Archive

Archive for the ‘Philosophy sans Sophistry’ Category

Censoring Speech on Internet is Always a Bad Idea: Aug 21, 2017

August 21, 2017 11 comments

Over the previous few days, many short-sighted idiots.. I mean people.. of varying fame on the internet and various social media platforms have been supporting attempts by various corporate monopolies and oligopolies to deplatform people and organisations with connections to the so-called ‘alt-right’. Let us, for a moment, ignore that the so-called ‘alt-right’ is actually a bunch of different groups with overlap in some parts of their individual ideologies but large (and often irreconcilable) differences in other parts. Let us, instead, focus on the far more important question which is as follows:

Should corporations, with or without state support, be allowed to censor speech on the internet?

In my opinion, giving corporations (of any type) such power, whether implicitly or explicitly, is a very bad idea. Now some of you might say- but.. but they are trying to censor Nazis. What is wrong with bending rules to marginalize Nazis or people who profess to believe in that ideology? The short answer is that censorship of speech is always a bad idea, even if the groups or individuals you are trying to censor are vile and loathsome. Furthermore, censorship of free speech or similar instance of rules and regulations based on extreme cases are almost always counterproductive in the longer run in more ways than one.

The longer answer requires us to first consider the context and history of such demands and the almost certain negative and counterproductive consequences of such actions.

1] Many famous or credentialed morons.. I mean experts.. like to claim that free speech never “actually existed” are in the same ideological basket as those who defend slavery and Jim Crow because “that is how people used to do things”. I could show you the stupidity of that logic by asking them why those credentialed sophists why they prefer to use functional flush toilets and drink purified and treated water when neither of those have existed for most of human history. The nature of what is possible and justifiable has more to do with feasibility rather than selective interpretations of tradition. For example- the majority of people in USA are now OK with gay marriage largely because conservative opponents of gay marriage tried to couch their opposition in terms of appeals to thoroughly discredited traditional norms surrounding marriage.

2] Any half-decent analysis of history suggests that attempts to suppress ideas because they clash with dominant culture of the day often results in those ideas gaining more exposure and respectability. As some of you know, a number of ideologies from Christianity in the Roman Empire to Nazism in Wiemer-era Germany were able gain significant public interest because of persistent attempts by the prevailing establishment to shut them down and persecute their members. Sites such as the Daily Stormer, Rebel Media and many right-wing internet forums and social media recently gained tons of public attention because of the many attempts of internet oligopolies to shut them down. Moreover, trying to censor the content on such sites is problematic because it is quickly reproduced on many others.

3] Why would any person with basic critical thinking skills trust large corporations or government officials- both of whom have no worthwhile public accountability to make subjective decisions that are impartial? Why would they? What motivation do they have to be fair and reasonable? Do you really think that the legal precedent gained by censoring these neo-Nazis won’t be used to censor anybody else who they do not like? Do you think that social movements from such as BLM and various labor unions will somehow never be subject to high-handed censorship? Also do you trust the law enforcement apparatus in USA will not misuse such precedent to further their abuse of groups which they already like to murder and imprison? If you still trust large corporations, government officials and law enforcement to behave ethically, I have a bridge to sell you.

4] Laws criminalizing explicit violent threats and intentional libel have been around for a very long time. Therefore, we do not require new laws and regulations to prosecute those who commit such acts, either in real life or on the internet. What is most troubling about attempts by internet oligopolies to censor unpopular online speech by hiding behind the “Nazi exception” is that they are going after ideas and ideologies which by themselves are not innately violent or libelous. For example- a racist shitbag who opines that whites are the “master race” is just stating what he or she believes. As long as the person in question is not making an explicit violent threat, he or she is just being an asshole. And one person’s asshole could be an other person’s philosopher.

5] Right-wing ideologies such Nazism and similar ethno-nationalistic movements tend to gain most of their support from those who feel disenfranchised by the established socio-political system of that day. There is a very good why Mussolini became successful in the chaos of post-WW1 Italy or why Hitler rocketed in popularity after the great depression caused mass unemployment in 1930-era Germany. Similarly the rise of right-wing fascistic movements in west-European countries during the late 1920s-1930s was due to a combination of mass unemployment, unresolved nationalism and entrenched political establishments who did not want to change the unsustainable status quo.

In other words, the rise of neo-Nazis and similar right-wing movements in USA is a symptom of people losing their faith in the system and elites who are currently running them. You cannot treat a serious systemic disease by addressing a few of its minor symptoms. I would go so far as to say that the current interest in censoring unpopular free speech is basically an admission by the establishment that they are either unwilling or unable to fix the larger problems of socio-economic inequality. It is the policy equivalent of trying to patch up a banged up car with duct tape because you cannot afford to, or are unwilling to, repair it.

To summarize: Attempts to censor free speech (especially the unpopular kind) by large corporations and government officials are, at best, short-sighted and futile attempts to address minor symptoms of much larger socio-economic problems. At worst, they will make those assholes more popular and respectable while simultaneously abusing resultant legal precedents against a variety of relatively peaceful social movements and individuals. Therefore, in my opinion, it is far better for us a society to let a few assholes say what they want, even if they end up trying to test the boundaries of such freedoms. Large corporations, government officials, and “law enforcement” pose far larger risks and threats for the well-being and future of most people than a few idiots in office-cuck attires parading around some city with citronella-scented tiki torches.

Will write more on this topic in a future post, depending on your replies to this one.

What do you think? Comments?

How Racism and Magical Thinking Could Lead to War with North Korea

August 14, 2017 9 comments

In my previous post on this topic, I pointed out how a combination of factors ranging from the nature of the North Korean regime and institutional attitudes in USA towards that country to human behavior under conditions of less-than-perfect information could start a war between North Korea and USA. Exploring this topic does, however, require us to confront some obvious, but rarely talked about, issues surrounding how the USA (as a country) views itself and interacts with the rest of the world.

Have you ever considered the possibility that most interactions of the USA (as a nation) with other countries are driven by some combination of racism and magical thinking? Well.. if you haven’t, you should consider that possibility.

Now that we have let the proverbial cat out of the bag, let us talk about why things ended up that way. The major reasons behind why the USA (as a nation) sees itself in a certain way come down to accidents of geography and history. Firstly, the outlook of the nation and its institutions was powerfully influenced by a historically long period of relative geographical isolation- both from overt influence by other countries and from the consequences of their own actions.

Simply put, the combination of relative geographical isolation until after WW2 and weak neighbors made it possible for successive governments in USA to do pretty much what they wanted in their country and immediate geographical neighborhood without having to worry about consequences of their actions. The effect of having weak geographical neighbors for most of american history gave american institutions (and the people within them) a belief that they were somehow the ‘chosen’ supermen destined to rule the world.

Perhaps most importantly, other countries in the last two hundred years which could have kicked american ass in military conflicts lay across the atlantic ocean- in an era where it took weeks to days to reach american shores. This state of affairs persisted until ICBMs and nuclear weapons were developed. In other words, the american psyche (institutional and individual) are largely the product of an era where they lacked serious or existential threats.

And this brings us to the second, and somewhat related reason for the mindset of american institutions and its ruling class. The lack of militarily strong neighbors, relative geographical isolation and the effects of various industrial revolutions resulted in a fairly prosperous country with only one significant military conflict (aka the Civil war) prior the modern era. It is also worth noting that the USA was largely an isolationist country until after it got involved in WW2.

To put it in other words, the lack of large-scale deaths due to wars on american soil is seen by many in that country as the normal state of affairs. Even supposedly “intelligent” people in various american governments throughout history have never been able to fully comprehend what such levels of casualties do to nations and societies. For example- you cannot really understand a lot of post-WW2 west European history without considering the effects of the many tens of millions killed in WW1 and WW2.

To make matters more complicated, the american empire as we know it today is almost exclusively a post-WW2 phenomena. During that time it has fought many wars (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan) without winning against anyone larger than a Caribbean island. Of course, many millions in those countries (and tens of thousands of Americans) were killed due to those wars gave american military and policy elite the spurious belief that they could kill tons of non-white people in other parts of the world without any consequences.

That lasted till Sep 11, 2001 when it became obvious that a ragtag bunch of people with limited financial and military resources could cause hundreds of billions of immediate damage to the USA- not to mention the trillions spent on subsequent wars which the USA has since lost, even if it can cannot admit it publicly. Maybe that is why that particular day has attained so much symbolic importance in the american psyche.

And this brings me to the question of what will happen when North Korea performs further missile and nuclear tests.

As many of you must have heard by now- a few days ago, Kim Jong-Un has threatened to test a few IRBMs such that their dummy warheads would hit the waters off Guam. The american government reacted by threatening everything from preemptive strikes to full-scale war, including the use of nuclear weapons. They have also tried to pacify the american public by telling them fairy tales such as THAAD and other ABM systems being able to intercept all those missiles before their dummy warheads reach Guam.

But what happens if NK actually fires those missiles and THAAD and other ABM fail to prevent those dummy warheads from landing in the waters off Guam? As it stands right now, there are about 200k american citizens in South Korea- most of them in and around Seoul. A similar or larger number also reside in the greater Tokyo area- which is within the reach of even the oldest and most numerous North Korean missiles.

It would be foolish to believe that the NK regime would not use some of their 30-60 nukes against both those targets if they felt that they were going down. I mean, what do they have to lose in that scenario? Also, they are more likely to use them first if they believe that USA will use them. We cannot also discount the possibility that any interruption in communication between the regime and its missile forces might result in lower level commanders deciding to use them.

I wonder if enough people in current american administration have thought about consequences of even a limited nuclear exchange between the three east-Asian countries involved in this bizarre game of chicken. Do they fully comprehend the results of the South Korean and Japanese governments, which have been aligned with USA since end of WW2, being unable to stop millions of their citizens from dying or getting injured with nuclear weapons? Do they think that any defense arrangements they have with those and other governments will stand after such an outcome?

An even more unpleasant outcome is possible if even a couple nuke tipped ICBMs land on large metropolitan areas on the west coast. Do you realize the long-term psychological and financial effects of even 2-3 nukes with a 20-50 kiloton output going off over those metropolitan areas. Apart from a couple of hundred thousand deaths and injuries, such strikes will have large and irreversible negative effects on the american economy- not to mention politics, psyche and national cohesion. Sure.. you can nuke NK all you want after they hit you first (which they are very likely to), but the damage is already done.

The most important question, then, should be: Is escalating this stupid conflict really worth all the potential risks and downsides?

What do you think? Comments?

My Thoughts on the “Google Memo” and James Damore: Aug 9, 2017

August 9, 2017 4 comments

It appears that many of you want to hear my opinions about that now infamous “Google Memo” and its author- who has now been identified as James Damore. Well.. I had considered writing about this issue a couple of days ago, but thought it was best to wait until the guy at the center of this latest culture war controversy represented himself though an interview or two and maybe a detailed blog post. As it stands today, he seems to have given interviews to two people in what many would consider the ‘alt-right’.

In my opinion, who he gives an interview to at this time is not particularly relevant- since the Mass Media and SJWs of all persuasions are going out of their way to demonize and shut him out. This is not to say that I agree with every single word in his memo. However, the right to free speech (which I strongly support) is more important than the right of SJWs and other morons to feel “safe” from speech which they might find “offensive”. As long-time readers of my blog know, I am not fond of SJWs or the underlying motivations of their behavior.

As I have said in previous posts, SJW-ism is largely driven by the desire to show moral superiority (and perhaps make a quick buck) under neoliberalism. The current “intellectual” underpinnings of the slowly imploding neoliberal order do not allow real large-scale social problems to be addressed, and therefore activists and scammers spend their energy at promoting really small-scale causes such as transgender rights and the right for muslim women to wear a hijab while simultaneously ignoring endemic poverty, joblessness and overall misery seen in western neoliberal countries- especially the USA.

To put it another way, SJWs and their boosters in Mass Media are more interested in trying to make you feel ashamed about some video game you enjoy than push for universal healthcare. They would rather spend their efforts on trying to make you say that certain women comedians are talented and “beautiful” than lead a campaign for fully tax-funded university education. It is also no secret that many supposedly “liberal” TV personalities who pretend to care about social issues are just scammers making money out of misdirected outrage that is safe for their corporate backers.

So now you know where I stand on the issue of free speech, SJWs and Corporate Mass Media. But what about the actual contents of that memo or James Damore? Well.. this is the part that some of you might not like, because what I think about both of them is a bit more nuanced than my views on SJWs and Corporate Mass Media.

Firstly, the basic idea proposed in that memo- namely that women and men’s brains are not “wired” the same way is essentially correct. Now this does not mean that there is no overlap between the “wiring” of the two groups. In fact, there is far more overlap than many would be willing to accept. Having said that, you can make the claim that women as a group will perform better at some tasks than men as a group and vice versa.

This does not however translate into differences in gross intelligence or other large-scale abilities. As many of you know, women now make up almost half of doctors, lawyers and (in many countries) engineers and they seem to do as well as their male counterparts in these vocations. You might also recall that even 50 years, it was rare for women to be admitted in these field because of their supposed lack of intellectual ability. So clearly, all the beliefs which kept women out of intellectually demanding fields in previous eras were wrong.

Furthermore, psychological studies (which is largely made up bullshit) was once used as a justification to treat non-whites as subhuman. Today we are largely accept the idea that asians (both east- and south-) are very good at math and other STEM subjects and account for a disproportionate number of employees of technology heavy corporations and institutions. However as late as the 1960s, many prominent white scientists still believed that Asians were “low IQ” without any worthwhile ability for scientific or original thinking. How the tables have turned now..

And this brings me to what I think about the most significant, but overlooked, part of that memo. Though the document has been blasted for being overtly sexist, it is more about the corporate and office culture at Google in particular and corporate america in general. The guy is complaining about how the managerial and HR types at Google has basically stopped listening to opinions which diverge ever so slightly from their fashionable and “naturally correct” consensus. He is describing an organisation where the loudest and most manipulative faddists carry the day.

In short, he is describing an organisational culture which has more in common with royal courts, politburos and other large corporations that are dominated by clever and sociopathic power seekers than those who make the system function properly. I, for one, am not surprised that a large and unwieldy corporation such as Google has now more in common with other corporations and institutions with a similar head count and complex hierarchies than what it was a decade ago.

The fact that institutional bias at Google seems to be based in one fashionable type interpretation of the social “sciences” is just a quirk of the times we live in. Some of you might recall that many large corporations of yesteryears- such as Kodak, IBM, HP, Ford, GM, Merck too used have their own and equally well-known institutional biases based in conservative values or whatever corporate bullshit was fashionable at that moment. In fact, I wrote about inevitable emergence of such dysfunction in large institutions about six years ago.

Anyway, to summarize this post- what James Damore wrote in that memo has more to do with emergent dysfunction in large impersonal institutions than sexism. I would go far as to say that there is little, if any, sexism in that document. The very fact that he is being attacked for the basically nonexistent sexism in his memo says a lot about our contemporary media culture and society. Also, it says a lot about where Google is going.. or not going.

Might write more about this story depending on comments and future developments.

What do you think? Comments?

North Korea Launching ICBMs at USA is Far More Likely than Believed

August 5, 2017 18 comments

Continuing on from my previous, and subsequently shown to be correct, analysis of North Korea’s ICBM and Nuke programs- let me pose a question that many of you either do not want to think about or believe to be impossible.

Would North Korean launch nuclear weapon tipped ICBMs at large metropolitan areas in USA?

Notice that I used the word “Would” rather than “Could” since we already know that they can launch missiles carrying such payloads at metropolitan area sized targets in continental USA aka the ‘lower 48’. In other words, we have already established that they have the capacity to launch missiles which can drop a warhead of somewhere between 1-1.5 tons on large city sized targets in USA.

Also, as some of you might remember from a few months ago, they can build nuclear weapons with a yield of somewhere between 20-50 kt. While their device is more likely to be a boosted fission bomb rather than a “true” thermonuclear bomb– that difference is largely irrelevant when used against largely civilian targets. I mean.. do you really think a device with a 50 kt yield will be any less disruptive and shocking in its effects on a metropolitan area than one with a 200 kt yield?

And this brings me to the main question posed in this post- how likely are they to use such weapons against USA given the almost inevitable consequences of using them in that manner. But first, let us disabuse ourselves of the stupid belief that the North Korean regime is irrational or incompetent. That regime, is if anything, supremely rational and very aware of its own limitations and abilities.

Their decision to aggressively develop ICBMs and nuclear weapons within the previous decade is very rational since USA is only capable of overthrowing regimes which lack the capability to hit back with nuclear weapons. Deposing Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and all those “color” revolutions were possible only because those leaders did not possess the means to deliver a nuclear weapon onto a major american city.

But how does any of this make North Korea successfully launching nuclear tipped ICBMS at metropolitan ares in USA more likely than most people would want to believe? Aren’t all those rational people in the North Korean regime afraid of the almost inevitable nuclear retaliation by USA? Shouldn’t that by itself make such an event almost impossible?

Well.. in a rational world, this assumption would be correct and the probability that North Korea would launch ICBMs against USA would be basically zero. However we do not live in a rational world and the other party to this conflict, namely the USA, has shown a general inability to make rational and consistent decisions in the sphere of international relations for some time now.

The general inability of USA to make rational and consistent decisions on international, and increasingly national, matters is due to a numbers of interacting factors. Firstly, various factions of the ruling classes no longer share common goals with each other and there is a deficiency of centralized authority. It is therefore very easy to find instances of two, or more factions, working at cross purposes- something that was rather uncommon even two decades ago.

Secondly, USA is a declining superpower in a world which can no longer support superpowers. There was a time in the 1950s, part of the 1960s and maybe part of the 1990s when the USA came close to dominating the world- but that time is over and the world has become too multipolar for us to go back to such a time. However a lot of the ruling class factions have either not gotten that message or seem to be ignoring it.

Thirdly, a majority of the ruling class (all factions) come from what I call an intellectually and culturally incestuous background. In other words, most people in each faction lived in the same cities, went to same schools and universities and for the lack of a better word- do not venture outside their little bubbles. They talk the same, eat the same, drink the same, fuck the same and most problematically- think the same. Unfortunately, their bubbles have little, to no, connection with reality.

And this brings me to the subject of bad strategic and military decisions- or more precisely, why “credentialed” leaders tend to make the worst decisions and strategic mistakes. While there are many individual reasons for this phenomena, the overarching “meta” explanation is as follows: Decision making by members of an incestuous elite is largely driven by the need to impress and dominate their peers while trying to maintain the status quo, rather than solve the problem at hand.

As far as the topic of this post is concerned, that translates into doing more of the same in seemingly new and fashionable ways. So, the establishment in USA is going to try newer sanctions, more bluster about preemptive military strikes, more “successful” tests of ineffective anti-ballistic missiles. In other words, they will keep on doing all the things that have never worked. They will however never attempt something as trivial as unconditional talks with that regime to address its real concerns.

But how does any of this significantly increase the chances of North Korea launching nukes at american cities?

Well.. it comes down to who developed these weapons and for what end. See, the north korean regime developed them to ensure its own survival and continuance. These weapons are useful to the regime if their possession keeps USA away. However they also know that they have far fewer weapons than USA and if push comes to shove, using them immediately to inflict retaliatory damage is far more preferable to waiting for USA to definitively hit them- perhaps with nukes.

It is pretty easy to see how the proverbial ‘fog of war’ and mutual provocations increase to a level where the side with fewer nukes might be tempted to use them first. I mean.. if you are going down anyway why not take your opponent with you? As I pointed out before, the nukes and ICBMs are meant to ensure survival of North Korean regime- so it perfectly logical to use them if they think they have no realistic way out.

While this might seem as fairly straight forward logic to even the casual external observer, the vast majority of “credentialed” elite and decision makers in USA seem to believe that something like what I just described above is impossible. They are simply unwilling to even consider the very real possibility that North Korean nukes could hit a few major american cities resulting in deaths of millions. Instead they would rather retreat to their bubbles where they are exceptional, racially superior and omnipotent and everyone around them believes in the same shit.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts on Transient Lunar Phenomena: 2

July 29, 2017 1 comment

In the previous post of this series, I made the point that Transient Lunar Phenomena (henceforth referred to as TLP) are real and are still poorly understood. I also stated that one type of them, characterized by small flashes lasting for no more than a few seconds, are almost certainly due to meteor strikes on the lunar surface. But what about all those rather infrequent colored mists and luminous discharges that seem to be concentrated in a few locales on the moon?

Well.. after denying their physical existence before the late 1950s, professional astronomers seem to have gradually come to accept them as real. Of course, there are still some credentialed idiots.. I mean astronomers who love to create every elaborate explanations about how they are an artifact of observation. But enough about those worthless hucksters. Anyway, we are still stuck with trying to understand what process causes them in the first place.

To date, four explanations are usually offered to explain TLPs. Two of them, namely ‘Impact Events’ and ‘Unfavourable Observation Conditions’ have already been discussed with the prior being true for one category of TLPs and the later being an excuse for elaborate hand-waving by sophists. And this leaves us with the other two explanations: ‘Outgassing’ and ‘Electrostatic Phenomena’. While both are feasible and not as mutually exclusive as you might think, they still do not answer the central question- what are we observing in the first place?

The most poorly answered question about TLPs which last for more than a few seconds has always been- “what is the chemical composition of whatever is being observed?”. The simple answer to that question is that we either don’t know for sure or have mutually contradictory data. But why? How come we have tons of data about composition of the atmosphere of Venus, Mars, moons like Titan and other planets but very little information about temporary changes in the chemical composition on the lunar surface that accompany TLPs.

It comes down to two factors:

(1) Almost all studies on the chemical composition of non-terrestrial bodies is done by using some forms of spectroscopy. In other words, measurements of the chemical composition of non-terrestrial bodies are almost all indirect measurements of how photons of some wavelength interact with atoms (or molecules) of whatever is being studies. A secondary effect of being reliant on spectroscopy for such studies is that the equipment to do that is far scarcer than for simple observation of those bodies at optical or near-optical wavelengths.

(2) A lot of the scientific interest and funding for studying the moon disappeared after the late 1960s.Today, there are very few financial and instrumental resources for studying phenomena on the moon, especially one as ephemeral as TLPs. I should also point out that TLPs, while vaguely accepted by the professional astronomical community, are still not seen as “respectable” research especially in a world where scientific research has become another extension of neoliberal ideology- with an emphasis on “productivity”, “metrics” and being non-offensive to “authority”.

But we still have not touched what I believe is the central question about TLPS, namely what are they made of- chemically speaking? Or perhaps a better way to phrase that question is- what would be the likely chemical constituents of TLPs?

Before we tackle that question, let us reacquaint ourselves with some basic facts about conditions at the lunar surface and the moon in general. Firstly, the moon has basically no atmosphere worth mentioning and therefore any gaseous emissions from the interior of the moon will quickly dissipate into the near vacuum which prevails near its surface. Contrast that to earth where, for example, the gas and dust from a volcanic eruption will hang around for days. Secondly, the lunar surface has not witnessed extensive volcanism for at least a billion years. There is however evidence that minor volcanic eruptions on the moon have occurred as recently as 50-100 million years ago.

Thirdly, the moon is substantially smaller than the earth and contains a far smaller metallic core. The point I am trying to make is the moon should be geologically far more deader than it is in reality. Then again, that is what most people used to believe about Pluto and Ceres till space-probes visited them in the previous 2-3 years. To put it another way, a lot of what astronomers thought they knew about factors responsible for geological activity on non-stellar celestial bodies is, at best, incomplete. And this brings us to the issue of what we know about the composition of gaseous emissions from the moon.

One of the first spectrograms of such an event, in 1958, suggested the presence of something containing carbon in the emissions. Observations by manned and unmanned spacecraft have also shown that some regions of the moon give of far more Radon-222 than others. Curiously enough, these areas of the moon happen to be TLP hotspots. To make a long story short, the idea that some regions of the moon often release small amounts of gases is now largely accepted. So far so good.

But here comes the curveball.. all gases known to emanate from the lunar surface (nitrogen, argon, radon, helium, methane?) are colorless! As you might recall, TLPs were first noticed because of changes in luminosity and color in regions with a size of least 3-4 square km. Which means that whatever is released during these events is either one (or more) colored gasses or some form of dust with a particle size that gives it some color when exposed to sunlight. On earth, most of the color in the smoke of volcanic emanations is caused by various compounds of sulfur or nitrogen and basalt dust which absorb light of a higher wavelength than orange.

Given that the laws of physics are constant throughout the universe and chemical composition of the moon is unlikely to be radically different from Earth- it stands to reason that the colors and luminosity changes seen during TLPs are due to the release of emanations with more than a passing similarity to those from some volcanoes on earth. Yet, there is no evidence for currently active volcanoes (as we would define them) on the moon- even though we know the location of more than a few extinct ones. The lunar surface also has atypical and small volcanoes.

TLPs, in my opinion, are due to the release of gaseous compounds (including those of sulfur and nitrogen) and basaltic dust by volcanic features similar to Fumaroles and Fissure Vents on Earth. Their distribution on the moon might be linked to the distribution of especially thin and fractured lunar crust. Of course, accepting such a hypothesis would mean that a lot of what we have believe about the internal geology of moon and other celestial bodies of similar sizes is rather incomplete- to say the least. Then again, we could always preserve existing dogma by ignoring such phenomena or pretending that it not real.

What do you think? comments?

Some Thoughts on Transient Lunar Phenomena: 1

July 24, 2017 2 comments

As a few of you might know, I have always had a strong interesting in astronomy and related areas of the sciences. In fact, many years ago, I seriously considered a career in astrophysics or something along those lines. In the end, I chose an area of research which was more likely to result in a well paid job. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that I always had a strong interest in, and considerable knowledge of, areas of science that concern the study of celestial objects- which also explains why I have a much better than average understanding of rocketry, among other things.

But what does any of this have to do with my thoughts on transient lunar phenomena?

Well.. a lot. One of the reasons I became interested in astronomy, you see, was my interest in the moon. While people had visited the moon many years before I was born, it still remains the easiest celestial object to study. This is especially so if you grew up in a semi-urban area with moderate light pollution. While where I grew up was dark enough to catch a glimpse of many objects in the Messier and Herschel 400 List, there were times when I ended up watching the moon for hours at a time- usually waiting for some deep sky object to reach a decent elevation above the horizon.

This brings me the subject of what I was watching on the moon. While the moon has been well-studied and documented for decades, and even before manned exploration, there are many reasons why amateur astronomers still study it. For one, there is a certain thrill to being able to see, with your own eyes, craters as small as a few kilometers across (4-5 km) on something about 0.4 million km away. The limits to what you see on the moon (in terms of size) depends on the aperture of your instrument (Dawe’s limit), location on the moon and lighting conditions.

Then there is the tiny chance that you will witness an example of what is popularly known as transient lunar phenomenon aka TLP. To be fair, TLPs are a bit like the lunar version of UFOs, in that they were for a long time considered to be observational artifacts- otherwise known as people seeing things. And why not.. over the last hundred years, scientists have been almost unanimous that the moon has been geologically dead for a very long time- like a couple billion years, at least. Moreover many moon rocks collected by astronauts in late 1960s and early 1970s appear to be 3 to 4 billion years old.

But before we go further, let us talk about the two major types of TLPs. The first type, which last less than a few seconds and are not controversial involve the effect of meteors (meteorites) impacts on the moon. It is not unheard of, especially if you have a decent sized telescope and lots of time or a continuous CCD recording to occasionally see very tiny flashes of light on the unlit parts of the moon. Over a period of many years and hundreds of hours of observation with a 8-inch aperture telescope, I am reasonably sure that I have seen a few tiny flashes, especially when I was looking at the edge of the lit and unlit regions of the moon.

An early and fortuitous photo of what appears to be a meteorite impact on the moon was taken in 1953 by an amateur astronomer named Dr. Leon H. Stuart. Since then, others have taken many more photos and videos of similar (but much fainter) events on the moon. Basically, any meteorite with a mass between several tens to several hundreds of kilograms hitting the lunar surface can produce enough light to be picked up CCD devices attached to telescopes with an aperture larger than 12 inches (or 300 mm)- if they happen to be looking at the right area. The event Leon Stuart photographed was however likely caused by a much larger meteorite- probably one weighing several tons, if not more.

The second type of TLPs, which are far more controversial and rarer, appear as highly localized and often colored mists frequently accompanied by temporary brightening or darkening of the surrounding area. These events usually last for somewhere between a few minutes to a few hours. Also, they seem to occur far more frequently near certain craters and features on the lunar surface than would otherwise be the case. An example of this second type of TLP photographed by Audouin Dollfus in 1992 can be seen below. Over the decades, more than a few astronomers have reordered such localized and transient changes on the lunar surface- both in photographs as well as other light-based measurements.

So what is going on? Is it evidence of volcanic activity? Or outgassing? or some weird electrostatic phenomenon? could it be all due to unfavorable observation conditions? or something else? My personal favorite explanation for the second types of TLPs involves a version of the outgassing hypothesis. However, as you will in the upcoming part of this short series, it is somewhat different from the most common version of that explanation- and I will go into some detail about my reasoning for choosing that particular one over others.

What do you think? Comments?

A Quick Analysis of the First North Korean ICBM Test: July 5, 2017

July 5, 2017 10 comments

One of the joys of blogging is the ability to point to one of your older posts and say- “I told you so”. As some of you might recall, a little less than three months ago I had written a post about how the narrative about USA disrupting North Korean missile tests through cyberwarfare was fake news. At that time, one credulous or delusional commentator spent lots of time trying to prove otherwise. Well.. we know who was right.

As it turns out, I am also right about the reason why some of the missile tests by that country in the first few months of this year were unsuccessful. To refresh your memory, I has put forth the idea that North Korean scientists and engineers were experiencing issues with using potent hypergolic fuels since they had very limited experience with them in the past. It now appears that they have mastered the use of rocket engines which use those more potent fuels. Don’t believe me? Well just look at the first picture below.

The combination of a clear, almost transparent, rocket plume and that yellow-orange clouds surrounding the rocket as the engine starts up is the signature calling card of hyperbolic propellants- specifically an engine that uses UDMH + N2O4, as opposed to IRFNA and Kerosene or solid propellants like HTPB-based mixtures. To put it another way, they have mastered the use of modern hypergolic rocket fuels including the ability to build engines (and associated plumbing etc) to handle them.

And this brings us to the second question, namely, what is the range of this missile? As late as yesterday evening, the delusional officialdom of USA was unwilling to definitively call it an ICBM. Perhaps they were having some trouble accepting the reality that yet another non-white country had successfully mastered the tech to build an ICBM. It seems that they have now accepted that it was an ICBM but are still trying to make the bullshit claim that the missile can only hit Alaska as opposed to the Alaska and the west coast of mainland USA. So here is another picture to help you understand the next point I am going to make.

While this photo might appear somewhat ordinary, it gives two important characteristics of the missile in question- apart from the obvious fact that it is road mobile and hence very hard to destroy in any preemptive strike. Note that the missile is about 13-16 meters long and 1.5-1.8 meters wide (first stage). As it turns out, those dimensions, having a hypergolic first stage and the fact that it is road mobile tell me that it weighs somewhere between 30 and 50 tons. My best guess is about 35-40 tons. So why are those figures important?

Well.. as it turns out, these dimensions and weight are very similar to a family of submarine-launched ICBMs developed and deployed by the former USSR in the early 1970s. SLBMs of R-29 Vysota family, specifically the first (and oldest) version of that series have a very strong resemblance to the North Korean ICBM which was tested yesterday. Interestingly, unlike hypergolic fuel using ICBMS of other countries, those developed by USSR (and now Russia) can be stored in their fueled and ready condition for years.

Here is why I think they chose to base their ICBM on the R-29 (aka SS-N-18 “Stingray”). Firstly, they probably had access to the technology, blueprints and consultants who developed that missile series. Secondly, it is a relatively light and proven design that can be stored in the ready condition for a few years at a time. Thirdly, though neither highly accurate or capable of carrying especially heavy warheads, it can easily project a single warhead with a combined mass of over 1.5 ton to about 8,000 km (you can convert that number to miles, if you want to).

It does not take a genius to figure out that building a slightly larger (10-15%) version of the R-29 with a slightly lighter warhead (700-800 kg) allows it to reach the 10,000 km mark. I strongly suspect that the North Korean ICBM is a slightly larger version of the R-29 with similar, but not identical, flight characteristics. Moreover it is pretty easy to adjust engine burn times, propellant loading etc to increase the maximal velocity by the few hundred meters per second necessary to make it go a couple thousand extra km.

To make a long story short, that North Korean ICBM can most certainly put a warhead on Seattle, Bay Area or maybe even Los Angeles-San Diego urban aggregation. Of course, we can always get many smartly dressed and hair-styled “experts” on TV to say otherwise, but then again these same idiots were also telling us that it would be many years before North Korea would successfully test an ICBM. Of course, it is unlikely that North Korea is going to use such ICBMs unless provoked to do so by the USA. Then again, it is USA you are talking about.

What do you think? Comments?