) perspectives on military matters, including the Ukraine War: Task & Purpose.

And I'll throw in English GP Dr. John Campbell, who is doing quiet daily Covid-19 updates.

Don't forget!! You can support these podcasters and content creators by subscribing - as well as donating on Patreon and via YouTube's new SuperThanks feature.

And for more, check comments, below! There will be many suggestions by members of this community!

What an amazing era we live in.


Alfred Differ said...

I'm still gonna argue that Newton got debunked because his explanatory model collapsed. I'm from the theoretician side of our community. Those models matter when we try to extend our knowledge taking supported theories into uncharted waters. Imagine trying to do a fly-by of Saturn using Ptolemy's model. Arab scholars had a wonderfully intricate version of a geocentric cosmos without overlapping spheres, so the notion of a fly-by was not unimaginable even if gravity and Newton's 'forces' were. (Giordano Bruno did just that by extending Copernicus.)

The explanatory layer 'explains' what is possible by establishing what is imaginable.

But of course Newton's work proved to be a low speed, low mass first order approximation. The predictive layer of his theory works just fine. The predictive layer of Ptolemy's model isn't wrong either… if one is willing to deal with the nightmare of all those fiddly epicycle parameters. Using modern computers we could avoid that, so I count my 'lucky stars' Newton put a stake in Astrology's heart before modern computing arrived.

I'll never argue against making practical use of old theories for the same reason I won't argue against walking from point A to point B just because we have cars. Dogmatists commit that error. My interest centers on ensuring people know how to make the split between the explanatory and predictive modules of a theory. My zealotry involves pointing out how many explanatory narratives produce roughly the same perceptible 'universe' because when that happens, it doesn't really matter which one we believe.

On the topic of the post, though, Tim Dodd is a gem. I encourage everyone to take some time and watch some of his longer videos he puts up on YouTube. He works very hard at the technical details involved in the industry. You don't have to like everyone he interviews to appreciate how much beyond the fluff and hype he explores. Want to know the difference between rocket engine technologies? He's got a hour-long piece that spells it out. Want to know… well… go see for yourself.

Alfred Differ said...


…see it hit the ground to know…

Heh. You must be able to describe the experiment anyone can run to see the evidence for themselves. You can trust others if you like, but an executable test must exist for hypotheses derived from a theory for us to be doing science.

What seems intuitively obvious from classical theories actually fails on the smallest scales of the universe. Simple things like the value of the electron's charge depend a bit on how you measure it. It's not because the experimental rigs are somehow set up wrong, though. The electron's charge is a 'property' we imagine exists independent of our apparatus. Turns out the universe doesn't work that way. It CAN'T work that way if you ponder the philosophical implications of a simple question.

"How do you know that?"


I use 'model' very loosely. It's almost a synonym for 'structure' and isn't meant to imply more without the use of a few adjectives.

The important point is we create them generally for a purpose. They may or may not serve that purpose well, but they are children of fertile minds.


On the topic of the post again, YouTube is full of conspiracy nuts and their videos, but it is also packed with modern examples of Chatauqua explainers. There are lots of them. You just have to sift awhile to find them.

For example, there is is person. Want to know what a 'data structure' is as a computer science person would explain it? They made a video. Want to know how a particular algorithm works? They've made videos for some of them. (My fav so far explains how the FFT algorithm works.)

This is the kind of educational resource that changes the world. It isn't that this or that person is talking about subject X. It's that countless people are explaining the whole alphabet of subjects. IF you care to watch and learn from them, you get a leg up in this technological world. It shows how many of us WANT others to get a boost… for free.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: It shows how many of us WANT others to get a boost… for free

Sharing knowledge is what humans do whenever free to do so. Hard wiring that evolved. We should be called The Transparent Ape.

I recently moved a bit closer to the Perimeter Institute (just happenstance, not planned). Another great science podcast:

Alfred Differ said...


We can certainly take this conversation to email and make use of slides if you want. The text format for comments crimps us both. It's your call, though. I'm at first initial last name at gmail.

I suspect you did miss what the physicist was trying to say. That happens so often when we keep to English I can say it in most settings with little chance of being wrong. It's not that you don't get their point, though. It's that English is imprecise and a poor language for these details.

I also suspect your understanding of uncertainty is NOT different than the physicist's version, but you probably aren't using the same explanatory model of the world. That difference can lead to fundamental mental blockades.


As for the sound generator, I'm imagining a directional speaker that can be switched on and off. No matter what the switching speed is, the sound pulse has both temporal and spatial extent. That means questions like "Where is it?" don't have certain answers. It's not in one place or existing at one time. For slow switching rates, the physical location uncertainty is larger than for fast switching rates simply because the physical extents are different.

The oscilloscope doesn't show you the wave. It shows you the location of an electron beam on a screen that you think (aka model) follows the pressure wave that you turn into a current at your detector which doesn't measure sound directly either. Your receiving speaker moves creating current. Your receiving speaker interacts with the pulse at a particular location and answers the simple "where is the speaker cone" question. YOU turn those measurements spread over time into "perception of sound", but that's not what your receiver is actually doing. That's your explanatory model processing the data.

Turns out that pulses of wider spatial width can have simpler, narrower expressions if converted to a sum of harmonics. If you try to switch on and off a tone generator producing a single tone, your receiver won't hear it as a single tone. The slower the switching rate, though, the closer you'll be to detecting a single tone.

The reason I switch to light from sound is physicist see something really weird when they lower the 'intensity' of the beam to almost nothing. The receiver notices 'scintillation' when the classical model says the amplitude of arriving waves should smoothly approach zero. That's true of sound too, but more complex.

Alfred Differ said...


With family... yes. We do share openly.

I'm not convinced we do that outside our kin groups... until about 2-3K generations ago. We are strongly xenophobic, but became less so during the last glacial cycle.

That we do it today is a given, but I think that shows we've expanded on the concept of 'kin' or found a way to relax the limit.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: We are strongly xenophobic

Sort of a 'free to do so' thing, and maybe a numbers game. Ranging from Conquistadors to Marco Polo.

DP said...

For SF may I recommend Comic Book Girl 19 for all things pop culture and sci-fi?

She is a little on the odd side but fun to watch.

Here she is reviewing the Dune movie trailer:

(warning - language)

And reviewing Game of Thrones

Robert said...

As long as we're suggesting more ways to spend time… :-)

I like "In Our Time" on the BBC:

Also "Ideas" and "Quirks and Quarks" on CBC:

DP said...

If you like Beau of the 5th Column may I recommend comedian Trae Crowder aka "The Liberal Redneck"?

scidata said...

Re: Naming Aircraft Carriers

Sorry if this was covered years ago, I started reading CB only after the 2015 carrier topic.

FDR was a big fan of LOST HORIZON, which I've previously argued was Asimov's inspiration for the deepest themes in FOUNDATION*, including the character of Hari Seldon (a blend of Father Perrault and Conway). FDR's original name for Camp David was Shangri-La, which he amusingly gave to reporters when asked for the launch site of the Doolittle Raid. The Essex Class Carrier USS Shangri-La was commissioned in 1944.

* The overall plot was a quick re-do of Gibbon's Roman Empire book as a space opera mixed with some Thucydides. Asimov openly admitted this and even joked about it.

Larry Hart said...


* The overall plot was a quick re-do of Gibbon's Roman Empire book as a space opera mixed with some Thucydides. Asimov openly admitted this and even joked about it.

The great stories rhyme. In his non-fiction book Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut tells of the masters thesis which was rejected by the University of Chicago in which he graphs the progress of stories with the y-axis being good fortune (up) vs ill fortune (down). He concluded that the underlying mythos of Christianity is isomorphic to "Cinderella".

I have asserted many times here that Camelot, Ragtime, and Hamilton are the same story, or at least appeal for the same reason--tales of rising, falling, and final satisfaction that the story itself will live on and inspire. One might include the story of Jesus in there as well, at least the Jesus Christ Superstar version.

DP said...

For all things environmental and global warming related see "Just Have a Think".

Here he is discussing a blue ocean event.

Very scary

Robert said...

Alfred, thanks for the offer. I've requested a copy of the slides from Perimeter, or at least the slides relevant to this problem. I'll see whether they respond (it's the Emancipation Day long weekend here, so not expecting anything for a while).

From what I remember (and the illegible notes I took) the graphs we were given were of the displacement of a particle in the medium (air). No mention at all of how we know this displacement, so I was assuming that was irrelevant to the question. Probably better to wait until I have a copy of those graphs though, if that kind of detail is important.

Jon S. said...

Not much for podcasts myself, but there are some excellent science explainers on TikTok, of all places. I particularly recommend @alexjamessays for physics (she has one series going on weird myths about CERN, and another where she's trying to go through every single Star Trek episode in internal chronological order and discuss the science - I think she's almost through the first season of Enterprise), @archaeowolf for archaeology, and @science_is_real for evolutionary theory and the spread of early humans (on those occasions when he isn't being banned for annoying the YECs).

Tacitus said...

Hey all, it's been a while. I've been off on adventures great and small but have looked in on Contrary Brin every few months. I suppose - obligations of citizenship and all - I should re-engage. It does seem as if the place is tidier with the absence of a few trollish names from the past. Given the nature of political discourse of late I'd likely have a few Rules of Engagement in order to make wandering in with conservative Ungood Thought a reasonable proposition....

Regards Youtuber things I follow I have assorted robotics and Roman history sites I keep up on. Otherwise I can recommend for fascinating naval history, and for a look under the hood of commercial aviation. Perhaps not recommended if you are about to take flight!



Tacitus said...

Here's one of the minor adventures. I know some eccentrics who are hand digging an Underground Playground under a hill in rural Wisconsin. Its a sort of maze, archive, underground saloon. I go help excavate when my schedule permits. It is expected to be geologically stable for centuries. Very Ozymandius stuff....


Unknown said...


"With family... yes. We do share openly."

Eh, not quite - landholding complicates things. Empires where the family shared, like the Merovingians, tend to implode in brother-on-brother warfare when the old man died. The Turkish empire, IIRC, implemented a charming custom where the acknowledged heirs were posted to provincial positions, and when position of Sultan became vacant, there was a horserace to see who could get to Istanbul (not Constantinople) fastest to get Sultanized. The others were carefully strangled (no blood was shed). Not sure I can find sources for the above Turkish customs, but the custom of primogeniture is common. One heir gets everything, the others are dealt with (mutilation, shoved in a monastery, etc.) It's a rarity to see brothers sharing a kingship, like those 2 nice semihistorical Danish guys where the rowdy bro went off raiding while the dutiful one minded the crops (until Grendel showed up).

Re: Foundation: Asimov had already written a history of the late Roman empire, so why not? File the serial numbers off...


duncan cairncross said...


AE Van Vogt also wrote a "history of the Roman Empire" - the Empire of the Atom

Primogeniture - in Scotland we had the right of "Tantiv" - means "most fit"

Which is probably why our kings seemed to have such short reigns

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Which is probably why our kings seemed to have such short reigns

It's been years since I noticed, but it still blows me away that the French King Louis XIV reigned for 75 years. I mean, at that time in history, I'd be amazed at a king living to be 75, what with shorter seventeenth-century lifespans and the tendency of kings to not exactly die of natural causes. No, he was on the throne for 75 years--still longer than Queen Elizabeth II.

Der Oger said...

You Tube Channels:

I would add Dust, a channel showing Sci Fi - related short movies, and Quinn's Ideas, which presents and discusses sci fi novels (mainly Dune, Hyperion, and The Three Body Problem).

I follow some german channels that are now and then sciencey, especially Harald Lesch, who does a good job explaining physical theories and problems.

Alfred Differ said...


Agreed. I didn't mean to imply 'sharing' within kin groups was all puppies and rainbows.

Look close, though, and we find that 'kinship' isn't really about blood relationships. It is when it is, but we often define our kin nowadays. For example, practically ever human on the planet is a relatively close cousin to all the others. Some of the genetic lines in Africa are most distant from each other, but the rest of us descended from those who left Africa are relatively close. We aren't kin, though. For some of us a relationship distance of "second cousin" is enough to break that link.

The reason I point out kinship is that a lot of historical trading clans are based on that relationship. If you need a general partner in your business (sharing risks as well as rewards) you are more likely to pick from cousins and closer than from strangers. That rule works for most of humanity with USian's being a little WEIRD about it. If there are strangers in your management team, there is a better than average chance they are marrying into your kinship group and engaged in a multi-generational project of social climbing.

These are averages, though. There are always members of your kinship group with whom you wouldn't dare take business risks. I got to watch my brother(at a distance) deal with this with respect to his wife's immediate family. She's sharp. Her brothers are less so. They were all in business together, though.

DP said...

Side note, the Moon just got a bit more habitable:

The moon has pits and caves where temperatures stay at roughly 63 degrees Fahrenheit, making human habitation a possibility, according to new research from planetary scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles. Although much of the moon's surface fluctuates from temperatures as high as 260 degrees during the day to as low as 280 degrees below zero at night, researchers say these stable spots could transform the future of lunar exploration and long-term habitation. The shadowed areas of these pits could also offer protection from harmful elements, such as solar radiation, cosmic rays and micrometeorites.

And there now may be enough metals to make lunar mining worthwhile:

Earth's moon is more metal than scientists imagined. NASA's prolific Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) found rich evidence of iron and titanium oxides under the surface of the moon, which may show a close connection with Earth's early history... The team's theory was that the first few hundred feet (or meters) of the moon's surface has few of these oxides, but a richer source of metal lies further below. Then, as meteors collide with the lunar surface and scratch away upper layers, metals become exposed. That sort of pattern would also explain low metal levels in the lunar highlands and higher abundances in the darker and lower plains closer to the moon's subsurface.

So we get safe, secure and comfortable colonies established in lunar lava tubes, establish a mining industry, what's next? Compared to Mars or Venus, the Moon look remarkably easy to terraform.

The process begins by steering a comet nucleus, which some call an iceteroid, from the chilly freezer beyond Pluto. Nudge it from its slow orbit with a mile-per-second velocity change and swing it near any gas giant planet for a momentum swerve. By hooking the comet adroitly in a reverse swing-by around, say, Jupiter, we can loop it into an orbit opposite to the way that worlds orbit the sun. The grimy, mountain-size iceteroid soon will loom in the moon’s night sky.

Mere days before it strikes, scientists will have to blow it apart—brutally and carefully. Ice shards come gliding in all around the moon’s equator, small enough that they cannot free themselves from gravity’s grip. (We can’t let big chunks of comet scatter off the moon to rain down as celestial buckshot on Earth.) Within hours of the first incoming comet, the moon will have a crude atmosphere. With one-sixth of Earth’s gravity, it can hold gases for tens of thousands of years.

All told, we’ll need about 100 comets the size of Halley’s, which will bring water and carbon dioxide, with smidgens of methane and ammonia. We’ll need nitrogen, too, and some magic from the biochemists, who will pepper the moon’s old, gray rocks with blue-green algae that can exhale oxygen.

If the Earth is our cradle, the Moon should be our playpen.

DP said...

One of th best WW2 podcasts is TIK>

And one his best episodes discusses why the Axis lost the war: oil.

It explains why Japan went to war and how the shortage of oil drove every major German strategic decision, and sparked Hitler's fights with his generals.

And how certain armchair generals are wrong to claim that Germany should have driven the British from the Middle East before invading Russia (there were essentially no Persian Gulf oil fields at the time, and no way to get such oil back to Europe). Rommel crossing Suez and advancing to Basra would have gained nothing but sand. Besides, the Italians (who unbeknownst to them were sitting on an ocean of oil in Libya) had no oil for the Italian navy to ship supplies that would make such an advance possible.

Or that the Germans should have driven on Moscow instead of turning south to encircle and destroy the 600,000 troops of the Soviet southern front around Kiev. The big mistake was resuming the advance on Moscow instead of ignoring Moscow and going for the Caucasus oil fields in 1941 instead of a year later. Russian oil from Baku was shipped by barge up the Volga. Seizing Stalingrad would in effect cut the jugular of the Soviet Union (the goal of Fall Blau the following year). In late summer 1941, Guderian after his Kiev encirclement was as far From Stalingrad as he was from Moscow, and Soviet resistance on the southern front had been shredded.

German generals like Rommel and Guderian were like pampered athletes, primadonnas who had no understanding of larger economic issues underpinning the war effort.

The war was essentially won and lost in the Caucasus, the largest oil producing area outside of the US in the 1940s. Had Germany been able to seize these oil fields and simultaneously deny them to the Soviets, Germany would no longer be short of oil and the Red Army would have to fight on foot and the Red Air force would be grounded due to lack of oil. Without oil the Russians never could have launched a counter attack let alone advance to Berlin.

While a German advance to the Urals was a logistical fantasy, a stalemate on the Eastern front that left Germany in control of the Baltics, Belorussia, Ukraine and Caucasus is as good as a win for Germany. With a stalemate and possibly a separate peace in the east, the Germans could have tripled the number of divisions defending the Atlantic wall, making D-Day almost impossible.

Until maybe the Americans drop the A-Bomb on Berlin.

WW2 was truly the first oil war.

DP said...

The best podcaster for explaining the current state of the world is Peter Zeihan.

Watch all of his videos, starting with this one:

Population collapse (and aging populations) will cause general destruction of capitalism - capitalism doesn't function as an economic system when populations get smaller and greyer.

The other two forces shaping the 21st century are the end of globalization and climate change.

We can eventually work our way through to the end of globalization by developing new local supply chains in North America based on automated robot factories instead of those based on cheap Chinese labor.

But that will take at least 5 years of inflation before we do so.

Climate change screws us all over completely from destroying crop yields (as we are now seeing world wide), destroying property from super storms and the triggering of mass migrations of human misery.

Buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

The one nation to benefit from this godawful mess: the good old US of A.

We can get potash from Canada and natural gas from fracking that will allow us to maintain fertilizer production and crop yields.

The stagnant economies of Red State America will have a golden age renaissance both on the farm and in the oil patch.

Our birthrates are low but (Trump and his racist MAGA folks not withstanding) we are still open for immigrants like no other nation.

Build the Wall?

What are you, freaking stupid? We are going to need all of those laborers and consumers just to keep the American economy functioning.

America will survive and even prosper - demographically it will be changed beyond recognition.

David Brin said...

Tacitus came by for a visit. Tacitus!
DP there are many metals on the moon, but they are locked in tight oxides. While we fund proposals to refine them, at NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC) - they generally do not look even remotely workable with near future tech. Compared to the PURE metals you can get from some asteroids? A pathetic “Luny-lunar” incantation.
-NIAC also funds a project to look into the lava tube pits. Yay. I got nothing against PREP work for lunar colonization. Silly Apollo-wannabe footprint stunts do not qualify and in fact detract from that program.
“If the Earth is our cradle, the Moon should be our playpen….”

At a polemical level, sure. But that does not make Artemis anyuthing more than a calamitous-treasonous attempt to sabotage NASA by chasing a ‘glory” we already had when it is the turn of others to make their silly footprint stunts.

As for 1941 and the Caucuses, the Soviets poured concrete down every well the Germans verged on capturing. It was pure delusion.

DP said...

Dr, Brin

Moon vs. asteroids - I don't seen them as being mutually exclusive. The difficulty of refining lunar metals is balanced by the ease of getting there and setting up shop. Asteroid mining will require a much higher degree of automation and much longer retrieval times (years or decades) to take a metal asteroid out of orbit and either refine it for shipping the extracted metals back to Earth or moving the asteroid itself into Earth orbit for processing.

And can you imagine the protests against regularly moving a dinosaur killing sized asteroid into Earth orbit on a regular basis? One small miscalculation or terrorist action and its the biggest oops in human history.

And when it comes to mining the asteroids for metal only one asteroid really matters, Psyche, which is just a big ball of iron. Psyche and Ceres as a source of water are the only chunks that really matter in the asteroid belt, everything else is incidental.

As for Artemis being a stunt, you could make the same claim against the entire Apollo program itself. There was nothing that our astronauts couldn't accomplish on the moon that could not have been done more cheaply by robots and retrieval missions like the Soviet Lunokhod.

Though Artemis may be a politically motivated stunt, and to a large extent it probably is, it also follows an historical pattern. After the initial races for the poles and planting of a few nations' flags, the Arctic and Antarctic regions were ignored for about half a century until the first international geophysical year in 1959 when mankind returned to Antarctica in force. Now the place is dotted with dozens of scientific bases and weather stations. The same pattern will apply to lunar colonization.

Setting up self sustaining colonies in Lunar lava tubes will us help do the same in Martian lava tubes. Terraforming the Moon will give us the experience and knowledge we need to do the same to the other planets.

And if anything goes wrong, the Lunar colonists are only a few days help from Earth, not months away on Mars.

DP said...

Case Blau and the Caucasus oil fields -

Granted the Soviets did serious damage to the Maikop and Grozny oil fields of the northern Caucasus and during the brief time (only a few months) they were occupied by the Germans very little oil was extracted,

And the big prize, Baku, was too far away in the south Caucasus to be reached by Germany. Hoth's panzers of Army Group A reaching the Persian border and linking up with Rommel's Africa Korps in Iraq (Germany's late war grand strategic plan) was always a logistical fantasy.

But the main point of Case Blau was to DENY oil to the Soviet war machine by cutting off Russia's shipping routs up the Volga (Russian oil was shipped by barges). Denied oil, the Red Army would have to fight on foot, all the Stalin tanks and American lend lease trucks being worthless without petrol, and the Red Airforce would be grounded.

The result would be a stalemate with the Russians being unable to counter attack in force and the Germans having reach the length of their logistical supply lines. A separate peace treaty in the east becomes a real possibility.

And by this stage a tie was as good as a win for the Germans.

Robert said...

It's Emancipation Day here in Canada:

My local MP managed to get 100% support for it as a Private Member's Motion, something that almost never happens.

duncan cairncross said...

Population collapse (and aging populations) will cause general destruction of capitalism - capitalism doesn't function as an economic system when populations get smaller and greyer.

This is one of those "truths" - that are actually bollocks!

The demographic change from a growing population to a ZPG or shrinking population are neutral as far as the economy is concerned
More pensioners and less "kids" - its a wash
Rapid growth - has bugger all pensioners but about 40% kids and 60% workers
Slow growth has about 10% pensioners, 60% workers and 30% kids
Negative growth has 15% pensioners 15% kids and 70% workers
These are just estimates from the data but the pattern is clear
In a rapid growth situation there are LOTs of kids
In a slow growth situation there are less kids but more pensioners
In a negative growth situation you get more pensioners and LESS kids
Its expensive to bring up a kid - both from the family POV and societies POV - not only schools and such but also crime!!
Health costs are similar - EXCEPT in the USA where the health system squeezes every last penny out of the poor old bugger before he/she is allowed to die

The actual numbers will depend where you put the transitions
I used 70+ and under 20 - which is about right for today
AND both of those numbers will RISE as time goes on
People will remain fitter and “doing things” longer
And it will take more and more education to enter the working population

As far as the effects of a shrinkage in total numbers is concerned that is LONG term as in hundreds of years to make a real difference
AND the fact that humans appear to be "rational consumers" as far as kids go means that a society can modify its birth rate by changing the cost of parenthood

The American problem is NOT NOT NOT a shortage of worker - instead its an expectation that people will do hard jobs for crap money
Capitalism 101 - if you are short of workers increase the pay

reason said...

Duncan - Yes, yes, yes. I don't understand why people don't get this. They look at absolute growth rates instead of growth per capita.

But, what will hurt a certain sort of capitalism is debt. If the total economy is growing more slowly, then it becomes harder to pay off debts. If we are dependent on ever more debt, in order to keep the game going - how are we going to pay it off. Of course this is not necessary for capitalism as such. You can invest to reduce cost not just increase output. Capitalism just has to ensure that income exceeds cost. But ponzi capitalism (which a lot of it is), is in trouble in a low growth world. It becomes essential to reduce inequality if population growth falls.

reason said...

P.S. The example we should all be looking at is Japan. No sign of it giving up capitalism. But there has been a massive increase in government debt. But most of that debt is held by rich Japanese. There is an obvious solution. Inheritance taxes.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Reason
There are two types of debt
Commercial debt - money created by companies - this is inherently a problem
Public Debt - money created by the "Government" - this is a much much "safer" form of debt - In fact its not really "debt" - its new money created by the Government

We should not "Go Mad" but creating money that way has almost no negative issues

reason said...

Actually, there is a problem with public debt. It is an asset for someone. Depending on who that is it either exports wealth or creates inequality. In Japan it creates inequality - hence the solution is inheritance taxes. If it exports wealth, then the problem will appear in the balance of payments and eventually in the exchange rate. Then the solution is harder.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Reason

That IS a problem and its because of the way we do it

The best way would be simply add a sum to EVERYBODIES accounts

Which would then be adding money (mostly) at the bottom where it would have the most effect

A Universal Basic Income - fuelled by a wealth tax and an increased income tax

Alfred Differ said...

This is one of those "truths" - that are actually bollocks!

Yup… but I want to thank DP for pointing to their source material. This helps clear the air with a lot of us and I think we should all be doing it.

The important point about what I appreciate here is I can disagree with the source material without sounding like I want to attack the person believing the source material. Much like in religious debates, it's important to distinguish disagreeing with someone's interpretation of Scripture and Scripture itself.

I don't mean to go religious here, but people who believe a source strongly enough might defend it with similar vigor. It's better to argue about sources as that helps us avoid ad hominem's.


As for the source belief in this case… definitely bollocks… but strongly believed because people equate capitalism with rapid growth. The error isn't in making the association, though. It's in making the causal assumption.

Alfred Differ said...

ALL forms of debt are assets for someone else. That's the whole point of debt.

If you believe you have an obligation to me because of something I did for you, a debt exists in the broadest sense. If that obligation can be traded by me to someone else, that debt is effectively monetized.

We all create money to some degree and it gets priced by the market around us. I might 'lend' you enough to buy you lunch today in exchange for you buying tomorrow. For that brief time, new money has been created. If the value of the debt risks becoming too large, though, I might hesitate like any other market player would.

Public, corporate, and private debts are all the same kinds of things. What changes is what we believe about the markets around them. The constant through it all… is they are assets to someone or they simply wouldn't exist.

Robert said...

A Universal Basic Income - fuelled by a wealth tax and an increased income tax

When UBI was tried in Canada — the famous Mincome experiment in Dauphin, the results were interesting.

Evelyn Forget's team found "an 8.5 percent reduction in the hospitalization rate for participants relative to controls, particularly for accidents and injuries and mental health. We also found that participant contacts with physicians declined, especially for mental health, and that more adolescents continued into grade 12. We found no increase in fertility, family dissolution rates, or improved birth out­ comes. We conclude that a relatively modest GAI can improve population health, suggesting significant health system savings."

Given that Canada has a public health care system, I suspect that the savings would come close to covering the cost of the program. I've seen arguments that that would be the case but haven't run the numbers myself.

David Brin said...

At NIAC we are funding a quick/cheap/terrific lunar lander/rover that will go to the edge of one of these special pits and look down to see if it really is a lave tube. If so, it could be the most (only) habitable kind of place there.

Investigating such sites robotically makes vastly more sense than absurd footprint races.
*NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC)

David Brin said...

DP you are half right. asteroids take more time & automation, hence robots But thousands need far lESS energy to reach+return than lunar surface. And there are many, many nickel iron types. Though the water will be useful first.

We WON the symbolism race to the moon already. Artemis achieves two things. #1 to humiliate those whose turn it is for a symbolic Bar Moonzvah and #2 to waste tens of billions accomplishing ZERO, since later industry & settlement will use totally different methods.

Re the Nazi Caucuses campaign. Nah. The vast supply line into the USSR via Iran could have included a pipeline, as in the Ledo Road.

Alfred Differ said...

I think the best argument for the Moon that addresses the delta-vee differences is the one related to time-cost of money. If a project is privately funded, the expected return rate on the investment might swamp the cost of the extra delta-vee getting too and from the lunar surface.

That's not much help right now, though. Private investors would (rightly) point out the technical unknowns related to mining tech on the lunar surface and raise the expected return rate to compensate for that. They do the same for asteroids. I argue private money wants tech development done by someone willing to take the risk... and that's where government can help a great deal. Doesn't matter if it's on the Moon or an asteroid as long as the tech developed generalizes.

Asteroid metals exploitation will also require reliable chemical reduction techniques out there. Lots of oxides are found on the Moon. Lots of sulfides will be found on the asteroids of interest. Different bond energies, but Terran techniques with sulfides make use a gravity and cheap heat sinks which aren't out there.

duncan cairncross said...

"I argue private money wants tech development done by someone willing to take the risk."

Another "Truth" - public money supports almost ALL tech development

"Private money" takes over once you get past the "working model"

scidata said...

Re: Public money and pure research
from 1969 Senate hearing on funding Fermilab:

Senator: "It has no value in that respect? [concrete national benefits]”
R. Wilson: “It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with those things. It has to do with, are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things that we really venerate and honor in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending."

Paradoctor said...

"Fund us because we make the country worth defending". That sounds good at first, but it does not hold up under close inspection. Poets are cheaper than particle physicists; you can buy more national glory with them, dollar for dollar.

The street poet Julia Vinograd once complained to me that math majors like me get more money from the government than English majors like her. I replied, "The solution is obvious. Just figure out how to write a poem that can kill people." Julia smiled. It was a Vinogradian moment.

In Fermilab's defense, their particles haven't killed anyone. But neither have they done anything else useful. Where's my antigravity car?

David Brin said...

1. Monty Python had a great skit about a joke that killed.

2. Math is harder than English. And when it takes an explicit step forward that step is verifiable. Most English professors are obsessed with 'eternal verities' that obsessively repeat, rather than interrogate, their favorite riffs and motifs.

3. Literature lends itself to romanticism and often solipsism. For all of its solitary nature, mathematicians know they owe everything to the society that subsidizes them.

I live in both worlds. I am vastly better known and rewarded (and more capable) in the more romantic of the two.

scidata said...

OGH lives in both worlds, but I live in neither! I just liked Wilson's eloquent slam-down of pretentious politicians who profess fiscal prudence yet live by the pork barrel. A much more direct question is, "How many billionaires has the Apollo microchip effort produced over the last half century?".

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Monty Python had a great skit about a joke that killed.

I always loved the follow-up, in which the Nazis try to come up with their own killing joke. Subtitles over an actual shot of a Hitler rally:

Hitler: "My dog has no nose."

Hitler youth: "How does he smell?"

Hitler: "Awful!"

Also, "Two peanuts were walking down der strasse, und vun of zem vas assaulted...peanut."

To this day, that joke and the accompanying German accent are indelibly twined in my head.

Jon S. said...

I respectfully submit, Paradoctor, that should antigrav cars ever be invented, they should not be released to the public. From what I see on the traffic reports on TV and hear on the radio, most people can't handle driving in two dimensions - you want to give them three?

Now I have to watch out for people merging into my car from the lane to my left, the lane to my right, the lane just above me, the lane just below me...

Paradoctor said...

Dr. Brin:
Math is harder than English because English is spoken by humans; but according to Galileo, Mathematics is the language of God. We humans are from Earth, not Heaven, so we aren't native speakers of Mathematics.

Julia Vinograd was a lyricist, but no romanticist. I do grant that she lived in her own world, but so did a lot of the mathematicians I met in Berkeley.

Hardy made it a point of pride that his number theory was useless. The joke's on him: we use number theory in cryptography.

Paradoctor said...

Jon S.: Point taken. All right, where are the antigravity spaceships?

TheMadLibrarian said...

Regarding moon and asteroid mining, one could conceivably jump start lunar mining by either moving a small nickel-iron asteroid into Lunar orbit (see also Phobos and Deimos as Mars bases), or dumping a couple down close to those climate-controlled tunnels on the surface. For some time, if an asteroid is going to become a meteorite, better to have it land on the largely uninhabited Lunar surface than the Earth. Problem with mining is the same as making bear stew: "First get your bear..."

Robert said...

Now I have to watch out for people merging into my car from the lane to my left, the lane to my right, the lane just above me, the lane just below me...


How do you mark lanes in the air? If they are indicated on some sort of control system then you probably have the positioning/sensors for centralized control and/or collision-avoidance.

If you hunt on YouTube you can find videos of people accidentally colliding their drones in mid-air, each pilot being too absorbed in theri drone to have any kind of situational awareness. And if you hang around drone forums you'll hear people insisting that they can safely fly their drone BVLOS using just the forward-facing camera…

Alfred Differ said...


Another "Truth" - public money supports almost ALL tech development

Yup. I don't mind this up to a point. A danger arises if tech development carries a hidden agenda. Something as simple as 'picking the winner' can be but isn't always dangerous.

"Private money" takes over once you get past the "working model"


Certain kinds of private money.
There is more than one flavor.

I've seen government driven tech development done very stupidly. Private money got involved on the belief they could beat the innovation pace. I've seen this more than once and been involved in some of the projects. Competing with the government is generally a stupid idea that promises to dissuade most private investors, but it isn't always stupid.

Modern space launch innovators fall in this class of projects. They often make use of SOME government money, but that comes from how the government is not a monolithic entity. There is a big difference between a DoD Battle Lab and one of their Research Labs.

Alfred Differ said...

Flying cars of any kind should be automated. The code for automated flying is actually simpler than automated driving. It's the 'interaction with the ground' module that gets complicated.

There are lanes in the air. ATC keeps you in them, but you can buy maps that show where they are. Fly east or west across the US and listen to the pilot explain your cruising altitude. Do it a few times and you'll pick up the pattern even without maps.

I got to learn some of these lanes when our team wanted to fly stratospheric balloons carrying test equipment. It's a bad idea to fly those where they might impact the on and off ramps in the sky… meaning near airports. NOTAM's are all about 'lane' violation warnings. They remind me of WIDE LOAD trucks and chaser vehicles. 8)

Robert said...

There are lanes in the air. ATC keeps you in them, but you can buy maps that show where they are.

I know that, but those don't handle commuter traffic. Given how much trouble many drivers seem to have with the idea of following painted lines on the ground, I tremble to think what they would do with lines on a map. Or for that matter, instructions from a disembodied voice…

The current ATC is barely able to handle traffic with highly trained professional pilots and relatively few airports. If every suburban home and mall is an airport and there's a several-orders-of-magnitude increase in air traffic we will absolutely need automation.

I've watched a lot of dashcam videos, gleaning material for physics lessons. (Kinematics, including projectile motion!) The number of people who seem to think that traffic laws don't apply to them is staggering. I've even got a few of my own dashcam videos that I used to use in class. The thought of someone like that responsible for an aircraft terrifies me. (Hell, the thought of myself responsible for an aircraft terrifies me, and I have a basic pilot certificate.)

David Brin said...

"How do you mark 'lanes' in the air?" Take flight ground school at your local community college. Just one quarter and fascinating! And heck yeah there are 'lanes.'

Alfred Differ said...


Your terror is justified. Mine centers on our inclination to use alcohol and think we are still competent, but even boredom destroys our access to skills we've spent years acquiring.

I think the 20th century will be remembered as the last one where we tolerated humans doing what expert systems should be doing. It's not that we had a lot of choice in previous generations, but future ones will have them. Recognition that humans CAN function as expert systems for a brief time only will liberate us from mind numbing drudgery as costs for those systems come down.

...and of course the ATC will have to be re-engineered. Look over their shoulders and ask whether a person is being asked to function as an expert system. The answer is often YES. That has to end.

scidata said...

Re: Expert Systems

This is a good example of augmenting human knowledge instead of building a 'pure' AI. The expert system ideally 'captures' the best thinking of the best human expert(s). Machine processing then extends the range of input considerations - humans are actually terrible at multitasking. An old but representative article of many: Machines can also compress the time between info in and decision out. They can also readily explain their reasoning using a track-able inference engine. This is good old fashioned AI (GOFAI), another gem that we rushed past in our haste to chase shiny bobbles like Deep Learning.

Don Gisselbeck said...

It's time to inject some reality into the adulation of AI. Robot skiing is laughable. They can't even manage the bunny hill. Steep groomers are completely beyond them, not to mention icy moguls or suncups. I have yet to see a good machine trued bicycle wheel, and it will be a long while before a robot can replace a frayed derailleur cable in a DuraAce shifter. Has there even been an attempt at a robot playing the trombone? (Not generating sounds through a speaker,)

Don Gisselbeck said...

OK, someone has tried the trombone playing robot. A 5 year old could do better.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. I think adulation would be too strong a term for me. Appreciation wouldn't be, though. I knew an engineer who worked hard on early robotic surgery devices. I got to see the precision arms race this caused. His robot didn't have to be perfect because knee replacement parts weren't because the doctors doing the surgeries weren't. See? [I haven't needed knee replacements, but one of my sisters was heading that way.]

I'm old enough to know the mismatch between what they thought would happen and what has happened, but the errors went in both directions. Some of what they thought wouldn't happen... did.

I also admit I don't care much about robotic skiing. I don't expect there is a ton of money being spent innovating in that arena. Same probably goes for trombones, but not bicycle construction. As for repair... that always gets short-changed.

Tim H. said...

I was pleased with this election result:

I don't doubt the Judgement Day NOW folks will continue attacking, but will the GOP* pay a penalty in loss of appeal to business with their dalliance with xian dominionists and white supremacists?

DP said...

Tim H

If I was the GOP I'd be worried about the mid terms.

The Dems are going actually gain 2 seats in the senate (OH, PA and GA) thanks to the idiots nominated by MAGA voters.

It would be expecting too much for the Dems to hold onto the House after a midterm election, But Dobbs now gives them a fighting chance (as does falling gas prices). Only gerrymandering can give the GOP the House.

DP said...

Another great WW2 podcast, Mark Felton Productions:

Hunting Heisenberg: Capturing Germany's Atomic Secrets

A look a Nazi nuclear research, both atomic power and atomic bombs. Fascinating look at the nuclear reactor they tried to build near the end of the war.

The V-2 Missile Heist

One of the great untold spy stories of WW2, how the Polish underground recovered a crashed V-2 missile from a swamp, dismantled it and shipped the parts to the UK to be studied by British intelligence.

Rocket U-Boats: V-1 Missile Attack New York 1945

The actual attempt by the Germans to launch a V-2 at Manhattan from a tow behind U-boat launch pad, and how the US Navy stopped them.

Amerika Bomber - The German Plan to Bomb New York

The America Rocket - WWII German Space Weapon

German development of strategic intercontinental weapons design to attack the US. The first object in space was a modified V-2 that left the atmosphere and took pictures of the Earth.

Larry Hart said...

Tim H:

but will the GOP* ...

For the same reason I no longer capitalize "supreme court", I refuse to refer to the Republican Party as the GOP, as any positive connotations of "Grand" or "Old" no longer apply.

I do like "GQP", though. :)

Larry Hart said...


The America Rocket - WWII German Space Weapon

Hopefully, the Jewish space lasers took care of it.

Don Gisselbeck said...

How much money do think it would take to get a robot that could ski the Salamander Glacier or (and?) play decent trombone?

reason said...

"Hi Reason

That IS a problem and its because of the way we do it

The best way would be simply add a sum to EVERYBODIES accounts

Which would then be adding money (mostly) at the bottom where it would have the most effect

A Universal Basic Income - fuelled by a wealth tax and an increased income tax "

Duncan you should understand I am a Universal Basic Income advocate (I prefer to call it National Dividend - because it shouldn't be seen as a guarantee of any particular living standard - it will enable you to live in some household arrangements in some places - and because there will need to be some minimum residency requirement), but we were talking about government debt, not redistribution powered by taxes. (P.S. I would be happy if there was a VAT and only the substantially rich then paid income & wealth taxes on top). If the government is running up a debt and selling bonds to finance that debt then somebody will be buying those bonds, and if taxes are not high enough then most likely the people buying those bonds are already rich. That is why I see it as an issue.

I also advocate that the government should finance some debt by "printing money" (i.e. borrowing from the central bank) rather than issuing bonds to the public - foreign or domestic - so long as the total money supply does not grow too much faster than planned nominal GDP.

Robert said...

"How do you mark 'lanes' in the air?" Take flight ground school at your local community college. Just one quarter and fascinating! And heck yeah there are 'lanes.'

Not lanes the same way there are in roads, though. You don't just 'change lanes' in the air. You follow an assigned heading at an assigned altitude, with an assigned speed. (Maybe "approved" is more appropriate than "assigned".) Air lanes are more like highways. You don't tailgate the plane in front because your plane can go faster. You don't just zip past their wingtip because you want to be in front. You don't ignore ATC because you're busy on your phone.

A minority of pilots do stupid stuff, and they get jumped on with both feet (Trevor Jacobs springs to mind), but generally the emphasis in aviation is on safety, and pilots face much more stringent testing and requalification procedures than drivers do. (I got my drivers license 45 years ago and have never been retested. Got my pilot certificate three years ago and already taken one recency exam.)

I've been watching Mentour Pilot and a bunch of other aviation channels, and air traffic is just a whole different mindset to ground traffic.

Talk to any traffic cop. If pilots treated flight rules the same way drivers treat traffic laws, the air would by a much more dangerous place.

Robert said...

I refuse to refer to the Republican Party as the GOP, as any positive connotations of "Grand" or "Old" no longer apply.

Greedy Oligarch's Party still fits, though :-)

Alfred Differ said...

Don Gisselbeck,

I have no idea how much money it would take. When it comes to innovations, it's more about integrated time. Every hour a well-funded person works on the problems, innovations have a chance of occuring.

"Works" means physical constructions and tests much more than thinking about stuff.

"Well funded" means they can build their equipment and test it without resorting to eating dog food. *

Sometimes the hours that people work add up. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they multiply. It all depends on the people involved and how well they collaborate.

So... for robots playing trombones or skiing, who is trying and how hard are they trying? That's the test. Since these people have to be able to make a living, that's when the money finally comes in.

* I've been on poorly funded teams that still counted as well funded teams. If the players are willing to deal with budget hardships at home in order to redirect their life savings, they are technically well funded enough. I can't recommend this life path, though.

Alfred Differ said...


A big part of why drivers treat traffic laws as they do is because they can. Your car does nothing to prevent it. It does almost nothing active to keep you safe.

We don't have to tolerate that for flight in a world with growing automation skills and expert systems.

Robert said...

A big part of why drivers treat traffic laws as they do is because they can. Your car does nothing to prevent it. It does almost nothing active to keep you safe.

Airplanes can be flown manually. They have better automation than cars, but pilots still can't ignore the view out the cockpit and play on their phones. (Being caught using a personal electronic device while flying a plan is grounds for losing your pilot license.)

Decades ago one of my Dutch cousins got her drivers license while in Canada. It was apparently much simpler than getting her Dutch license. From what I remember her saying, not only was the Canadian license easier to get, but in Holland your license is a lot easier to lose — and when you lose it you have to repeat the entire training/probationary/qualification process (which was time-consuming and expensive). Stupidities that cost you a few points and slightly higher premiums here would be thousands of dollars and restarting a multi-year process there. And no excuses like "I need my license for my job". So she got her license here and then swapped it for a Dutch license when she moved home, saving a few thousand dollars (in 1970s money).

So you're right, but not because of the technology — it's because we (as a society) have decided that driving is a right, and we're OK with behaviours that endanger other people. If air safety follows Dr. Reason's Swiss cheese model, automotive safety is pretty much "no harm no foul" and "that could have happened to anyone".

DP said...

Dr. Brin: "Re the Nazi Caucuses campaign. Nah. The vast supply line into the USSR via Iran could have included a pipeline, as in the Ledo Road."

Not that simple.

Assuming you want this new pipeline to run along the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea (out of range of German bombers) the distance from oil fields in southwest Iran to a terminus at the mouth of the Ural River (distance from Atyrau, Kazakhstan to Ahvaz, Iran) is about 3,230 km (thank you, Google maps).

By comparison, the massive engineering achievement called the Alaska pipeline is only 1,288 km long. An Iranian pipeline servicing the Soviet war effort would be 2.5x longer.

The Alaska pipeline to over 3 years to complete. The hypothetical Iranian pipeline would take almost a decade.

The war will be long over by then, with the Red Army and Air Force having only a fraction of the petrol they need for military operations.


DP said...


How big was the Soviet strategic oil reserve in 1941?

"Stalingrad was a prime target for Hitler. It is enough to look at a map of oil deposits and oil pipelines in the east during World War II to imagine the possible development of the war if the city had fallen. In that case the Germans would have controlled the Volga, the main artery of the USSR, and would have cut off the Urals, the location for virtually all the evacuated factories. Oil reserves in the isolated part of the USSR, where the main body of the Red Army was deployed, would have lasted for 10 or 15 days."

As for other Soviet sources of oil:

"Hitler had a big point though. In 1940 Baku was producing 22.2 million metric tons of oil, comprising 72% of total Soviet oil production. In 1941, it produced 25.4 Mt"

Source:, which sources in turn from "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power" by Daniel Yergin

I'll need to see if 1941/42 estimates exist, but 72% loss would likely cripple USSR. As far as Soviets migrating oil production East, the same article continues:

"All the nine drilling offices, oil-expedition and oil-construction trusts as well as various other enterprises with their staffs were transferred to an area near Kuybishev, (Russia Federation in Tartarstan near the Ural Mountains north of Kazakhstan). This city soon came to be known as "the Second Baku"."

"Despite the severe frost the drillers started searching for oil and thanks to day and night working, the Bakuis in the region of Povolzhye increased the fuel extraction in "Kinelneft" trust that first year by 66% and by 42% in entire region of Kuybishev. As a result, five new oil and gas fields were discovered and huge oil refinery construction projects were undertaken, including the first pipe line between Kuybishev and Buturslan was built that same year."

No numbers are given for totals, but if Baku was 72%, plus Grozny and Maikop probably adding up to at least 5-10% more, the rest of Eastern USSR was at most 20-25% - and even increasing that by 66% would only get the Soviets to 40% of pre-Caucasus-capture totals. And then only after many years of effort.

So strategically, Case Blau was the smart thing (indeed, the only thing) Germany could do to win the war in 1942. No need to go all the way to Baku (which is too far away anyways) if you can cut the Soviet oil supply line at Stalingrad. Without petrol the Soviets cannot launch major counter offensives that would carry them to Berlin. And the Germans were at the limit of their logistical leash and could go no further east. A stalemate and separate peace leaving Germany in control of the Baltics, Belorussia, Ukraine, Crimea and northern Caucasus is as good as a victory.

With the east stabilized by 1943, the shift of German military resources would come too late to save Rommel's Afrika Korps, but would have stopped an Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy - and made D-Day impossible.

Germany "wins".

That is, until America drops an a-bomb on Berlin and a dozen more a-bombs on the industrial Ruhr valley/ As the Mark Felton Production video makes clear, the Germans were nowhere near making an a-bomb and their research was going in the wrong direction.

P.S. Did Heisenberg deliberately/subtly sabotage the German a-bomb effort? And how would his scientifically illiterates Nazi bosses even understand what he was doing?

Unknown said...

The V-2 Missile Heist

Farley Mowat, mentioned (in one of his books) a friend in Canadian Intelligence (M Eh 5?) who smuggled a V2 out of Eastern Europe by slapping a wooden conning tower onto it and calling it a midget submarine.

Re: Oil to the USSR
The Western Allies were already sending tankers on the Murmansk run, and they would have stepped up delivery as much as possible since keeping the USSR in the fight was a, if not the, priority.


DP said...

Alfred Diller: " but strongly believed because people equate capitalism with rapid growth."

No growth capitalism is an oxymoron.

And you both only look at AGING populations.

After that come DECLINING populations, something Japan is just now starting to experience (and China's population has peaked - about a decade ahead of predictions).

Show me how capitalism functions when populations decrease in absolute terms every year.

DP said...

duncan: "AND the fact that humans appear to be "rational consumers" as far as kids go means that a society can modify its birth rate by changing the cost of parenthood"

Except no pro natalist policy has worked long term despite massive budgets and government efforts.

Since 2015, more countries have adopted pro-natal policies. There is no systematic accounting of specific pro-natal initiatives around the world, but recent years have seen dramatic expansions in pro-birth policies in Hungary, Poland, Greece, Korea, Japan, Finland, Latvia, and others.

These policies are greatly debated. For example, I have argued that Hungary’s much-heralded pro-natal policies are actually Potemkin: they look nice on the outside, but don’t actually help families much. Meanwhile, Poland’s huge expansion of child allowances has been panned as a failure.

Because Poland and Hungary are the most prominent current examples of large-scale public efforts to boost the birth rate, it’s worthwhile to assess whether either policy has worked. The graph below presents the rolling percent change in crude birth rates over the previous 12 months in Poland and Hungary, with bars for when each country launched its distinctive pro-natal policies (CSOK in Hungary and 500+ program in Poland).

(TLdR - Once the downward spiral begins it is almost impossible to pull out of it and generate a sustained population increase.)

Alfred Differ said...


it's because we (as a society) have decided that driving is a right

Okay. I almost agree. About 98%.
It's not so much that driving is a right. It's that government isn't authorized to prevent us except in very extreme cases.

Yah. Not much distinction between those two. I know. If you polled a jury, though, I think you'd find they waffle slightly on calling it a right. It's WAY more than a privilege, but not a right because some think rights are granted by God.

I suspect in the next two decades, we will become less tolerant of driver stupidities. Here in CA, we take a dim view to driving while using your cell phone. We don't even want you touching it while you are stopped at a light. The reasons all boil down to us being upset over the stupid loss of lives. It's not an accident when someone behaved stupidly. It's manslaughter.

Alfred Differ said...


I think you define capitalism to be a growth system and can't see it any other way.

It's really an innovation system. Per capita growth comes from innovations. Absolute growth came (at first) from population growth, but near the mid-19th century the innovation rate began to dominate. Women couldn't have babies fast enough to consume the capital generated (hungry mouths have to be fed), so capital because to accumulate in massive amounts.

It is accumulations of capital that fund the next generation of innovation. This capital takes many, many forms with only one of them being money. By FAR the largest accumulation is in the educated minds of the millions and millions of us who live in this system. Educated people ARE accumulations of capital.

Declining populations will shrink market sizes, but are not necessarily going to shrink our innovation rate. I suspect it will be a bit like when a company buys its stock back. Fewer shares to go around, but they might be worth more. Shares don't innovate, though. We DO so my analogy is rather weak.

David Brin said...

The notion that the Nazis were close to nuclear power, let alone a bomb, is an utter myth. It is stunning malarkey, untrue at almost any level.

I talked these guys out of doing a Nazi bomb and instead suggested they learn ONE important thing... about pure carbon as a moderator... and then use of slaves to make up for so many other idiocies, with only one plausible aim... making tons of wretched radioactive waste to spew with V2s.

I recommend the nook, though even that would have been a stretch. such a spew would not kill many. It's more a 'property values bomb" as I depit in EXISTENCE.

duncan cairncross said...


The "Pro Natal" policies so far have been like offering a $10 rebate if you buy a Rolls Royce AND they have all been far to recent to make any difference

It takes TIME and continuity before people will make a long term decision (have more kids)
Todays "incentives" are far too small and far to "untested" to make a difference

The economy can still grow at ZPG - as engineers we work on doing "more with less" - and as we get to the top of each "S Curve' another one opens up in front of us
That may well stop at some point - but even if science "stops" it will take 50 years for engineering to catch up (and science is not going to stop for a long time)
- IMHO "growth" that is in population not in GDP/head is not "real" - "useful" - growth and is a negative rather than a positive thing
The population shrinkage in modern countries is slow slow slow - and will take many generations to shrink the population significantly
Most countries would "work better" with less people anyway
In addition I am expecting the massively greater medical knowledge about how our bodies and our "Biomes" actually work to start to extend lifespans and fertile lifespans over the next 50 years - too late for us but possibly in time for our kids

Alfred Differ said...


I agree on the S curves. That's what I was referring to with innovation related growth. Compounded S-curves can be seen with switch speeds if one recognizes the relationship between knife-blades, magnetic coils, triodes, and transistors.

At this point, I think the only way to stop the compounding S-curves is to kill our entire civilization. Fragmenting it wouldn't be enough because each would develop a new center and rebuild the whole.

Our host worries the feudalists can stop us, but I usually don't. What they can do is cause the center of action to move away much as the Roman Church pretty much squashed Italian intellectual dominance in the Counter Reformation era. Protestant Europe took the bit.

Larry Hart said...


There is no systematic accounting of specific pro-natal initiatives around the world, but recent years have seen dramatic expansions in pro-birth policies in Hungary, Poland, Greece, Korea, Japan, Finland, Latvia, and others.

This is a tangent, but a lawmaker in West Virginia wants to eliminate child support on the grounds that the financial obligation is what makes men coerce their pregnant girlfriends into having abortions. Not only "pro-natal", but "pro-natal impoverishment".

Chris Pritt owns his own law practice, Pritt Law, where he specializes in divorce, custody arguments and child support. But standing before the state legislature in West Virginia, his argument was a linguistic pretzel to justify eliminating all child support for the parent who gets custody of a child.

According to Pritt, there are fathers who don't want to be involved in the lives of their children.

"If she carries through with the pregnancy, he's going to have, possibly, some sort of child support obligation," said Pritt. "And, so, what he wants to do is, he wants to — in a sense — encourage her to go and find a way for her to get an abortion. Because he knows that a certain individual — if he has any kind if familiarity with her, he knows that she might be of such a state of mind, she must be in such a vulnerable position that it's not worth everything that he's going to put me through to carry this pregnancy forward. It's going to be easier, it's going to be better, for me to just go and terminate this 'life.' So she goes over to Virginia or to some other state where she goes and gets the abortion. So, I think that's a really clear possibility if we enact the Second Amendment here, I don't want to be doing anything that is encouraging thugs to go and get an abortion."

Larry Hart said...

I guess it's not a secret any more. This is on the order of the "Constitutional right not to have things change." Emphasis mine:

Conservatives now routinely make the point that America isn’t a democracy, but a Republic. The Heritage Foundation even published a report in 2020 entitled “America Is a Republic, Not a Democracy.” The report argued, “The contemporary efforts to weaken our republican customs and institutions in the name of greater equality thus run against the efforts by America’s Founders to defend our country from the potential excesses of democratic majorities,” and that the American system of government is “threatened by an egalitarianism that undermines the social, familial, religious, and economic distinctions and inequalities that undergird our political liberty.”

Larry Hart said...

What we're up against...

But given how catastrophic Mr. Masters believes America has become — a “dystopian hell-world” he has called it — one wonders what exactly is justified and when. “The usual narrative is that society should be organized to cater to and reward the people who play by the rules,” Mr. Masters wrote on his blog in 2012, once again summarizing Mr. Thiel’s lecture. “But perhaps we should focus more on the people who don’t play by the rules. Maybe they are, in some key way, the most important. Maybe we should let them off the hook.”

Well, I'll be sure to remember that when the authoritarians manage to actually install their dictatorship. "Not playing by the rules" is certainly what I intend to do in that case.

Alan Brooks said...

if Hitler had plastered London with thousands of V2 dirty-bombs, could he have knocked Britain out of the war?
Btw, Peterson did a vid
postulating that Hitler didn’t necessarily want to win the war but, rather cause as much mayhem in a short a time as possible. That is to say: kill off as much of the population of Europe as possible.
I don’t think he could have defeated America and Canada, as by the time he could have been powerful enough to do so, he would’ve been nuked.

David Brin said...

Hoy! I told you I had reasons to ask folks not to spew acid at Manchin & Sinema. They are NOT what I want ! But they are the best you'll get from deep red states. They made Bernie and Liz committee chairs and chopped Moscow Mitch's hands off the Senate tiller.

Now, Manchin's price for coming through was bearable and Sinema's? Sure she was bought off by hedge fund managers who thus saved their 'carried interest' bennie. But the replacement was far better! To make up for the lost revenue, Democrats agreed to add an excise tax on companies' stock buybacks as part of the agreement.

SPECTACULAR! An excise tax on companies' stock buybacks? Those utter crimes, raping great companies' futures to benefit corrupt CEOs, were ILLEGAL under the old, Rooseveltean social contract. For damn good reasons the Greatest Generation understood.

An excise tax on companies' stock buybacks. I had a fleeting thought to say "I could kiss her."

Uh, well, let's not get carried away. Schumer though? *smack!*

Cari Burstein said...

There's likely no better electable alternative to Manchin in his state, but Sinema isn't in a deep red state and there's a good chance we can do better than her (just look at Kelly). I'm glad things look to be working out for this bill but I'm really hoping she can be replaced with a better option when she's up for re-election.

Larry Hart said...

Cari Burstein:

There's likely no better electable alternative to Manchin in his state,

Exactly. Liberals who demand that Manchin just become a Republican already are advocating that Mitch McConnell be majority leader. What good does that do anyone?

I'm glad things look to be working out for this bill but I'm really hoping she can be replaced with a better option when she's up for re-election.

Yes, the only real solution for our Manchin/Sinema problem is to elect at least two more Democratic senators. But in the meantime, we work with what they gave us.

Jon S. said...

Sinema's state isn't "deep red" - she was elected primarily (as far as I can tell by talking to people from Arizona) because they thought it would be fun to elect an openly lesbian would-be celebrity. (Most of them regret not being serious at this point.)

Fortunately, Schumer managed to find a way to appeal to Manchin's vanity, by convincing him that saving the bill at the last moment would make him a hero. For Sinema, it just took getting her some headlines so she can feel seen.

Neither one of them is on our side. The best we can say here is to remember Maxim 29: "The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more, no less." We can't count on them, the best we can do is manipulate them - and I think the venom-spewing actually helped with Manchin, as it demonstrated that not passing the bill wouldn't make him the hero in anyone's version of the tale (which at this point is likely all he cares about - remember that he's declared he's not running for re-election, so he likely doesn't give half a fig what his constituents think of him).

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

Neither one of them is on our side

Except in one very important way. They caucus with the Democrats and give Schumer control of the agenda rather than McConnell. If they really were Republicans in sheep's clothing, either one of them could single-handedly tip that balance.

That's not nothing.

Larry Hart said...

The site has been doing a "Schadenfreude" segment on Fridays. Just recently, they've begin to follow that with a more feel-good segment (yet to be titled) in order to really end the week on a positive note. Both are worth reading this week (and no paywall).

First, a take-down of Alex Jones:

And as the plaintiffs' attorney was grilling Jones on the stand this week, he laid a trap for the Infowars star, getting him to testify that there were no Sandy Hook-related text messages on his cell phone. The problem is that the attorney knew for certain that there were, which means Jones committed open-and-shut perjury.

How did the attorney know for sure? Well, that's where it starts to get really good. Jones turned the complete contents of his cell phone over to his defense team. And the defense team turned them over to the plaintiffs... without redacting or withholding any of them. The plaintiffs know all. And once the gaffe was revealed, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble refused to declare a mistrial or to seal the contents of the phone. We are assuming that she ruled on the merits, but it surely didn't help Jones' case that he's been going on air and slamming her as an idiot while the hearings are still underway. In any case, Gamble said there might have been time for such considerations if Jones hadn't disrespected the trial process and dragged his feet on discovery, but now he must reap what he sowed. Reading between the lines, it sure looks like the plaintiffs aren't the only ones in the courtroom who hate Jones. The judge and his own attorneys apparently hate him, as well.

And it still gets better. Everyone who's been looking at Jones, and hitting a brick wall, now wants a copy of the treasure trove. That includes the Dept. of Justice and the 1/6 Committee. And the plaintiffs' attorney is delighted to send it to them. He specifically told the judge he would do so unless she put a stop to it. She issued no such order.

And then a tribute to Nichelle Nichols:

Working on the show was no party because of the massive ego on William Shatner (Captain Kirk), and Nichols nearly left after the first season. However, she was attending an NAACP banquet, was informed that "a fan" really wanted to meet her, and consented. Here's how she told the rest of the story to the TV Academy in an interview:

I thought it was a Trekkie, and so I said, "Sure." I looked across the room and whoever the fan was had to wait because there was Dr. Martin Luther King walking towards me with this big grin on his face. He reached out to me and said, "Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am your greatest fan." He said that Star Trek was the only show that he, and his wife Coretta, would allow their three little children to stay up and watch. [She told King about her plans to leave the series because she wanted to take a role that was tied to Broadway.] I never got to tell him why, because he said, "you cannot, you cannot... for the first time on television, we will be seen as we should be seen every day, as intelligent, quality, beautiful, people who can sing, dance, and can go to space, who are professors, lawyers." Dr. King went further, stating "If you leave, that door can be closed because your role is not a Black role, and is not a female role; he can fill it with anybody even an alien."

Nichols concluded that being a role model to the Black community was worth putting up with Shatner, so she stayed to the end. And undoubtedly, King knew of what he spoke. One young (at the time) Black fan says he loved the show and that he most certainly saw Uhura as a role model. That fellow, who was only 7 when the show left the air, was Barack Obama.

For most who star on one of the Star Trek shows, it's something of a terminal role, as it's hard for audience

Larry Hart said...

Didn't mean to include that last partial line, but what'cha gonna do?

Robert said...

the only real solution for our Manchin/Sinema problem is to elect at least two more Democratic senators

The real solution to your M/S problem is to fix the gerrymandering built into your electoral system — mainly the setup that allows the thinly-settled minority to control the densely-settled majority. Fixing the rest of the gerrymandering would also be useful, but that's the big one that's at the heart of the current problem.

Larry Hart said...


"the only real solution for our Manchin/Sinema problem is to elect at least two more Democratic senators"

The real solution to your M/S problem is to fix the gerrymandering built into your electoral system — mainly the setup that allows the thinly-settled minority to control the densely-settled majority

That has nothing to do with the Senate. Each state has two Senators, regardless of population. That in itself is an anti-democratic feature, but it's built right into the Constitution, so we're stuck with it. Even the clause in the Constitution which describes amendments makes an exclusion for the "all states have the same number of senators" provision.

Article V (emphasis mine) :

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

David Brin said...