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Silence this week ...

See "Excuses, excuses" below; I'm still furiously scribbling/typing on the first draft of "The Delirium Brief", which ain't due out until mid-2017, but hey. It should be baked by the end of the month at which point I can put it away to cool for a while and do something else—which may include blogging.

Meanwhile, feel free to talk among yourselves. Who wants to go first? Or carry over a conversation from an earlier thread?



Just a sincere thank you for hosting a place on the web where there's a chance to share thoughts and enjoy the world in a (somewhat) neutral setting.

Added to that, thank you for organizing some very interesting guest speakers, and thanks to them as well.

From not one of the tamed majority.

“And [he] sailed back over a year
and in and out of weeks
and through a day
and into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot”


Why is World War II always being refought?

Not literally, of course. That's impossible. That's my concern. The material circumstances have changed such that great powers can no longer engage in a years-long national mobilization slugfest against each other. Every major power has reasonably accurate cruise missiles and various other precision guided munitions. If Zombie Hitler became leader of modern Germany and tried to occupy France again, the crippling strikes against German oil, rail, and electricity infrastructure that took years during WW II would be largely complete in a matter of weeks. France would run out of significant targets before it could train up the first new batch of green conscripts. The only interesting question is whether Germany would suffer nuclear devastation or a "clean" crippling like Baghdad in Gulf War I. (Of course, Zombie Hitler could devastate France with conventional weapon strikes against its infrastructure too. But there's no plausible path to taking France at gunpoint.)

Yet NATO military developments continue to be justified on the basis of fighting a great power war against China or Russia. Russia and China apparently use similar outlandish scenarios but with NATO playing the villain. We need more stealthy pew-pew to strike deep into Russian territory. We need huge numbers of planes to go toe-to-toe with China. Nobody pay any attention to the swords of armageddon hanging on the wall! Let's all plan for massive-scale conventional war and pretend that it is both psychologically plausible and likely that a great-power conventional loser will accept defeat like Germany 1945.

And it's not just the bizarro-world fantasies about fancy kit going toe-to-toe over years of big exciting battles that are stuck in the youth of my grandfather. There's also the it's-always-1938 interpretation of geopolitics.

Not-bombing Iran is a repeat of Chamberlain’s 1938 appeasement.

When it comes to Crimea, CZECHOSLOVAKIA 1938 REDUX: In this drama, Putin plays Hitler while Obama is Chamberlain.

George W. Bush is Chamberlain and North Korea is 1938 Germany

Iraq circa 2002 is Germany circa 1938 and not-invading it would be Chamberlain-style appeasement

Taiwan circa 2000 is 1938 Czechoslovakia and the PRC is Germany

I know it's a popular saying that generals are always fighting the last war, but in this case it looks like the victorious Western powers of WW II, and their allies, are always fighting the one good war. It would be an enormous improvement if it actually were popular to emphasize the last war -- or any war following, oh, the dissolution of the USSR. Instead it's always 1938 somewhere.


Yet NATO military developments continue to be justified on the basis of fighting a great power war against China or Russia.

Well, let's see: because WW2 was actually the deferred second act of WW1 -- deferred for almost exactly enough time to breed up another few windrows of cannon fodder -- and between them they were the most traumatic military event to affect the developed world since the Thirty Years' War (and it's sideshow, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, aka the British Civil Wars)?

People who live through that kind of thing tend to be a bit swivel-eyed about over-preparing for the re-run. Which is understandable. And in the case of the World Wars, preparation involved building institutions so vast that they provided entire 18-65 year career paths, right to the highest levels. Iron law of bureaucracy applies: NATO didn't simply disband in 1991 even though its nominal raison d'etre (the USSR) had shrivelled up and blown away. Ditto the western spook agencies such as the CIA and MI5 -- all were passing the hat around, talking up terrorists and paedophiles and drug dealers as if they were the new Soviet Navy or something.

Frankly, the Thirty Years' War warped European culture and history for about three centuries -- it'd be astonishing if the impact of the World Wars doesn't last at least one hundred years.

Oh, and another point: Americans in particular but the west in general vastly underestimate how traumatic WW2 was for the Soviets. They lost somewhere between 5 and 15% of their entire population dead; everybody lost somebody. Their post-1945 obsession with saying "never again" and preparing to re-fight Operation Barbarossa is entirely explicable in that light (even before we get into Russia's history of being invaded and stomped flat from all directions, but especially the west).

So you've got a mixture of folkloric night-terrors that killed and ate grandpappy and spat out his bones, institutions that promise to keep us safe from the night-terrors behind a wall of sharp stabby things, and finally entrepreneurial careerists who find a recipe for empire-building in the bureaucracy and exploit it for promotion prospects and profit (hence the US Navy's obsession with Carrier Battle Groups to protect Hawaii from the IJN).


WW2 is the only clean-cut war we ever had, where even the losers agreed that they needed to lose because they were so evil [with the possible exception of Japan].
As to why major powers still need all the toys, it's because the side without them can end up as Baghdad.


You're welcome!

(I shall now return to inflicting hypercastrating parasite phobias on my 2017 readers.)



If we'd solved the structural problems that triggered WW1 in time, WW2 would never have happened. Also: despite involving the collective defeat of a starkly evil enemy, there were horrendous atrocities committed on every side -- including by the "good guys", but we try not to pay attention to that.


As to why major powers still need all the toys, it's because the side without them can end up as Baghdad.

If the USA had actually cashed in the "peace dividend" after the Cold War instead of continuing as world's #1 military spender, modernized Chinese or Russian forces might pull a Baghdad against Washington DC a couple of decades later? If China and Russia don't keep up with the Joneses, Moscow or Beijing might become NATO's next Baghdad?

No nation can pull a Baghdad-in-1991 against any nuclear power and endure the retaliation. Are American generals crazy enough to think that if they can devastate Beijing without nukes that the Chinese will be honor-bound by their prior No First Use declaration? Are Chinese generals crazy enough to think that America, pushed to the brink by superior conventional forces, would accept defeat instead of going nuclear? Either way sounds like the contrivances of a second-rate Tom Clancy knockoff. Or like each nation thinks it's the only one whose leaders' anger is hardened instead of broken by enemy victories.

Of course it was only 13 years ago that a high ranking idiot said Americans would be "greeted as liberators" in Iraq. Someone who'd believe that Iraqis were Martians under occupation by Venusians, longing for help from the Earth-men, might have delusions of similar magnitude about the inhabitants of other foreign places.


The thing about the Great War and Hitler's War is that they convinced everybody that war being industrial states was a terrible idea. (The expectation of quick collapse marked the planning for both of those wars, too.)

So I figure the 21st century is going to be a bit short of high-density fuel and spare industry, over-blessed with perceived-spare people, and marked by increasingly capable and very, very cheap biological manipulation, I figure the way it's going to go isn't going to involve any major wars.

Someone will come up with an infectious (well, maybe not initially) gene hack to turn Vitamin C synthesis back on. That's obviously a good idea. So is tweaking vitamin D a bit, and the parameters of serotonin re-uptake. Those spread globally. Nobody knows who came up with the second two. Somebody decompiles the original vitamin C alteration, and changes the payload so there are no more white people; turn on the melanin as far as it will go. Nobody dies and it's some sort of statement and careful detective work indicates that there's at least four groups working on this stuff and we can't -- air travel was completely shut down but it wasn't helping enough to take the economic hit -- tell where they started. 15ml perfume atomizers are more than enough. You can pass those hand to hand and move them internationally pretty quickly.

Some fedora figures out that they can't get laid and decides to fix it by turning up the general population's amativity up to eleven. This starts to mess with brain development and state in ways that don't have a back button. Someone else decides to abolish heterosexuality. (Sexuality is complicated. It doesn't go well.) Various kids with their melanin production maxed out start engineering a broad range of hair colours. Those get loose; the President of France has to resign when their hair comes in irradiated candyfloss orange. Social coding starts to include changing lip and nipple and eyebrow colours against a base skin colour as dark as tar. (There are at least seventy melanizing variant viruses out there. Some are easier vaccine targets than others. At least half affect the germ line.) There's a major lawsuit to define, precisely, what colour is "Gay Paree".

There are millions dead by this point. Slightly "off" versions of the gene-hacking kill, and nobody doing this knows as much as they think they do (except possibly the (now dead) original team who did the careful work to turn vitamin C synthesis back on, with said work being hijacked, built on, and altered by most subsequent workers). Still, no one is susceptible to malaria anymore due to licit efforts, so the technology might be a net-win, lethality wise.

Statistical analysis of this massive unethical manipulation of human genetics greatly improves the art. Various therapeutic efforts start trying to adjust people's brain chemistries away from the strange distant edges of what's possible, now that all the tweaking-plagues have thrown them there.

Someone engineers human gut bacteria to digest cellulose; you can live on sawdust if you have to. Only now you have to, because the bacteria without cellulose isn't good at all. FDA minimum daily requirement for sawdust stabilizes at three grammes per kilo of body weight. There are riots when school lunch programs provide pine sawdust, rather than a palatable hardwood. (Pine sawdust and velveeta's pretty horrible. Pine sawdust and grease-trap lard -- of course there are efforts to reduce digestive fat intake -- more horrible still.)

Someone else isolated the enzymes from the gut bacteria of mealworms and has something that can clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by digesting polyethylene. That goes pretty well on the whole, but some dark genius gets inspired by it and comes up with soil bacteria that eats PVC. The water and sewage infrastructure of the developed world goes away in one northern hemisphere summer.

There aren't any effective organized militaries anymore, and no one can figure out how you designate who you shoot for this. If someone could, it'd be a politically popular course of action.


I need a break from the Middle East, it's just too depressing…

Just noticed that there are 747 comments on Long range forecast, and The Register did a story last week about the mighty Boeing 747 being phased out.

Is there a future for commercial air transport? Will cutting global emissions make it necessary, or symbolically useful, to ban airlines?

Will they just fade out like passenger liners at sea, or will the next generation regard having flown as morally indefensible akin to owning an elephant ivory piano?


Like RP-1 kerosene, you can make a case for air-sourced carbon fuels for long range air travel. It runs the price up, but not so very far that the utility goes away.

(It might do bad things to the scope of Fed Ex's operations, but even there I'm not so sure.)


A parentally-provided tale about a conversation with a senior Russian Army type...

Back in the 1970s, the only real reason to go to war from his perspective, was a attempt at the reunification of Germany - because of the reasons you gave. The 1960s, more reasons; the 1980s, nearly none.

So; if you were truly conspiracy-minded, you could claim that the Cold War was all just an excuse between the superpowers to keep Germany divided and subdued, with a million foreign soldiers sitting on their countryside, all to keep them from Round 3 in the late 1960s ;)

As conspiracies go, it's not as bad as the lazily-written clickbait in today's Guardian, trying to suggest that the Armed Forces would mount a coup rather than accept PM Corbyn, based on some quotes on an anonymous forum and a description of Chris Mullin's excellent book.

...anyway, equipment for 666 Squadron, likelihood of the Army feeling left out and trying to form an appropriate equivalent, discuss ;)

Motto worry


There is a future for commercial air transport but it's likely that the short-haul end of the business will be eaten by high-speed rail in developed countries (I exclude the US from that category because HSR is Socialism or something). Long-haul (1500km and more) will still be by air simply for the convenience in time and money.


Reading last week:

You Austin Grossman

Strongly divided reviews (ha!). Personal comment: annoying - there's a really good book in there masked by either a draconian (pun intended) editor / publisher or the author's own hesitance to go "full geek".

Underneath it is something worth a novel; sadly it missed it. Then again, he worked on Ultima Underworld II through to Dishonored, so his impact has already happened. Make more games, less books plz.

The Girl with all the Gifts M.R. Carey.

Yeah. Peak-Zombie was 2014, and it shows.

The Last of Us slashfick and not very good. You've guessed the ending by page 27. The main antagonists disappear half way through (like, literally vanish), to be replaced by entirely another illogical set of antagonists. (Trust me: although there's a lot of foxes in London, they're only there because of 5+ million people's garbage. Yep, total lobotomy of ecological awareness, check).

Avoid. Author has enough clout to get some fairly strong recommendations, which is a story in itself.

Elephants on Acid and other Bizarre Experiments Alex Bosse

Bought solely to get another angle on host's Elephant Acid tales. Turns out, yes there a few more on acid. Ronald Siegel, in 1982, is the man who did the later tests.

Other than that, not convinced it wasn't a blog put into book form. Too slight, too designed for Male-On-The-Loo reading (if you want to know the various tests for this, I ran experiments on three of them during the late 1990's).


Anyone got anything decent?


I fully expected the X=files remake to be awful, but figured I could sit through ten minutes of it anyway. After fifteen I had to switch it off, but the haunting theme music from the intro has inspired me to fit lyrics to its tune:

'Cuz of the game
'Cuz of the game

She wears it well
He looks like hell

Now that I've exorcised that ghost, I notice O.G.H.'s remark above on how impact from the 30 Years War resonated down the centuries, so WW2 couldn't help but influence post millennial thought. This point reminds me of a 90's writer named Harry Dent whose thesis was Demographics Rules All, specifically that consumer spending patterns reach a peak at age 50 then taper off. Such that when household formation was delayed by the Great Depression and WW2, it came roaring back with the Baby Boom to set up the mother of all spending surges as boomers hit age 50. Which does seem to conform with the boom and bust of the first decade this century. Dent never mentioned anything about the American Civil War, but if his idea has any merit then it could help explain the Roaring Twenties and subsequent crash as an aftershock from the 1865-1870 surge in household formations, which had been delayed by that conflict. So maybe there's a self reinforcing hysteresis loop that builds up monster waves when demographic cycles happen to coincide with political ones.


by high-speed rail in developed countries (I exclude the US from that category because HSR is Socialism or something)

While it's easy to make a simple statement as that the reality is that HSR requires a LOT of land in very straight segments. And the east coast of the US has very little of such. And the midwest is not much better. Amazingly the current property owners want to be paid for people taking their property and homeowners are none too thrilled with routes that expose them to noise but no stops nearby.

I was tangentially involved in an attempt at a new area rail system about 10 years ago which floundered on such issues. After the budget exploded from $250 mil to an extimated $750 mil it was called off. And no one believed the $750 mil figure was going to hold up.

There was also an article examining what the costs were to speed up a 150 mile rail route carrying a few hundred people per day. Eye watering numbers for each few minutes of travel time saved.


A tech question for the floor.

How can one responsibly dispose of old smoke detectors. Landfills say no due to possible radiation. Ditto electronic disposal setups. And also even the hazardous waste guys say no. I suspect that most wind up going out with the regular garbage and thus into landfills anyway.

Anyone know a legal way to get rid of them? This is in the US. Specifically North Carolina.


"If we'd solved the structural problems that triggered WW1 in time, WW2 would never have happened."

I think WW1 was unstoppable. The clash of empires was inevitable.


"No nation can pull a Baghdad-in-1991 against any nuclear power..."

And there we have it.


For some reason, your article on building railways caused the opening sequence of "Blazing Saddles" to pop into my mind...

"I don't get a kick out of Champagne...."


Japan, rather noteworthy practitioner of high speed rail, is essentially a mountain range sticking out of the sea. If the eastern seaboard wanted to build high speed rail links, they have the correct distances and population density to make the economics work, and the terrain is not a problem.


Terrain plus property rights IS a problem.

When this subject came up a few years back I asked if the France and other European high speed rail systems weren't easier due to all the destruction of WWII.

Charlie's comment was that the governments just told everyone to get out of the way, it's being built. That will not work in the US. At least not without a LOT of fight.


I think, if you don't mind, I'm going to steal that for part of the back-history (very far back) of the 21st/22nd century in the far-future space opera shaped object I'm supposed to write next year. (Spoiler: as it's set 5MYa out, this is ancient history, gets maybe a paragraph of infodump, if that, to explain why white skin is a weird-ass fashion statement and tends to go away unless expensively maintained.)


WW1 may itself have been unstoppable, but that didn't mean that in its aftermath the problems that caused it couldn't have been addressed and thus WW2 avoided.

What would a world be like with WW1, but without WW2? If the conditions that spawned Hitler and comrades hadn't been there? If we'd achieved nuclear power with no nuclear weapons?

This would have been a very different world.

Or perhaps we'd have been in a world like Jo Walton's Small Change trilogy, where the boil was never lanced.


Is there a future for commercial air transport? Will cutting global emissions make it necessary, or symbolically useful, to ban airlines?

The 747 is declining in sales because twin-engine jets flying on ETOPS rules are so safe that demand for the four-engined variety has dropped drastically -- they cost more to build and maintain and they're only needed for a few really long over-water routes.

If you look at Boeing's inventory, the 777-300 was only about two metres shorter, nose to tail, than the 747-400. Airbus has cancelled the A340, won't be building a four-engine variant of the A350, and is seeing slack-ish demand for the A380 (the dominant four-engined jumbo on the market today, largely because it's bigger and cheaper than the 747 and a 30 years newer design).



I ran some numbers. Typical operating costs for an airliner break down as 30% airframe depreciation over a 30 year life, 30% crew/maintenance costs, and 30% fuel. You could triple the price of fuel from a baseline of $100/barrel for crude and the cost of aviation would only rise by about 70%, and it's currently so low that in real terms a trans-Atlantic fare on Air France or British Airways (non-cheap flag carriers) is about 40% of what it was in the late 70s on Laker Skytrain (the original ultra-cheap no-frills budget carrier).

I can see mechanisms whereby civil aviation might go away, but none of them imply anything good for the rest of technological civilization: it's as much part of our infrastructure as railways, and is converging with railway travel for venerability -- passenger air travel is around 95 years old, passenger rail is around 185 years old, and by 2116 they're going to look pretty similarly been-around-forever.


Voice of God (as TVTropes would put it): The Laundry don't get to deploy nuclear weapons in books 7 or 8 (although in book 8 the constitutional mechanisms for doing so are discussed in passing).

Books 9-12 are another matter entirely and I'm still figuring out where they go.


Anyone got anything decent?

Strong rec for "The Traitor" (UK title; US title is "The Traitor Baru Cormorant") by Seth Dickinson. Stunning, harrowing secondary world fantasy debut novel with viciously pointed social commentary embedded in it like a razor blades in candy.

"The Red" by Linda Nagata -- Nebula runner-up last year -- sort of examines the software obsession of "Rule 34", but from the angle of American post-imperial MilSF, written by someone with a more humane outlook than the usual run of military daddy-complex fetishists, and showing signs of having something really interesting to say later in the trilogy.

"Vermilion" by Molly Tanzer -- because the Weird Weird West isn't anything like weird enough, or ethnically diverse enough, without adding genderqueer Chinese psychopomps, vampire-run health farms, and talking bears. Not deep but good fun (you may need a unicorn chaser after "The Traitor") and accessible for folks who want a western that isn't all (and only) about pale patriarchal penis people.


Why is World War II always being re-fought?

Well, since no-one has said this, "because the military always re-equip to fight the last big war but with better weapons".


If you look at Boeing's inventory, the 777-300

For a moment there I misread that as the 737 and thought 'whut?!'.

Yeah, the 777 may carry fewer passengers than the 747, but it's not that many fewer and I note that Boeing has build almost as many 777 aircraft as it has built 747s. I expect the total 777 deliveries to pass the 747 by the end of this decade.

(Hell, total 777 orders passed total 747 orders a couple of years back, so it'd happen even with no new orders.)

It's just that the 747 was the charismatic megafauna of the air - its distorted side profile instantly recognisable even for people who didn't 'do' aircraft. Beaten from below by the other wide bodies, and beaten from above by the A380 (sometimes you have a route where you do want every possible seat per landing slot), its major remaining advantage as an airframe seem to me to be the folding-nose freighter, where that cockpit sitting above the main fuselage tube makes loading easier.

Of course it'll be a long time before the last 747 takes off — when that happens I suspect it'll be because of economics, and that the airframe in question will have more than enough life left.


maybe there's a self reinforcing hysteresis loop that builds up monster waves when demographic cycles happen to coincide with political ones.

That's an interesting idea. And as a corollary, thanks to the financialization of everything, the student debt load, and inflation in the housing market, we can expect the equivalent period of household formation among Generation Xers to be delayed by at least a decade rather than following peak-Boomer by 20 years, and for Millennials it's going to be delayed even further. So ... Xer powered boom no earlier than 2025, Millennial mini-boom (more of a bulge) around 2040-2050?

This all goes out the window once the demographic drivers become the Chinese and Indian middle-class urban families and it all shifts to Africa. Or once we start seeing the effects of contagious genetic modification (per Graydon up-stream). Or if anti-ageing hackery gets loose, at which point all bets are off.

Speculation: household formation and the consumer spending peak you point to are a legacy of traditional mid-20th century nuclear family child-rearing practices (man works, earns, buys house, acquires wife, spawns, kids then have maintenance costs; they grow up and move out and spending drops).

Firstly, the age of first childbirth for women has risen in the west in no small part because the cost of housing is high, wages are relatively depressed, and children are expensive. But secondly, what happens if we get anti-ageing treatments that amount to indefinite prolongation of peak physical condition (youth)?

I know/have known a couple of men who did the marry/kids thing in their 20s, divorced, re-married in their late 40s/early 50s and started another family with a younger woman (typically 30s, deferred child rearing). But I also know a lot more men of that age who didn't. And I don't see newly-rejuvenated women in their 60s wanting to go back to the whole pregnancy and nappy-changing thing again.

So if we get life prolongation that's going to result in a number of senior/experienced people on high incomes with high capital accumulation who don't spend anything like enough money to keep the wheels turning, a load more old folks who can't get work and live in poverty but who don't need to spend much because they've got all the shit they want, and young people who can't get traction/earn enough to do the home/family thing. It's going to get socially messy, not merely politically so (as dead wood accumulates but refuses to let go -- like Robert Mugabe, if he was physically 20 today).


"What would a world be like with WW1, but without WW2?"

E.g. if the Treaty of Versailles hadn't screwed massive reparations out of a nearly bankrupt Germany? My guess is that one really big global difference would have been that the British Empire would not have been dismantled voluntarily, so there would have been ongoing rebellion in at least India, and might even have had a war with the USA. If I recall, there were some high-level papers that got out that were seriously concerned about that possibility.

The USA would have become dominant, but not to the level it is today. The Japanese would have trodden all over China, but might not have moved south, unless there was a BE/USA war. I don't have a clue what Stalin would have got up to, except adventurism in China, of course.

But I suspect that most of the other changes, technological, social and political, wouldn't be all that different.


There was also an article examining what the costs were to speed up a 150 mile rail route carrying a few hundred people per day. Eye watering numbers for each few minutes of travel time saved.

That's ... ridiculous.

For comparison, the London Underground peaked at around 5 million passenger movements per 24 hours late last year (it's normally in the 4-4.5 M/day band) and has 402km -- 250 miles -- of track. So, passenger density four orders of magnitude higher than in that article.

Again, the East Coast Main Line -- a 393 mile long passenger route in the UK, connecting London with Edinburgh via various other cities -- hmm, it's hard to get a handle on passenger volume (many folks use it for intermediate connections) but it looks to be roughly 2 million passengers per month through the London terminus (King's Cross) and about 1.8M/month through Edinburgh (Waverley), so on the order of 60-70,000 people/day.

The ECML is a good yardstick for the sort of density you might see on a properly-designed San Diego-LA-San Jose-SF-Portland-Seattle-Vancouver route. Yes, that route is four times as long, but it also links some very large cities (Edinburgh has roughly the population of Portland, Leeds is close to San Jose, Los Angeles is comparable to London, and the other cities are way bigger than anything else directly connected to the ECML).


I think WW1 was unstoppable. The clash of empires was inevitable.

The clash of empires was inevitable, but it didn't have to kick off in Serbia (that was just bizarre), it didn't have to pull in everyone at the same time (the UK would have stayed out if Germany had stayed out of Belgium; the Ottoman empire would have stayed out if the RN had sunk the Geoben and Breslau before they reached the Bosphorus: and so on.


Yes and no; most of the commentary that I've read or heard said that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was an excuse for giving a war rather than an actual reason, so the involvement of Serbia as a named participant was accidental rather than planned or odd.



Whilst I love your progression, it doesn't really sound the most likely path. Rather I'd expect docility, unquestioning taking of orders, and lack of aggression to be the most likely disease-gene plagues in your supposed world (with a nice course of 'gene-therapy' for those with the money to turn them back to normal).

Plenty of money and plenty of reason to make it happen.


I like that! The one thing that you can't predict about poking highly complex systems is what secondary effects the poke will have. I suspect that the initial treatment is more likely to be something like type I diabetes or Alzheimers, because they are far more likely to get approval and research money.I am afraid that I am a bit more cynical, and suspect that the first endocrine tweaks would include oestrogen, prolactin, testosterone and adrenaline, and the social effects of those getting out of hand would be significant.

I don't buy the sawdust, because the problem isn't just calories where there is starvation; yes, I know it's a common meme. And I am afraid that we WILL see a major war, quite possibly because a biotechnology company demands that the military enforce its claimed patent rights, and that gets out of hand. We've already seen the beginning of that.


And the ECML as it is has issues. Such as Welwyn North station: a commuter stop on the two-track section about 20 minutes north from KGX. Every train that stops there has to be very carefully signalled, since while it's stationary none of those nice 200kph high speed trains can get past.

(Every now and then I'm on a train that stops there, and I wonder if any of the people boarding there ever gets a seat. There is already standing room only a couple of stations earlier. By the time we leave Welwyn North there must be 1000 passengers aboard. This on a train that starts in Royston, not even coming from Cambridge.)

Which raises the matter that the ECML has feeders. 7 or more trains an hour during peak coming in at Hitchen from the Cambridge branch. A bunch coming in at Peterborough I guess (since Cambridge to the North goes that way). And others further north, though some of those are pathetic. I don't know whether a US WCL would have the same.

Also, I think the majority of KGX traffic is commuters, like the thousand arriving in on the 7:32 RYS-KGX. I suspect the same is true of the other major stations, and in that sense the ECML is a bunch of fast commuter routes lined up end-to-end with the ability to get from one end to the other using those rails. Whether this might still work on a more etiolated US WCL is something I've not looked at.


"That's ... ridiculous."

One is reminded of the (1920s?) proof that rockets could never escape from earth. The calculations are almost certainly based on similar assumptions.


"But secondly, what happens if we get anti-ageing treatments that amount to indefinite prolongation of peak physical condition (youth)?"

We discover that the human mind fails in subtle ways with aging. The initial attempts to tackle that remove the major known causes, such as Alheimers and Parkinsons, but add lesser and more subtle problems. In particular, people's memory and emotional responses get increasingly and weirdly different from what they were when younger, in ways that have not been previously seen. Sanity becomes an age-dependent concept.

However, all that would occur much later than the economic and social disaster you described.


Oh goody! I do love a nice parasite, you know. Did a PhD on the sex life of a parasite of potato plants, mostly involving pheromones and produced what would probably rank as the world's most boring sex-related video footage ever (i.e. no actual sex, just a series of nematode worms slowly, so slowly wriggling towards a pheromone target then looking rather puzzled on arriving).

These cinematic masterpieces are now, alas, lost to history. I didn't need the tapes, and as I was using broadcast quality videotapes, my supervisor helpfully 'recycled' them for me.

However, parasite life cycles are really quite, quite fascinating. Parasitoids are not nice, but hyperparasitoids are perhaps more scary still. Both parasitoids and hyperparasitoids are ultimately lethal to their host, but the hyperparasitoid can only attack a host which has had its defences compromised by a parasitoid beforehand.

A rather stranger set-up can be seen in the intestines of some tortoises. around twelve different species of nematode parasites inhabit the guts of tortoises, and an infection with any one species is simply a parasitic infection. However, when you have several of these parasites together in one host, some species of parasite revert to being predators and actually start helping their host by preying upon the pure parasitic nematodes.

In the context of the Laundry universe, this could quite easily happen as well. As Case Nightmare Green approaches, the environment for supernatural parasites becomes ever more favourable and as more of this form of life comes out of the woodwork, some of it is likely to revert to older, non-parasitic lifestyles and become actively dangerous to parasites as well.

This also brings up the notion of how the nastier alien life came into being. One might hypothesise that as life on a planet evolves, becomes intelligent and develops it develops corresponding computing hardware, then over time the biological and silicon life mingle and become symbiotic forms. At that point, intelligences effectively "live" in an ecosystem provided by computers, and with such an ecosystem comes parasitic viruses and so on. When you have computer viruses, you have antivirus systems, and so on.

Fast forward a few billion years and the original intelligences are dead or quiescent, but the antivirus ecosystem is alive and well and doing other things, but still has the original functions and behavioural triggers in place. Wave the right trigger in front of a supernatural horror from beyond spacetime, and it does whatever that hard-coded response says it must do...


Wave the right trigger in front of a supernatural horror from beyond spacetime, and it does whatever that hard-coded response says it must do...

Including rolling on its back and going cross-eyed?

(CNG's unexpected happy ending?)


I'd expect docility, unquestioning taking of orders, and lack of aggression to be the most likely disease-gene plagues

Please suggest a biological mechanism for these attributes: then I'll take this as a serious proposal.

The ones Graydon was suggesting are fairly clear-cut; we know what's wrong with human vitamin C and vitamin D synthesis, we have a fairly good idea of the genetic controls for melanism, and so on. Tweaking serotonin metabolism is more complex and has a bunch of very unpleasant edge conditions associated with it if you get it wrong, but at least it's a target. But we know of no gene for "unquestioning taking of orders" and the nearest for "docility" would be a total block on testosterone uptake (or synthesis) in males -- hardly side-effect free!


Also, I think the majority of KGX traffic is commuters, like the thousand arriving in on the 7:32 RYS-KGX. I suspect the same is true of the other major stations

I can say with some certainty that this is not true of ECML passengers at Edinburgh. Alnmouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed are too small and too distant to be dormitory towns for Edinburgh (and Edinburgh is well served by commuter suburbs much closer in). My guesstimate based on experience (I use the ECML quite a bit) is that trains out of tourist season are about 30-50% full (300-500 passengers) when they arrive in Edinburgh, and standing-room-only in August (and a month to either side); with 20 trains/day we're talking on the order of 5000-20,000 non-commuter passengers.

(Also note that much of LA and the Bay Area are so freaking expensive that people there are willing to do the same kind of long-haul commute as folks who work in London -- only, this being the USA, they're willing to go much further.)


What I meant was "ridiculous" was the idea of upgrading a 150 mile railway line that only carries a couple of hundred passengers a day. Typically railways need 2-5% of the track replacing per year, so that 150 mile line already needs 3-10 miles of track replacement per year, and even if it's non-electrified with no modern signalling infrastructure, no grade separation (bridges), and so on, that's going to cost real money.

I can see it being maintained if there's freight usage to pay for it American-style, but upgraded? Seems unlikely unless there's a way to boost passenger footprint by at least two orders of magnitude.


I am toying with the idea of retconning some back-story to the effect that the "Eater of Souls" is basically a hyperparasite that has accidentally become attached directly to the host. And Bob can't chow down on PHANGs because the borrowed mouthparts he's using aren't fully effective because the EoS was supposed to latch onto a human host who was already infected with something that neither Bob nor the original owner of "Angleton's" body had been exposed to.

But I'm not sure. (Could be too complex to work.)


Oh, right. My mistake. My point stands, of course, but only when applied to the other parts of the original post. The simplest upgrade to a low-use route is to tarmac it and turn it into a special road for use by buses and other selected vehicles.


Aggression can be muted by reducing testosterone, blocking the adrenaline response etc. Pity about the side-effects.


"Including rolling on its back and going cross-eyed?"

Or doing what piranas do after a splash in the water, which is a more interesting (in this context) behaviour.


Sorry - my mistake again - I scrolled wrongly and read another response instead of the end of yours. But blocking the adrenaline response would do marvels for Saturday nights in some places.


I sit corrected then. Most of my experience is on the heavily congested southern end which, like most of the lines into London, is heavily affected by commuters (and has been for decades).

I'll note that the RYS-KGX route is 50+ trains today, and some of those are 12 coach trains rather than the 8 or 4. Most of them are CBG-KGX (at least some people commute into London from Cambridge), but the faster ones come in from Ely or King's Lynn, which may be considered regional rather than commuter.

20 or so a day for EDB-KGX is a reasonable frequency though.


It seems consistent to suggest that the EoS is a large-scale predator occupying a niche like a python or alligator: long periods of stealth followed by a quick, devastating attack; uninterested in anything not worth the effort. Perhaps PHANGs look like a swarm of little minds rather than a single human-equivalent. That could be an effective countermeasure.


Richard K Morgan went somewhat down this route with Black Man (uk) /Thirteen (US). His main inspiration was Bonobo monkey splices for docile females and I forget what splice the ultra-alpha males 13's had. But I believe a melanin mod was a side effect?

Not sure how popular it was in the states - got the impression it rather freaked his publishers out.


Some flake improves on this work:

"A microbial biomanufacturing platform for natural and semisynthetic opioids" -

... Except that being a flake, and Finnish, and allergic to pollen she figures that " ... wouldn't it be just a great trip if birch-pollen contained Psilocybin and then we could, like, snort the lot ....?!"

The gene hack takes. Within 50 years the entire northern hemisphere is tripping for 3 months every year - however, they do produce great cartoons, patterned fabric's and the like.


"What would a world be like with WW1, but without WW2? If the conditions that spawned Hitler and comrades hadn't been there? If we'd achieved nuclear power with no nuclear weapons?"

Nuclear weapons would have arrived more slowly and multiple empires would have been nuclear armed. Then WW2 would have started as a nuclear war. In our timeline WW2 ended as a very small nuclear war and the horror of it effectively immunized all major powers because they saw what it could do. Not so in the WW2 circa 1970.


I'm not sure 'the entire northern hemisphere'. I suspect there aren't a lot of birches in Malaysia or Venezuela, for example.

That is, unless people are deliberately spreading them, which you probably need for the 50 year scenario anyway.


So, who is willing to back my UK petition to introduce raccoons into Britain? We need 100,000 signatures.


Also have just discovered via a driveby of his website that Altered Carbon is coming to Netflix. Could be interesting.


Ah, you're a shill for Disney, trying to cover up their mistakes in 101 Dalmations. Next you'll be after skunks.


GTFO: those fuckers spread rabies and they're worse than drunken neds for late-night noise/bin-tipping!


If you have an Office Depot nearby:

Aside from the absurdity of selling you an empty box, fill it with electronic junk, return it to them.

No good ideas about smoke detectors and picocuries of Americium, though. There was this kid in Detroit ...


If you posit cheap and easy gene hacking, then pretty soon someone will develop a way to determine the sex of the offspring of a couple, and if this is cheap enough, it will be marketed maliciously to the Middle East and everywhere that prefers boys over girls, resulting in demographic genocide.


There is so much birch pollen produced where I live (Skåne, Sweden) that it forms yellow layers on every surface in the season, it's everywhere. Visible clouds of pollen are swirling about even ;-).

I think we can assume that "enough" of that stuff will go right up into the stratosphere to make life interesting.


We already know what raccoons would do in Europe, because some numbskull introduced them to Germany, and the eradication attempt is going badly. Basically, they are a disease-spreading pest.


Sadly, "items containing radioactive materials" are forbidden. I bet they could argue almost everything you could put in that box with your own hands violates that, the cunning devils :)


Office Depot expressly rejects e-waste items containing radioactive elements.

A quick search indicates that, in North Carolina, the recommended method of disposal of smoke detectors containing Am-241 is return to the manufacturer.

Good luck with that.


Nuclear reactors are pretty inevitable - no massively expensive showstoppers on the way there, heck Sweden managed to build test reactors with buggerall "help" from the manhattan project but the bomb was really quite absurdly expensive to invent..

This could lead to a world where power reactors come before the bomb, and not just by a little, but by decades. I think that in turn gets you a twentieth century with reactors bloody everywhere, due to less paranoia towards the technology.

So global warming, not a thing. Air cleaner. Then, if someone does invent the bomb, that's a major bloody problem because more or less every nation on earth has the tech to follow. Might result in a status quo of that just not being a thing one does (The number of nations with arsenals of chemical weapons is very much smaller than the number of nations with the ability to build them..)


Doesn't need to be all that straight. Here in the UK we have this utterly daft project called HS2 which is about running trains at a few hundred mph; its proposed route is still fairly wiggly, because it has to be in order to wriggle between all the things that would be in the way.

The thing about high speed rail is that - well, basically, it is silly. Rail is already losing its environmental cred with ordinary stock becoming grossly overpowered in order to try and shave the odd minute off schedules here and there. With the full-on "high speed" thing its energy consumption moves way up the scale into airliner territory (energy used for a given journey by a vehicle moving in a fluid medium goes as the square of the speed) as well as needing new lines, so you're not gaining anything.

In the UK the distances are so short that the time saved by the faster journey doesn't make a lot of difference. Even without HS2 we are already in the situation where the time spent getting to and from the stations at either end is enough to be putting any speed-up of the actual sitting-on-a-train bit well into the area of diminishing returns. HS2 doesn't help. If you want to travel between Birmingham and London, that's half the day buggered in any case.

And that's without getting into the arguments in favour of HS2 being utter bollocks and even flat-out lies which are contradicted by official documents, but are still stated as propaganda using those same official documents as support. The Freight Transport Association, at least, are not taken in by this. They recognise full well that the claims that HS2 will assist in providing freight capacity are complete arse, and they want the route to be used for a dedicated freight line instead.

And I agree with them. Passenger rail services are already quite fast enough and do not need to get any faster; what we do need is increased capacity for freight at conventional speeds, and the use thereof.


Damn. And I so wanted to ship some bananas.

(And I'm presumably out of luck were I to want them to deliver the watch I'm looking at. Tritium - it's the new radium)


Of course it'll be a long time before the last 747 takes off — when that happens I suspect it'll be because of economics, and that the airframe in question will have more than enough life left.

Boeing seems to be selling custom 747-8s (BBJ 7478) as state aircraft. Passing through Dallas Love Field last week, I spotted a State Of Kuwait 747 parked there, and on looking it up found . You can see it at KDAL in the 2015-12-01 Google Earth image at 32.8512 N, 96.8467 W .

So, yes, unless something glitzier shows up, I'd expect at least those to be flying for a few more decades.


I'd be careful using graydons thing too much for backstory since it trips some biochem shibboleths for me.

Engineering large organisms with viruses is hard. It works a little but typical uptake is small. 1 in every few thousand or hundred cells if the person gets a heavy dose might get altered.

Hopefully, if you're lucky, they get altered in the way that you want rather than turning into cancer.

But then the normal immune system kicks in and tries to kill the virus and if you re-use the same virus again and again it works less well.

Once the first virus has gone around, whatever it does, expect half the worlds professors to be examining it, particularly if it's just changed everyone's skin color.

Unless it's designed by a god or sufficiently advanced aliens it's going to become well understood fast.

Any poorly made hacks are indeed likely to kill lots of people, even well-made hacks are likely to kill lots of people.

If it's that easy to switch genes on with a virus that someone doesn't want to catch then it's going to be even easier to switch them off with a consenting subject in a doctors office.

You might imagine a world where everyone has had their melanin ramped up, I see a world where some biotech geeks have got rich selling reversals of the various hacks and having the money to get the shot to reverse the hack is a minor status symbol such that having white skin becomes even more of a symbol of wealth.

It's vaguely plausible that someone might manage the trick once, maybe twice for some simple effect like up-regulating a particular protein or similar but people are also pretty good at adapting their behavior given a run-up.

If someone has just changed the color of your skin and there was a threat that someone might use the same trick again with a plague you're going to be going around like the boy in the bubble.

At a conference a couple of years ago I saw a presentation from a crowd who were partnering with the NHS to track outbreaks in hospitals by sequencing swabs on a grand scale to the granularity that they could track the spread ward by ward.

If something like this was being released regularly then there would be next-next-gen sequencers set up in airports with everyone being swabbed on the go and tracking outbreaks back to their source would be far more routine.

Also, gut bacteria: we don't normally swap gut bacteria very easily. Unless someone managed to contaminate every dairy in the world on the same day they're going to have trouble delivering their new sawdust eating bacteria.

Also, the hacks you suggest are just too nice, if you can up-regulate melanin it's probably easier to make a virus which kills people carrying genes which mark them as being of European decent.


"Passenger rail services are already quite fast enough and do not need to get any faster;"

Been on the Highland Line recently? Actually, a lot of them need speeding up, quite badly, but the improvements needed are rarely a whole new track.


Pity about the side effects? I think they would be beneficial. Look at the amount of fuss created these days by people whose dissatisfaction arises from the human male having the same instinctive priorities as the males of goodness only knows how many other animal species. Under current circumstances the denial of the biological inevitability of the behaviour in question on which the arguments are based often makes said arguments look rather silly. But if a suitable bio-hack did put the kybosh on the instincts, things would be rather better.


Yes, I should have added "...where not hamstrung by curable deficiencies in the existing infrastructure" :)


Much easier and safer would be to engineer a novel gland which acts as a synthesis machine to produce vitamins C, the B-complex, folic acid and niacin and which can also double up as a spare pancreas for making insulin if the person becomes diabetic.

This is better because you're not engineering the entire organism but only a small, novel item which can also be given a few shut-down switches that could be artificially triggered in the case of malfunction. There is even a space in a person's body that'll take it, where transplant kidneys are normally put.


"Also, gut bacteria: ..."

But, if each MacFaggot came with a sprinkling of Active Digestive Enhancer, you'd be lovin' it in no time.


"...we don't normally swap gut bacteria very easily."

Do we not? I thought that a lot of instances of "travellers' diarrhoea" were due to unfamiliar gut bacteria making themselves part of the mix.

(Anecdotally, I think I ended up with a lot of pigeon gut bacteria as a result of living with them. I used to find that I'd get a bit of a dodgy tummy if I spent a few days away, and I took to including... samples of pigeon gut flora in my luggage, eating which would sort it out. Hardly a rigorous experiment though!)


The side-effects of reduced testosterone are much more drastic than just reduced libido.


I know a mycologist / mushroom hunter who absolutely loves eating lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum), a fungus that parasitizes the fruiting bodies of mushrooms which, in turn, are either symbiotic or parasitic on the roots of specific trees. Quite delicious, apparently, except that sometimes the host mushroom is poisonous and this is transferred to the hyperparasite.

An example of "forked" expression of sequential parasitic infection would be infection by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) which has different manifestations depending on whether the person is previously / concurrently infected with malarial parasites and/or HIV (or other causes of immune suppression).

Of course, an analogy could also be made to certain office software developers who have recently switched to Software-as-a-Service model. The IM / VOIP / video client requires connection to specific version of the e-mail / network software and server, running on a computer with the specified version of the OS (patched to certain levels). It kind of works, otherwise, but not with full "functionality".


Yeah, I'd been trying to work out the BED of the watch in question. But what with the BED being in sieverts, and the watch tritium content being in becquerels, there's no easy conversion.


How about mailing them to someone one does not like?

--- Of course without a return address and too little postage for enhanced griefing.


in order to try and shave the odd minute off schedules here and there

That's because most folks don't realize that to do HSR right, you've got to do it the Japanese way.

First of all, you don't stop everywhere -- only at major hubs, where a hub-and-spoke model provides connections to smaller destinations. (Think of it as being like intercontinental air travel.)

Secondly, a lot of time is lost in the UK by running InterCity high speed services in and out of stations built circa 1835-1870, over tracks shared with local traffic. The Japanese used a different gauge for the Shinkanens, and built entirely new stations next door to or on top of the old ones. Then they ran the high speed tracks in and out of the city centers on viaducts. Upshot: a Nozomi Express -- which is about the third tier of Shinkansen service these days -- is doing upwards of 60mph by the time it finishes pulling away from the platform, and is only prevented from going at full speed through the suburbs due to noise restrictions.

HS2 is indeed an abomination. The right way to do it would be to start by building towards London, lest it get turned into a commuter rat-run and stop when it's barely covered a quarter of the distance. Oh, and to do it Japanese-style. Start in Glasgow by building an upper station on top of Queen Street, run east to Edinburgh and build a station atop Waverley (or maybe underneath the Queen Street gardens), then don't stop until Newcastle, Leeds, Birmingham, and terminus in London. With the exception of the first two (which give you a catchment consisting of 70% of the population of Scotland) the stops are over a hundred miles apart. Oh, and either run them on viaducts, through tunnels (tunnel under the Pentland hills!), or straight -- but keep it 100% grade-separated and don't share the track with regular traffic.

(Alternatively go Edinburgh-Glasgow-Manchester-Birmingham-London. The same point applies: high speed runs the whole way.)

HS2 as spec'd is garbage, though, and we'd do better to spend some money on an extra north-south dedicated freight line (and maybe increase the loading gauge on the WCML or ECML so that passenger trains can run with two decks -- yes, I know this would mean rebuilding platforms and stations, even so.)


Also, viruses are under selection pressure to conserve their own functional set of genes -- not some dodgy deadweight installed in them by a hacker. And they're very good at it, even before we start talking about ERVs piggy-backing inside higher organisms.

If a virus is maleable enough to add a payload to it, and contagious enough to be useful, once it ditches the deadweight it'll probably be even more contagious (and not confer any useful traits). Moreover, if it's plastic enough that we can install stuff in it, it's plastic enough to swap the stuff we install for some other payload. Like, oh, traits for resistance to anti-viral drugs.

Yes, it's fun for all the family! And by family, I mean coronaviruses.


Go look at Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, and especially the embryonic development seen in human male foetuses with complete AIS. Hint: there's an SF novel in there. A variation on "Greybeard"/"Twilight of Briareus"/"Children of Men", I guess, albeit in the opposite direction from Frank Herbert's "The White Plague".

If a virus re-tooling our species so that 99% of males had complete AIS went pandemic, then the next generation would appear to be 1% male, 99% female, and half the women would be infertile. The unmodified men would be prone to all the behavioural side-effects of testosterone poisoning, with added rarity value on top.


Absolutely do not mind!

Looking forward to the prospect of some Deep Future.


I don't think it's going to be viruses.

I do think it's going to be contagious.

Everyone is looking for viruses, including the human immune system. Often on the basis of the protein sheath. CRISPR delivery mechanisms are going to avoid that. And they're going to have to be some kind of stable. So whatever it is, I'd expect it's going to be very carefully innocuous to the immune system due to careful therapeutic design.


Also, gut bacteria: we don't normally swap gut bacteria very easily. Unless someone managed to contaminate every dairy in the world on the same day they're going to have trouble delivering their new sawdust eating bacteria.

Well, leaving aside that just where gut bacteria come from or how they get selected is currently poorly understood, that one I expect to happen as an overt program of public works, rather than as a matter of surreptitious transmission.

If you tell the oligarchy they can feed the poor sawdust and get more work out of them, the response is going to be overwhelmingly positive. There will be laws in favour. There will be mandatory programs where your benefits depend on your sawdust intake. It will be harsh and cruel and the oligarchical next question really will be "what about that stuff in the grease trap?" and the question after that will be about shutting off taste sensitivity, rather than making the not-food taste better.


Someone engineers human gut bacteria to digest cellulose; you can live on sawdust if you have to.

Let's start by debunking the easy one: we already digest wood, it's called lighting a fire. It's truly idiotic for humans to eat cellulose, because we don't have the skeleton to support the gut size that we'd need to process it. Hell, we don't have the jaws or the guts to survive on a diet of raw plants. If you don't believe me, look at a comparison of a human skeleton with a gorilla skeleton. Gorillas are our closest relative that lives solely on a raw vegetable diet. Notice how the rib cage flares out at the bottom and the pelvis flares out at the top? That's to accommodate the intestines needed to process a raw diet. Notice how much bigger gorilla jaws are? That's to process the food coming in.

Humans use fire to get away with having much smaller jaws and much smaller digestive tracts, and also, because cooked food is easier to digest and faster to process, we can get away with feeding our big brains with it.

If you want to see a human skeleton without such mods, look at an Australopithecine or something like Homo naledi.

The tl;dr version is that you can't get fiddle with the genes to turn on enzyme production. Radical changes in diet require radical changes in anatomy to cope. Humans cheated by using fire and technology to take the place of anatomy, and as such, we're already very good at getting the energy out of cellulose and using it for more things than just keeping warm. Why tinker with it?


All completely true.

Can you think of a technology grouping that people didn't want to, and try to, do something stupid with?

This is a candidate "stupid, with a side of cruel" use of greatly improved biotech. I'm sure there are others. (I would argue that current agricultural uses for herbicide resistance are a real stupid-and-obviously-wrong use.)


"No good ideas about smoke detectors and picocuries of Americium"

I read somewhere that ionizing radiation from a smoke detector could be sensed by iPhone cameras. This enables an application to convert randomly appearing pixel points into a true random number generator, since it's tapping into the fundamental quantum uncertainty of decaying Americium nucleii. Not sure what use this could be put to, maybe cryptography?


Absolutely. True high speed rail needs long uninterrupted segments, built to higher tolerances than standard rail today. Japan was forced to build new lines because their existing stock was narrow gauge and turned too tightly, but embraced it when they saw the benefits.
And since unlike France and Germany, all of the UK rail infrastructure wasn't bombed flat in the war, there are a LOT of speed obstructions in the existing system, particularly viaducts and junctions that can't be easily replaced.

HS2 is a complete white elephant - no one needs to get to Birmingham faster, and terminating it in London is a terrible idea because it doesn't connect to HS1 and Europe.

As you say, what they really need is a totally separated line that runs along the spine of the country, though my route would be going roughly Glasgow > Carlisle > Manchester > Birmingham > MK > Ashford, with feeders in from Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and so on. London should be skipped entirely, the existing HS1 line can be tapped into for a transfer station, presumably at Ebbsfleet. That opens Europe up for travel from the North, with relatively little obstruction. If necessary do a second divert somewhere near Harlow that brings a line into Stratford, and then across to St Pancras.

Don't try and get the freight onto a faster line, get the people off the freight lines, except for local commuter traffic.


They would be a perfect complement for the South London fox population.


"If you posit cheap and easy gene hacking..."

It just arrived and is called CRISPR. First experiments on Human embryos under way as we speak.


Fair enough, if you have a government forcefully rolling out a these things then it becomes a lot more practical but they're also more likely to do safety testing even if the government is evil. Slaves cost money so they're likely to test anything on a few of them for quite some time first before risking losing all their slaves.


Oh, I agree with you that there are a large number of stupid uses for biotech. Someone may even try to insert cellulase genes into humans. Thing is, it won't turn humans into termites, most people will just ignore the insertion, it will make certain dieting products less effective, and life will blunder on.

From a SFF perspective, this is the thing to remember: most biotech handwavium won't work without many other changes, and "ooh, make the poor eat sawdust with a simple virus" is in the same category as FTL travel.

But actually, if you want a really good example of weaponized biotech not being used by terrorists, ask yourself why terrorists didn't take down the US with something like wheat rust or corn blight. I know, because I was in the teaching labs around 9/11, that there were live cultures of these fungi, unguarded, in teaching collections in universities. They were there to train plant pathologists to identify these fungi in crops, and it would have been quite possible for a terrorist type to get the material and to start a crop-killing plague. After 9/11, the mycologists I knew very quickly locked these up, because they knew, long before "Homeland Security" was brewed up, that you could cripple the US through crop failure, and it is terrifyingly easy to kill crops.

Why did the terrorists not do that? It would have crippled "The Great Satan" far better than knocking off a few buildings ever did.

The thing I missed was that the terrorists were better informed than the scientists were. Since the 1970s (thank you, Mr. Kissinger), the US has been using food exports as a "soft power" tool to keep nations under control and to keep them from attacking us. You may hate what the US does as a foreign policy, but when most of your wheat and corn comes from the US, you know that you'll destroy your own food supply first if you attack American crops.

Considering that a crop failure in Russian wheat helped trigger the Arab Spring, I'm pretty sure that everyone in the Middle East, much as they may have the US, has no intention of attacking our crops or any others. All that would do is to cause grain shipments to stop, and people in the Middle East to starve.

The bottom line on this is that it takes a particular kind of stupidly uninformed genius to think about stuff like biotech attacks on things like crops. Nutcases in the US might try it, because they don't have a clue about the ramifications of their actions. I strongly suspect that people outside the US, who know where their food comes from, probably won't do anything that stupid.


"It's truly idiotic for humans to eat cellulose, because we don't have the skeleton to support the gut size that we'd need to process it."

We are a little bigger than termites! A more basic argument is that it gives nothing except calories, and we already have technologies to convert it into sugar if calories was the only problem.


Oh, right. My mistake. My point stands, of course, but only when applied to the other parts of the original post. The simplest upgrade to a low-use route is to tarmac it and turn it into a special road for use by buses and other selected vehicles.

OK a few more details.

The abandoned project was to build a transportation corridor across the area. The commission set up to deal with such things in the area decided light rail was the way to go. (A LOT of local politicians felt rubber rail like Portland has would make a lot more sense and be much more flexible but the commission apparently wanted to run a railroad.) One of the cost savings assumptions baked into the project was that sharing right of way with existing rail lines, freight and passenger, would save money. Turned out to be a terrible idea. The cost to make the freight right of way was very high. Separation issues and signalling types of things. The separation issues required of the new track created all kinds of huge costs with property takeovers bridges that would have to be rebuilt and so on. Then some of the assumptions about station locations that got fixed in by the shared right of way also made things nuts. Like a station for the local university that was 40 feet down from the local grade into the ditch where the rail lines were. Lets not forget ADA access to such a station. And oh by the way, the university steam distribution piping was in the way. And almost all the stations would up being located away from population or work centers.

As to the commuter route upgrade costs, well shared tracking and such with freight and Amtrak meant no new routes. And many of the delays were caused by things like crossings. So the trains have to slow down when approaching a grade level crossing. But to have a road fly over or tunnel under costs real money. $ millions. And all to knock off 5 minutes or less on a run.


North Carolina, the recommended method of disposal of smoke detectors containing Am-241 is return to the manufacturer. Good luck with that.

Yep. That's seems to require phone calls and extension times on hold as the web sites of most manufacturers doesn't not discuss this issue.


Doesn't need to be all that straight.

In many urbanized areas in the US "not all that straight" is problematic without bulldozing a lot of property. Rail lines on the east coasts are very inefficient routings at the very local level. They had to deal with existing roads and such that have been in place since the 1700s. Many rail lines on the east coast have lots of speed limits due to all the curves and such.

Not sure how the UK dealt with such things unless eminent domain has a bigger hammer over there.


Considering that a crop failure in Russian wheat helped trigger the Arab Spring, I'm pretty sure that everyone in the Middle East, much as they may have the US, has no intention of attacking our crops or any others. All that would do is to cause grain shipments to stop, and people in the Middle East to starve.

Assuming have -> hate.

You give the wacko leaders of such places too much credit for thinking long term. Say through the next 6 to 12 months. And yes I include Trump as one of those wackos.


I'd suggest reading Richard Wrangham's Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. Then you can debate the relative merits of his argument (which I oversimplified here), instead of using the false analogy with termites. The big hint here is that you've got some sort of cubic scaling issue you're ignoring here with you're little dismissal.


You give the wacko leaders of such places too much credit for thinking long term. Say through the next 6 to 12 months. And yes I include Trump as one of those wackos.

Trump isn't a Middle East leader, last time I checked. Similarly, I'd argue that Trump will never do anything to cripple the development industry in the US, no matter how crazy he gets.*

*Kick all foreigners out? Why bless you, didn't you know that illegal immigrants earn so much less money than do legal residents? Hell, California agriculture depended on illegal immigrants up until a few years ago, and they took a substantial financial hit when Las Migras got serious about closing down the California section of the border and forced all those farm workers to be legal or else. Trump would *love* to have all the immigrant workers to be illegals working under slave conditions and threatened with deportation otherwise. It would boost profits tremendously.


Non-recommended method to disposing of radon detector/Other Dodgy Stuff: entomb in concrete in an old paint can. Dispose with other mixed pickup load of stuff at landfill.

Not that we ever did that with that Very Interesting Can in the back of the chemistry cabinet when Mike inherited it from the departing teacher. No. Never. (I don't think ether cans are supposed to be rusty, do you?)


Cruelty is, unfortunately, a driver for human activities. The spectacle of the atrocity, etcetera. We seem to be wired for it -- just as we're also wired for compassion and love. See also cute aggression (warning: lack of citations, excessively click-baity idea and presentation). There's also the sexual excitement/death nexus, and I have no idea what may have selected for that: hopefully we'll figure out some sort of explanation that lets us delete it sooner rather than later.


Er, no. Sawdust is more complex than just cellulose; cellulose is the common polysaccharide in wood, but there's also the small matter of all those lignified cell walls, and breaking down lignin is hard.

Face it, our guts have coevolved with cookery and we need either predigested food or a very high availability energy source -- fruit, for example.


Incidentally, I'm calling this thread a community win.

24 hours and over a hundred comments with no blog essay seed means that this blog now has enough of a discussion going that it can support open threads. Am I right?


... And in other news, Cyriak has released another video (with rapper "Run the Jewels").


It seems to be tending that way doesn't it.

However is the dark cloud inside that silver lining a need to upgrade the site software? Its been in the back of my mind that a tweak would be a nice to have since the threads starting hitting the 500 post mark and beyond.




Ongoing support for the current platform would require me shelling out $1000+ for a software update, plus additional troubleshooting/sysadmin costs.

I'm keeping my eyes open for a suitable upgrade path that lets me migrate away from Movable Type while keeping the existing content intact and without opening myself to a plethora of horrendous PHP-related security holes (otherwise I'd already have switched to WordPress -- the migration tools are mature). But I'm not in any immediate hurry: I want to do it right, not do it fast.


In the UK this falls under WEEE. (Yes, I did just do that for the immature humor factor).

There are three ways in which a smoke detector can be disposed of:

By a person authorised under section 13 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993
By returning it to the manufacturer
In the normal domestic waste stream, provided that:

i) they are not mixed with other radioactive waste, and
ii) no more than one smoke detector is placed in a typical refuse sack.

In the USA, your best bet is to follow the UPS guidelines - they're happy to mail them to the manufacturers under conditions (labelled properly), and have a handy little table to allow you to find out each companies' procedures.

Dispose of Smoke Detectors Properly UPS


@Host #30

Has everyone else forgotten this little bit of weird?

Apple and Facebook offer to freeze eggs for female employees Guardian, Oct 2014

Like space monkeys (or "Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing. Like the first monkey shot into space") there were hints that a good Corporate warrior would freeze their sperm / eggs at peak health (22-26) and return to the cradle issue (quite likely using surrogates) much later on. Probably when they hit VP at 30 to structure the loans / nannies for eventual birth at 50.


Smoke alarm disposal in the UK
Individual smoke alarms just go in the non recyclable waste bin. This insures that they are randomly distributed in the landfill.
Multiple alarms must have the isotope removed.


Graduate students can be much worse than your departing teacher.I inherited a lab in a university building which had been used for at least 10 years for biochemical research. By the much higher standards of the NHS every chemical not in use had to be disposed of.
The worst was a sealed bottle found at the bottom of a -40 freezer in light proof plastic in a dessicator. I can't remember what it was but ithe label said it exploded on contact with air, heating up to room temperature, water and mechanical shocks. I wondered how the purchaser had planned to remove it from its container. Or maybe he was too scared because it was unopened. I eventually managed to get the university to dispose of it but I did toy with the idea of driving to the Dales and throwing it from a hill onto rocks.
In a different lab I took over I had to dispose of a defunct radioactive counter which had an internal isotope. This had to be sent to Aldermaston and it took several months before I could use the space.
I'm sure lots of people in the same situation either don't know or just can't be bothered.


Oh, I know about androgen insensitivity syndrome - I have been known to entertain the thought that it might have been neat to have been born with it myself. I guess I was assuming - without warrant from previous comments, now that I look back - that the effects of the proposed hack would either be incomplete or would not kick in until at least after birth, maybe later, or a combination of the two. I think that would be OK from the physical health POV, as AFAIK eunuchs and castrati were not noticeably unhealthy (more for developing in the same way as caponised chickens), and trans women take drugs to effectively induce AIS without it damaging their health.

Returning to your comment at #42, it seems to me that there probably is some genetic influence on traits like docility and obedience. The evidence is in domesticated animals: we selectively breed them to emphasise these traits, the altered characteristics still show up in feral specimens of domesticated strains that have developed without human contact, and mixing raw wild stock with domesticated stock tends to cause a partial reversion of these traits to the wild type. If it can be achieved by selective breeding it ought to be theoretically possible to directly edit the genome to produce the same sort of result (although I can't see it being practically possible for a long time yet).


This is incorrect, since at least Jan 2015.

The radioactive legislations contain some exemption criteria for smoke detectors. Some Am-241 detectors of less than 40kBq are exempt from both EPR and RSA, and transport regulations provided the appropriate conditions are met.

Critically, it is an exemption from certain aspects of the radioactive legislation and not from its entirety. Many conditions still need to be met such as record keeping, use of an authorised disposal route and security to name a few.

WEEE items MUST be pre-treated prior to disposal if they contain radioactive or other hazardous materials:

Any radioactive element must be removed at an approved facility first before processing at a WEEE processor.
Producers are liable for ensuring WEEE items are properly disposed of.

Most smoke detectors must be transported in accordance with CDG. This is enforced by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and supported by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA).

This includes industrial smoke detectors, high activity detectors, detectors containing a Ra-226 isotope and quantities of household detectors.

All non-exempt smoke detectors MUST be disposed of legally and shipped under the appropriate transport legislation:

YOUR LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE DISPOSAL OF SMOKE DETECTORS ACB - UK ", leaders in the management of radioactive material", business.


it seems to me that there probably is some genetic influence on traits like docility and obedience. The evidence is in domesticated animals: we selectively breed them to emphasise these traits

Only that's not what we generally do with domesticated animals.

Domestic animals are breed to regard people as part of the herd and to not be inappropriately frightened of the predator. (If you eat mutton, you certainly smell like a predator to sheep, as an example.)

What's usually happened in consequence is that the sense of self-preservation is gone; sticking with domestic sheep as an example, your modern breeds are viewed as actively suicidal and sometimes artistic about it. Your heirloom breeds notably retain their sense of self-preservation to a much greater degree and are not so keen on the predator in wellies.

(Then you get to mules and llamas and pigs, who generally know what's going on and are decidedly unsafe to interact with save as you know how to exercise the due care.)

There are those who assert that humans self-domesticated during the neolithic revolution and have subsequently maintained the practice as we become more and more urban. The result is arguably a big hit to the capacity for self-preservation; it has to be trained in. Modern humans are, in their natural state, highly amiable and trusting.

If I was going to try to make a human population more effectively directed I'd be looking at things like sustained developmental plasticity, persistence of sexual satiety, and whatever is going on in those oddly cheerful people who maintain the outlook through miserable circumstances.


We call it "compulsory purchase", and it generally requires an Act of Parliament AFAIK, though I'm not sure if that's an actual formal requirement or just something that makes the whole process a heck of a lot easier. A very few railways were established without an Act of Parliament, but they were only tiddly little local operations. More or less all of them did have an enabling Act of Parliament which among other things gave them the power to compulsorily purchase land along a designated route; by this means they were enabled to penetrate cities and knock down what was in the way (sometimes casting this as a social good work under the heading of "slum clearance").

These days getting either the authorisation or the money to bulldoze your way into a city would be effectively impossible, but on the other hand digging enormously long tunnels is a far more practical proposition with TBMs than it was with picks. The attitude seems to be that if we can dig all the way under the Channel then anything else is easy (ish).


It probably could, but you'd not get very much out of it. I've measured a domestic smoke detector source to give 330cpm at 1cm from the Geiger tube or about 1000cpm actually touching it. (That's gammas only; the tube I used doesn't detect alphas.) The tube is a much larger sensitive element than a wee camera chip and so can collect a lot more radiation. You'd do better with a little bit of uranium ore off some mine's spoil tip, I reckon. Or maybe just an LED run at sufficiently low current to emit photons at a countable rate facing a photomultiplier tube - still involves a quantum process, but no radioactivity.


Thing is Charlie, we know from normal human variability that more docile individuals are quite possible.

The reason I think it's more likely is because for the skinchanging route we have individuals or small groups with no funding attempting to do something that would generally get stomped on as terrorism. On the other we have governments, large organisations, long R&D timelines, money, and a desire to make it stick with access to supply lines. Even if it were harder to achieve from a biological standpoint, I'd still contend it's more likely.

As for testosterone production/uptake being reduced - I'm doubting that would be seen on the negative side by the types of people who'd be wanting this path. Oh, and testosterone levels in men have fallen by 17% from 1987 to 2004 ...


If government/big business wouldn't be interested in AIS, maybe a V-script kiddie who thought
1) AIS = all female population
2) thus in 20 years nothing but hot young chicks desperate for a real man, no matter how old?


The world's least well kept conspiracy theory: Birth Control hormones and Plastics in the water.

It's not magic, but the amphibians are on the way out due to it (amongst a lot of other pressures). If you think climate scientists are manic depressives, try spending time with a herpetologist. Shit gets dark, real fucking quick.

And yes, it's not a gendered topic (the politics surrounding it surely is though). You put it in the water, you take it out: this doesn't require a return to the dank ages to solve.


On a broader take, you're looking at the wrong control mechanisms.

The preventative aspect is adequate nutrition, removal of environmental pollutants, stable / empathy driven communities etc. [Note to Gallery, Constellation Class - shall we let on about the varying targeted experiments done in this field on populations? Say... 1920-1980 as a start?].

It's all environment - given the lack of ability to control even these simple ones, mucking around with genes is total hubris. [Firefly says hello]

Spoiler: empathy driven bonding is the 'Holy Grail' of violence / aggression control. 1% are psycho/sociopaths [term since retired], 1% are the opposite. It's the 2%, opposite spectrum in a horseshoe, Heaven and Hell rule. [This is a Solved Problem].

That said: you hack the Gamma wave loop.

And yes: there's seriously nasty little fuckers working on this at the moment.


In the USA, your best bet is to follow the UPS guidelines

UPS has such guidelines??????

Oh. You mean the USPS. Huge difference. Both ship things but aside from that .....

I last looked for this a few years ago and found little help. Either Google's index has picked it up since then or my Google foo wasn't that good.


We have certain advantages in that realm. Took 4 seconds.

And yes, there was either a typo or some snark; it's the brown vans and no left turns...


Any other question you want answered?

It's kinda our thing.


And, for Greg etc:

The trail posts (WEEE, ABC etc - did you notice the snark there? You should) are a lesson.

Algos are dumb, but have brute power. Minds are much better at inference and... hmm... let's call it "Cloud Based Parallel Thought" [snark].

Chain goes like this:

#1 What is issue? (Radioactivity)
#2 What governs that? (Bureaucracy)
#3 What is transmission / detection area? (Transport)

Answer: Mail Service (Gov then Business) will have the most on point answers, poke that immediately.

Time taken (including locating relevant page): 4 seconds.

Time taken to dribble out human length response and pretend we're normal so we don't get hunted down and hurt badly by spiteful little boys: 10-15 minutes, spread over a few posts.


True story: witnessed today, slight woman (5' tops) in furry jacket at A&E, sobbing while attempting to register. Menthol cigarettes clasped in left hand, wearing those boots (every student wears them) and ridiculous faux fuzz jacket (yes, darling, looked like Sesame Street). Face far older than attire.

Caught her minutes later, puking in the ambulance bay and sobbing. Scent denoted obvious sexual assault.

A polite word to front desk to go get her and to save her while they looked confused she didn't respond to call.

Same scene: four police with one battered old woman (made homeless), obvious hooks to that one.


Why the fuck make obvious victims of sexual assault do the process?


Anyone got anything decent?

Two for this week.

Dead Ice -- Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, book 24, by Laurel K. Hamilton. The best time I've had reading fic--no, could not finish that sentence with a straight face. I stopped a 5th of the way through. I loved this series once. I really, truly loved it. Guilty Pleasures (book 1) was the first fantasy book of any kind that I ever read, and Ms. Hamilton has rightfully earned her spot as one of the most influential writers of contemporary fantasy. The whole sexy hard ass chick who explores the internal politics of monsters through the medium of sexual tension? That started with her. Both Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance owe a large debt to this series. When I first found Jim Butcher's work, I immediately classified it as "Like Anita Blake, but with a dude," because that's what it was at first. And in Dead Ice, in 158 pages of 533, all that has happened is that the existence of a bad guy is implied, the audience is told repeatedly and at length about how special Anita is, and she has sex. This isn't a novel, it's a first draft that got sent to the printers by mistake. It's sad to see what success can bring to a series. Don't refuse to be edited, folks, no matter how many books you sell.

Tank Warfare In The Second World War, by George Forty. Bunch of oral histories of tankers, mainly western, but the principles of living inside a noisy armored box while people try to kill you are apparently universal. My favorite anecdote so far is the training exercise that got rowdy enough that the trainees started hosing each other's tanks down with machine guns. Why they were issued live rounds for a training exercise is not explained. It's a little bit too much Boys Own Adventure, but if you read between the lines it can be pretty horrifying.


As for bio alterations that get loose with Disastrous Consequences, I think my favorite scenario is a virus or bacteria based metabolism hack meant to keep the subject nice and skinny, no matter how much they eat. So the rich gorge themselves while the poor starve. Not quite of a scale with some of the other suggestions here, but it's just so cruel and plausible that I can't not love it.


As for bio alterations that get loose with Disastrous Consequences, I think my favorite scenario is a virus or bacteria based metabolism hack meant to keep the subject nice and skinny, no matter how much they eat. So the rich gorge themselves while the poor starve. Not quite of a scale with some of the other suggestions here, but it's just so cruel and plausible that I can't not love it.

I figure you'd get the poor doing things like drinking motor oil to try to get around the lipid management system's determined attempt to kill them, being arrested for self-destructive behaviour, charged under some sort of addiction law (if they can do lipid management, they can do "eat cheese and get high", too, and obviously the only reason to drink motor oil is to get high) and then sued for copyright infringement because they haven't got a receipt for the (contagious, but not admittedly contagious) lipid management system.

The flip side of which is the stuff like the melamine to get the protein test to score high with the milk or the "extra virgin olive oil" at too good to be true prices that was absolutely none of the things on the label. Making convincing meat is hard, but making convincing faux whipped cream, say, isn't so very. And with that kind of biotech it's not at all obvious what might be in it, or how you could tell.


metabolism hack meant to keep the subject nice and skinny, no matter how much they eat. So the rich gorge themselves while the poor starve. Not quite of a scale with some of the other suggestions here, but it's just so cruel and plausible that I can't not love it.

Check out Makers by Cory Doctorow for a novel that contains a metabolism hack.

I have to disagree on your the rich gorging themselves. In western countries the poor gorge and become overweight on cheap, addictive high calorie 'food'.


Vat sourced milk products would be good news if competently executed - And I figure that they are by far the most likely idea so far because you wouldn't get in legal trouble for researching them.

Fat managment in particular is unlikely to be attempted through hackery of human dna, because it's going to be so much easier to do it by messing with the micro biome of the gut. Which has the potential to get very amusing/annoying, because it's an area where mistakes are fixable. So you get events where ill advised variants spread, and then everyone spends a few days on the crapper doing a reset back to "officially approved gut biome variant 7"


Regarding High Speed Rail. We built HS2, with a larger loading gauge in anticipation of through traffic from the continent, way back in the late 1800s. The northern end was even electrified. It was then shut in the 60's, and parts of it deliberately covered in motorway to stop it being revived. Parts of the Great Central Railway are preserved, but not enough to be useful for transport.
For some reason we kept the Midland Mainline, which was built to a much smaller loading gauge and a fairly twisty route. Getting the existing lines up to HS2 spec will be far more expensive, largely because you'll want to keep running trains on them at the same time.


FIRST - before I read all the preceding comments, something for Charlie & all of you ....
You may remember him saying that there's a hidden sliver of the British "aristocracy" (in the widest sense) that remains in contact with "the authorities" but go their own way?
I have just come across one such, thanks to the amazing "Spitalfields Life" blog this astounding piece on someone I never knew of previously. She worked in Stepney through the war ....
Read it, please?


The figures quoted were false, & someone was on the make, from those figures.
Even HS2 in Britain is more expensive than it should be because of ... not a lot to do with engineering, anyway.
Usual story - works in France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Italy ... couldn't possibly work HERE!


No, because "Indian" internal self-governement was proceeding anyway, simply because of the admin load & improving living standards, also happening.
I would expect India to have "Dominion status" by 1955 if not a lot sooner in that scenario.
See also MM Kaye on the subject - a LOT of "Anglo-Indians" wanted more self-government as the country progressed.
It was the local/English politicians who were agin it, same as the latter kept us locked into conscription at least 8 years if not 10 years too long after WWII


Be VERY Careful
Have you come across "the Institute for Economic Affairs" a totally bonkers right-wing so-called "think-tank"
Who want to close all railways & replace with buses?
Important point, even without modern dedicated high-speed rail, the average speed London-York (200 miles) is usually about 98.5 mph, including at least one stop.
London-Leeds, always stopping at Wakefield is still over 95 mph, with a slow approach to Leeds.
You simply cannot do this with roads.


Looking at a non-rush hour, hour out of KGX:
10.00 - Aberdeen via Edinburgh & Newcastle
10.03 - Leeds
10.08 High-speed "stopper"
10.30 - Newcastle
10.35 - Leeds
10.48 - Bradford
& then 11.00 Edinburgh again.
In the peaks there will be more, of course & those trains are doing 120-130 mph cruising speed, once past Barnet & 100 mph even inside the London Suburbs.
Note the gaps in service, effectively @ 10.10 & 10.50.
That's where they will shoehorn in the Welwyn N stoppers & also the local fasts that use the 2-track Welwyn viaduct "bottleneck" - but the latter will be running through at 100 mph, even though they are "stoppers" ....


Or simply make sure that the Beavers are not persecuted.
The Beavers in Ottery St Mary have disappeared - it's thought that some total bastard has shot them ....


See Pigeon's #117 for the legal framework.

For a worked example described by a local with an interest in railway history, fire up Bing maps, and look up "Dumbarton, Scotland, UK". The rail routes you see cross pre-existing highways at Glasgow Road, Townend Road, Renton Road and Cardross Road.

This was not achieved by "level crossings" (aka "grade crossings"?) but by constructing an embankment from about "Orissa Drive" (which post-dates the railway by over 100 years but is a handy place marker) West to the much higher ground West of the river, and using rail bridges to cross Glasgow and Townend Roads (other rail bridges also exist on this stretch of line) and using a cutting and tunnel to get under Renton Road and the much higher ground West of there that Cardoss Road goes over.


Raccoons in your roof-space - don't go there!
My sister-in-law had this problem in AUS.
Now she's in TAZ, the local wildlife is much nicer - Platypus in her stream & Echidna on the lawn. Yes, really.


resulting in demographic genocide.
Already happening, the crude way.
What do you think the appalling Delhi bus-rape & murder was about? [ And all the others that don't get so much publicity? ]
Sex ratios there are already skewed way past the damage point.
Not going to end well ....


Do I really need to take this apart, piece-by-piece for it's wrongness?
No, I'm not going to bother.
Pigeon, you are simply WRONG.
Admittedly HS2 would be a lot better if it was fractionally slower, oddly enough, but we need it - our rail system is grossly overcrowded & speed is capacity.
Game over.


See also Charlie's reply.
I disagree with some of the detail, but the basic idea of starting in Glasgow / Edinburgh / Newcastle / Leeds / Manchester is better than starting from London.
Slight problem - the London approaches are damned close to full, at present, as well.
Um, err ....


I think the foxes might regard the Raccoons as lunch ... except that Raccoons are almost as crafty as the foxes.
I had to shoo a mating pair of foxes out of my side-garage two days ago ....


I think they were about misogyny. Same social malaise that makes parents elect not to have daughters lead to these crimes. The crimes aren't caused by the gender imbalance, they are both caused by the same thing.


They used MONEY & bought people out.
Also was argued through Parliament & once a railway company had its Act passed, that was it - government fiat - you do NOT stand in the way of a Court Order.
Which was why the pre-build arguments got interesting ....


I once found a "frozen" shut (ground glass stopper had seized) container of crystalline Picric Acid.
The bottle was clearly older than the school buildings.
Fun ensued.


"Not sure how the UK dealt with such things unless eminent domain has a bigger hammer over there."

When it was done, the alternative was horse and cart over generally very bad roads. Most landowners could be persuaded by money, or a more readily access to market and, as someone else said, an Act of Parliament gave the railway companies some power for compulsory purchase (though it was usually limited and only as a last resort). Very different from today.


Move to large open space by, er, volunteer. Place gently on ground. Get some .22s. Target practice.


Ah, like plastic water-pipes in houses, as opposed to Copper?
The Amphibians here, are all right so far (Newts & Frogs in pond) but overall, its not looking good.
I just want to know where my local population of Bombus terrestris has gone.
I miss their cuddly buzzings


Yeah, the vested interests at that time included Ernest Marples - what a fucking crook!


"Who want to close all railways & replace with buses?"

The DafTies. Dating back to the 1950s. Beeching was given a remit that explicitly did not allow any of (a) changing the Victorian regulations that were causing serious inefficiency, (b) selling off any lines to be run as railways or (c) converting the railways to private roads. The last would have avoided the rural collapse that removing the railway links often caused.


"We built HS2, .... It was then shut in the 60's, and parts of it deliberately covered in motorway to stop it being revived."

Still going on, upon occasion. Look at the Cambridge Guided Busway.


The figures quoted were false, & someone was on the make, from those figures.

One day when you make such statements based on emotions you might actually be correct. Figures were accurate. As I said I was tangentially involved in my work plus it was local politics and I was tracking it for a decade.

You don't know what you are talking about.


''I would expect India to have "Dominion status" by 1955 if not a lot sooner in that scenario. It was the local/English politicians who were agin it, ..."

And the latter is my point. They excluded India from that in 1931, there were still against it in the early 1940s, and I doubt there would have been much change. So the independence movement would have grown, and conflict would have been inevitable.


OK. I give in. You are significantly more imaginative than I am, at least in this area. But, God help us all, that scenario is just SO right :-(


If nobody was on the make, then you are clearly living in the right place! Those figures are like HS2, and follow directly from the conditions placed on the project and current land situation. But a great many of those are artificial, as one can see by the occasional comparison between the costs of building a motorway and a railway. It ain't gonna be cheap, whatever, but can be good value for potentially high-traffic routes.

And, if we had a government that did any long-term planning, it could be really quite cheap. Buying up the rights for possession in 25 years' time (and being generous with it) is a lot less controversial and cheaper than doing so for unpredictably imminent possession. It also means that a lot of the connections and other infrastructure can be done as part of routine upgrades.


With over 1/2 a billion $ in play, yes, I'm sure there was some padding in a few places. I was referring to the "false figures" statement.

But again, the commission setup for mass transient in the area got it in their mind to build a railroad instead of figuring out how to best move people around the area. I knew several of the people (both politicians and contractors) involved in the planning and they would tell stories off the record of how logic seemed to leave the plan once it was decided to build a railroad. Now 10 years on, they are still running a bus service and we don't have any other options for getting around. Well there's Uber and Lyft. :)

Oh yeah. $140 MILLION was spent getting to this point. And the commission does own a lot of abandoned real estate that was going to be used for stations.


...the commission set up for mass transient in the area...
I've heard of "HS2" but this is the first suggestion I've seen of it using relativistic velocities! ;-)


DO NOT randomly introduce species from one place to another. If you wish to see why, look at the impact of cane toads on Australian wildlife.


Re: how different or similar the world might have been without WWII - I suspect women's rights would be less further advanced, I believe that turning all the women into workers during the war had, *consequences*.

Graydon @88 - the sawdust and grease trap thing, that's bloody depressing sir. Too believable.

The whole sexy hard ass chick who explores the internal politics of monsters through the medium of sexual tension? That started with [Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter].

This will come as something of a surprise to Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, who predates Anita by a year or so. (While the Buffy film is, um, not very good, it does contain all the basic elements that went into the hugely superior TV series five years later.)

It wouldn't surprise me to find that there were others around the same time, too; it seems to have been an idea whose time had come[tm].


Indeed so. It's quite possible that Hamilton had written the novel before the film came out, or was even known about, but couldn't get a publisher to take it. The film then comes out, is moderately successful, and all of a sudden publishers are happy to take another look at the novel.


If it can be achieved by selective breeding it ought to be theoretically possible to directly edit the genome to produce the same sort of result

I'm dubious about the prior research to isolate such traits ever being done -- at least, not by human beings. Thing is, we can practice selective breeding of some species because their life cycle is much shorter than the experimenters. Dogs or cats are ready to breed around the one year mark, so an experimenter can plausibly cram 30-40 generations into a single career.

Humans can't really do experimental selective breeding on humans because, ignoring the ethical issues for now humans take a really long time to reach reproductive maturity -- absolute minimum of about 9 years, with a very high maternal risk level, and more like 12-16 years. So a hypothetical experimenter could cram maybe 4-5 generations into a career. But we're bad at developing institutions that outlive a single human life expectancy -- so a hypothetical 70 year long breeding program might survive long enough to get, at most, 6-7 generations in. That's almost certainly not sufficient to isolate any useful traits. And human organizations that pursue a goal across time scales longer than a century are pretty rare.

A hypothetical aristocrat caste with longevity meds might be able to selectively breed a slave/serf caste, but that's a second-order consequence of a primary change in the human condition (and an unexpected one, because I'd expect an unequal society that develops longevity meds to end up with a full scale tumbrils-and-guillotines revolution within fifty years).


Figures were probably "accurate" given a skewed remit - see also Dr Beeching form a n other poster ....


The rail thing reminded me that Ian Hislop did a very good program on the Beeching cuts-including how the data used was ballsed up in the south west. Lines that were heaving with tourists and had literally made their towns were inspected at middays in the winter, or something equally daft.

Then thinking of Hislop made me wonder what a Laundryverse Private Eye would look like in the coming, cat out the bag books. Maybe columnist "Cthuligan" will be detailing one of Bobs eldritch cock ups?


so an experimenter can plausibly cram 30-40 generations into a single career.

And that's if they ignore any possible epigenetic effects coming from the early breeding.

There's an intriguing article on the New Scientist website about the 'world's most endangered fish', the Devils Hole pupfish. Not only are there only a few dozen of them in the wild, but the species now appears to be only 255 years old. Within recorded history, there may have been a succession of pupfish species in that habitat. Also preservation of this version effectively prevents the arrival of new species.


If you are worrying about people using technology to enslave, genetic engineering isn't where you should be focusing your fears, because accessing neural architecture in the necessary detail via germ line edits would be both slow and absurdly difficult.
Advanced scanning and computational modeling being used for blatantly evil innovation in neuro-surgery and neuro-cybernetics would happen *much* sooner in any world where the 0.1 percent had the necessary clout and immunity from consequence.


Advanced scanning and computational modeling being used for blatantly evil innovation in neuro-surgery and neuro-cybernetics would happen *much* sooner in any world where the 0.1 percent had the necessary clout and immunity from consequence.

So, like the caps in The Tripods?


The British Isles have the most resilient ecologies to introductions of anywhere in the world. Indeed, the land species are almost entirely recent (11,000 years at most, and generally less) invaders and introductions, and far more are new in the past 1,000 years than most people realise. The only major problem we would be likely to have with raccoons (as we have with grey squirrels and all our major species of deer) is the lack of any carnivore capable of keeping them under control. We already have huge numbers of foxes and feral cats to spread rabies, and it is unlikely that one more carrier would make much difference.

What we need is a restoration of the lynx, and I mean to everywhere including suburbia. Indeed, that's a desperate need if some of our woodland ecologies are going to survive.


A surprise to Buffy Anne Summers, who first entered pre-production in mid-1991 (based on a July 1992 release date for the film).


Publication date != author's production time. Manuscripts take a year to turn into books after they're handed in, and the author takes a while to write them before that, and for a first novel it probably spends between three months and thirty years in submission before an editor buys it. So the first Anita Blake book was written AT LEAST two years before the publication date.

Sure it overlapped with Buffy in production, but neither would have been aware of the other. (The TV pitch-to-script cycle is similar to the writing cycle, but once acquired for production Things Happen A Lot Faster.)


Er, no. You maybe want to go back and read Betty Friedan or Germaine Greer and the other second wave feminists on the subject of the post-WW2 backlash. (When they're not off the reservation and ranting about trans* or other LGBT issues which are none of their business, they're usually right, and the post-WW2 "back to the kitchen, give the jobs back to the boys" push was savage.)


Ottery Beavers, not so much disappeared or shot as alive, well and wandered off (as of 24-Dec-2015). So that's all good then.


My favorite anecdote so far is the training exercise that got rowdy enough that the trainees started hosing each other's tanks down with machine guns. Why they were issued live rounds for a training exercise is not explained.

No change there, then... I suspect, though, that as it was wartime, "not having any bullets or shells in the tank" would have been rather embarrassing if the exercise was cancelled at short notice because nearby enemy were being surprising, or because an enemy aircraft turned up. Dad, as an early-1960s tank gunner, told a tale that the ration tins of jam could be fired using a blank round, to cause a realistic "clang" and spread a thin layer of sticky stuff all over the opposing wagon.

Training with live ammunition is something that the British Army has always believed in; after all, would you really like the first time you saw the stuff off a target range, be in a war?

So; you start off on a rifle range, then transition to firing on a rifle range that has some more realistic stuff on it (a windowframe, a gate, a shellscrape, a section of roof); then with movement; then as a pair; then as a team, a section of eight, a platoon of thirty-odd, and a company of a hundred-odd. Then you do it at night. Or add grenades, anti-tank weapons, mortars, artillery. It used to be called "field firing", but is now "live firing tactical training". Yay for buzzwords.

Leading a live-firing company attack exercise on a field firing range is... fun. Especially when the mortar and machine gun platoons are involved.

This scales up; there's a huge training area in Canada where the British Army keeps enough kit for a full armoured battlegroup, with artillery support, to exercise with live ammunition. And once the Cold War was over, some of the big Soviet range facilities in Poland became available. The Soviets thought the same way; allegedly, when the British visited the Polish ranges for the first time, they asked about permitted ammunition natures, expecting the usual "no White Phosphorous!" rule - and instead were told "all OK, just no persistent nerve agents"...

By contrast, the US used to be quite risk-averse, and invested a lot in their simulation kit. Lots of blank and lasers. The perception from this side of the Atlantic in the 1980s/90s was that this made their soldiers less averse to firing on exercise, because there were no consequences other than "beep-beep-beep" - and that they would fight as they trained, so that their blue-on-blue casualty rates would be higher on operations as a result. They have since changed how they do things, AIUI.


By contrast, the US used to be quite risk-averse, and invested a lot in their simulation kit. Lots of blank and lasers.

A reasonable number of my friends from University were engineering graduates involved with a company in NZ that essentially made *very* high end laser tag gear for the SAS and US Special Forces, which later expanded to general military and SWAT use.

When a container load or two of kit was due to be shipped, they would regularly do a friends and family call for extra bodies to come along and play proper laser tag with all the gear to make sure it all was in working order.

I've never forgotten the incredibly detailed information the controllers got as to exactly who did what, when, where and how, in real time. Given that this was near 20yrs ago, before such things became commonplace, I'd love to see what they are up to now.


Or not; the term "field firing" is still used on/by UK Ranges.


On the subject of the rise of nazism and the inevitability of WWII I'm sometimes pondering an alt-hist scenario where the German judicial system in 1924 had done its job properly:

After the attempted coup in 1923 Hitler gets sentenced to imprisonment for life. Of course he isn't allowed to write, much less to publish a book. Eventually he is released—let's say after 15 years, in 1939—and expelled to Austria, and banned from reentering Germany ever again.

The NDSAP remains banned and is forced to go underground, with no charismatic leader to whom the elites are pondering. It may continue to exist and cause some harm, but never gets close to taking power. The Weimar Coalition doesn't crumble under the relentless attacks from the right.

Thus WWII—at least in its form as a German expansionist and racist war; there could be other reasons for war, of course, perhaps centered on the USSR or Japan—never happens, and we (here in Germany) are still living in the Weimar Republic.


Some have already seen this idea, but personally, I think the various aristocracies of the world are good evidence that humans aren't a domesticated species.

Here's the point: domesticated species are under intense selective pressure because their breeding is controlled by humans (or, if you want to stretch it, other species like ants). Note that I'll keep this really broad by including natural cloning of plants, through things like grafting and taking tubers, as a form of breeding control, because that's how we domesticated species like apples and bananas.

Do we have cases where human breeding is controlled by other humans?

Yes, sort of: aristocrats. Now, the question is, do aristocratic qualities (thinks like charisma, intelligence, and leadership potential) breed true? Nope. We're as bad as apples when it comes to traits carrying on, in most cases.

Do humans even breed well in captivity, in cases where our mates are chosen for us and our efforts are monitored? Yeah, not so well either.

Based on these criteria, I'd suggest that humans are not a domesticated species. Furthermore, I'd suggest that the only way you're going to domesticate humans is to clone or sweetest and most productive people, as if they were apples or bananas.


First of all, you don't stop everywhere -- only at major hubs, where a hub-and-spoke model provides connections to smaller destinations.

I remember reading somewhere that the Via Rail trip between Toronto and Ottawa takes much longer than it 'should' because of all the stops added in to keep MPs happy. And engineer told me that over much of the route the train never makes it to full speed before it has to slow down for the next station.


I've ridden the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver. That has a hell of lot of 'request stops'.

Mind you, given that it's a passenger train running mostly on a single track line and that it has to give way to any freight train coming the other way, perhaps there are other reasons that it takes over 3 days to get to the other end.


Well, that was a riff on April_D's scenario.

Something a lot of people miss is that oligarchs don't uniformly want reflexive obedience. (The enforcers do. But not usually the oligarchs.) The system's usually set up so you have to work hard to figure out what the oligarch wants and give it to them.

It's why I doubt we'll see outright slavery mods; much more likely to see things like refusal impairment, induced contrition, and finely structured anxiety. (Watch for public statements about "good anxiety" and "finely structured anxiety" and "socially appropriate anxiety" and so on.)

I also expect we're going to see really strong cosmetic class markers as genetic modification tech takes off. And that this is going to have much larger social ramifications than initially expected.


Yes, sort of: aristocrats. Now, the question is, do aristocratic qualities (thinks like charisma, intelligence, and leadership potential) breed true? Nope.

Except that those aren't the qualities aristocracies generally breed for -- aristocracies breed for real estate ownership via dynastic mergers, or at least custody maintenance via trusts and wills and so forth. All other characteristics are secondary to (a) having children qualified to inherit, and (b) leaving them an estate the same size, or larger, than the previous generation's.


The 747 also hurts because Airlines have learned a lesson.


Via two uncles, one who worked for one of the big airlines in maintenance, and the other who worked for a manufacturer, most airlines used to have a dozen or more types of airplanes.

Insanely expensive in the end. Your pilots need to be trained for each type of plane. You need adequate numbers of parts. You need additional maintenance techs. You cannot properly stagger maintenance and routes due to the differing limits. One uncle went thru a reorg for an airline that went from 11 aircraft types to 3. A puddle jumper, a mid range (727), and tranoceanic plane.

The 747 isn't efficient enough for the workhorse spot. The 727 or its equivalent is just so good here. Southwest's efficiency is because it's just 727s, so one set of parts, one set of training and being able to rotate planes to use the maximum out of each plane.

The 747 is fighting against new planes that have less drag, that are more modern, and has twice the engines, meaning lots more failure points and replacement parts needed.


What *is* the thinking behind this, anyway? I could imagine a kind of evolutionary effect; the people who are rich and think that not spending all their wealth is a good idea are those most likely to have children who both inherit wealth and have the same idea, but it that all there is to it?

Given that death is the end of the game, what *is* the attraction of not blowing every last penny?


much more likely to see things like refusal impairment

Sure that isn't cultural? Based on trying to persuade an engineering team from another culture to admit that they couldn't, or didn't know how to, carry out a particular task at the first request... experience repeated by many colleagues...

Unless, of course, you want to search for a particular genetic marker in a particular continent?


Retirement and old age. Who's going to take care of you without trying to a) rip you off or b) bump you off?

...the answer is that you trust your family. Have descendents to avoid a), then hand over the estate early enough to avoid b). See endless Agatha Christie novels about the unlikely failure modes


You misremember: the 727 was a short-haul trijet that went out of production in 1984 -- it couldn't be hush-kitted, and all the airframes are over 30 years old (meaning out of service in the developed world -- too old to insure/maintain).

I think you mean the 737 (single aisle twin-jet). Just about the world's most successful airliner, although the Airbus A320 family (the 318, 319, 320, and 321 -- same wing and fuselage section, but different degrees of stretch and fuel tankage that bracket the Boeing narrow-body range from the 727 through the 737 and 757) is giving it a very close run.

Boeing learned their lesson: IIRC the 747 and 767 shared a common cockpit to speed crew cross-training, and the 777 is pretty close for the same reason. Airbus learned the same lesson: the A330 wide-body (successor to the A300/310) and the A340 are essentially the same fuselage and wing, but with two big engines or four slightly smaller ones (for long-haul over-water routes). Mostly identical cockpits and parts, and similar maintenance requirements.

(As for the 747 fighting against modern planes with twice the engines -- I wasn't aware that Boeing had built a civilian passenger version of the B-52 Stratofortress, and that's the only 8-engined jet I can think of!)


Having worked in pretty much every part of the publishing industry (and read your blog for years:), I know how long a book takes to go from manuscript to hardback. However:

Sure it overlapped with Buffy in production, but neither would have been aware of the other. (The TV pitch-to-script cycle is similar to the writing cycle, but once acquired for production Things Happen A Lot Faster.)

Things can happen a lot faster. But sometimes they don't. In this case, Whedon sold the script for the Buffy film way back in 1988, and the delays were fairly late in the process, where it was repeatedly rewritten (moving steadily further away from Whedon's original vision, as he has complained ever since:) just before production started. But the idea had been publically around since at least 1988, because a film company paid money for a completed script back then.


You seem to think that money is a medium of exchange; that's completely out of date. It is the one true measure of personal worth, and you don't need to use it to benefit from it. The same used to be true of land. Seriously.

Another aspect relates to what Heteromeles said. We are not a domesticated animal (nor a herd/pride animal), but we are a social animal, and one where parental binding is very strong. Supporting your children lies very deep in most people's emotions.


To clarify - I don't think L Laurel K. Hamilton was intentionally duplicating, which my previous comment could be read to imply. But Buffy probably predates Anita on paper.


An entire society "working towards the Furher?" Ouch.

And Tanya Huff beat LKH by 2 years with Blood Price in 1991 in the Urban Fantasy with Strong Female Protagonist and Vampire Boyfriend genre.


Family affection has already been mentioned. As is the desire to keep score, and you can't total up the score until you are dead, a it were.
There's also the belief that you arne't going to die. Or at least not yet. So lets have another business deal, another slice of cake.
To put it another way, the only way to keep yourself in the lifestyle, both phsyical (Champagne, jets, cars) and social/ mental (lots of flunkies, power, more power) is being rich, and you can't do that if you give it all away.*

*well, you can, sort of, but the kind of person who can see that isn't usually the kind that gathers lots of money to themselves.


I'm aware of the link but it's for commercial users.

This site has different rules for domestic users. It's possible there have been changes since the page was set up inj 2011 but the site has blogs (on other subjects) for 2016 so I expect it would have been updated.
I replaced a smoke alarm last year and it was accepted at the local recycling centre where it went in with all the other WEEE waste.


Indeed mismemberence all over the place. Not only did I mean the 737 but I meant half the engines. Sigh, lack of coffee today.

Boeing did make the later models more compatible, but the other problem was how many DC-8s/MD 80s are still in the air. And some of this leads to airlines often being a single airline shop since there's more carry over.

The basic principle still remains, its much easier to keep it simpler when you can reduce the number of failure points, potential incompatibilities, and make everything interchangable.

Despite how much people crow about the deterioration of the airline industry, it still makes money, and safety is still pretty good. Otoh there's a lead time for some of these failures due to a low chance event.

American Airlines flight 191 was just such an event. Standard practice for replacing the engine required placing it in a cradle to hold it into place. That cradle was a pain, and people hated using it. So some bright eyed idiot figured out to save time they could use two forklifts to lift it into place. Saved time and money. Backpats all around. Until a break happened when they were partly done with mounting. Two of the three Pylons were broken before it left Tulsa, with the stress of takeoffs leading to the last one breaking on take off from Chicago about two months after the first two broke.


I once found a "frozen" shut (ground glass stopper had seized) container of crystalline Picric Acid.
The bottle was clearly older than the school buildings.
Fun ensued.

Picric acid has a weird urban legend-y reputation for extreme danger. It was known in the 18th century but chemists didn't even discover its explosive potential until the mid-19th century. Its heavy metal salts are sensitive to friction and shock, but neat picric acid itself is insensitive enough for use as an artillery shell filler. Indeed it was so used from the late 19th century up through at least the first World War.

Sax's Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials classes it as a high explosive that can be initiated by strong shock, rather like TNT. It's not anywhere near mercury fulminate. Yet there's this folk wisdom of picric acid that treats it like a rattlesnake coiled around a hand grenade.


Picnic acid has always been a big problem in hospital labs. It was used (and still in in all but the most progressive labs to measure creatinine - one of the commonest biochemical tests (my lab did ~2,000 per day). Several labs have been closed for days on rebuilding because of picnic acid contamination of sinks and the danger of explosions.


'picnic' acid?

I can see how bad kerning could lead to the one turning into the other.


Grey squirrels can now be fairl easily controlled. When pine martens are reintroduced grey squirrel number fall dramatically and the red squirrels come back.


Picnic acid
I blame the iPad for turning my typos into real words.


The ECML isn't the best comparison for a Vancouver BC to San Diego line just because it breaks down between Sacramento and Eugene. There's few destinations that make economic sense for passenger rail between them. And there's lots of mountains followed by valleys.

The current Amtrak line cuts from the Western Valleys to the eastern plateau behind the Cascades/Sierra Nevada for most of that route. Following I-5's route isn't possible, and the existing Siskiyou route was just finally reopened after being closed for years. That route btw, requires a 4,300 foot climb for the Siskiyou pass at the Oregon/California Border.

But even using the other route to avoid the valleys requires the use of the Willamette Pass, which is even higher at 5,123 feet.

And even the SF-LA HSR route is spending gobs of money on dealing with the Grapevine.

Honestly, as much as I'd love HSR between Sacramento and Eugene, it doesn't make sense. You've got few paying destinations between them, and a well developed airline industry. Most places its an hours drive to an airport, and there's many flights in the large cities. I last paid about 150 US for a SJ portland flight round trip


I suspect you're assuming something a bit more modern, where laws help people hold onto their wealth. In places where holding onto the estate is challenging, and pawning off running it on estate management firms was suicidal, I suspect aristocrats did really want their children to be as competent as they were. Indeed, some systems (here I'm thinking about the Mughals) pretty much set up a fratricidal system to find the most competent heir to inherit.


Yes, that would be a big problem, because old buildings are going to have lead and/or copper pipework.

Lead picrate is a "walk away very very quietly and hide behind something solid before calling the experts" because it's extremely shock and friction sensitive.

If you pour picric acid solution down an old lead pipe it will react with the oxide layer on the surface and give you a very sensitive explosive layer. The same goes for some of the compounds (sodium picrate will convert to lead picrate very easily, since the latter is less soluble),

Another nasty is sodium azide - used to prevent mould growth in stock solutions, which will react to form copper or lead azide without much encouragement.

There's a demonstration of lead picrate properties in Davis' "The chemistry of powder and explosives" involving lead oxide, picric acid, and a metal dish on a sand bath. When heated, the (very cautiously mixed powder) melts, lead picrate is formed and immediately detonates, setting off the unreacted picric acid and severely denting or piercing the dish.

Explosives chemists are all quite, quite mad. (e.g. "What happens if we dry-distil nitroglycerine to it's endpoint?" - it goes on: "The apparatus was set up behind a substantial barricade" and goes rapidly downhill from that point. )

Old books are an entertaining read, but safety standards have improved by several orders of magnitude since then. (Not to mention the laws concerning explosives. Anyone considering following the instructions in some of those books should consider that quite apart from being illegal in most places, there may not be enough left of you to identify, far less bring to trial.)


Remember inheritance laws greatly vary, even within the UK there's examples departing from primogeniture.

I posted this under the Shibboleths thread, because assuming there's one method really irritates me.

Are you under Danelaw with Gavelkind? Everyone gets an equal share.

Later English law (under Anglo-Norman tradition) goes to primogeniture, where the eldest gets the entire pie.

But Nottingham, Mongolia, and some German Duchies practiced Ultimogeniture, where the youngest got the cake.

Seniority is currently used in Saudi Arabia, where the members of the eldest generation are inheriting. It will be an issue in a bit when that generation is dead and a much larger generation has to share. Anjou also followed this such that it became a big issue after Richard the Lionheart died and it was unclear if King John or his nephew had the right to the lands in England.

The Irish and Poles both had forms of elective monarchy, with rules about who was eligible to vote for their overlord or who was the heir.

Not to mention the role of women, could they inherit at all? Were they after their brothers, but before their uncles? Were they equal?

And because nobles would marry out for reasons of state, there could be vast differences of opinion between relatives. Like say between the royal houses of France and England during the 100 years war.


Haven't read all of the comments yet ... so apologies if this is a repeat. Suggest you check animal experiments for sociablity/docility work. Most of the time what works on large mammals will probably also work for humans.

Anyways ... the study below with heifers shows identifiable and trackable genetic bases of docility. The 0.22 is a pretty high/strong number for a trait given how complex this animal is.


'This thesis includes two studies that assessed the relationships between docility and reproduction in Angus heifers, both from a phenotypic and genetic standpoint. The objective of the first study was to elucidate the phenotypic relationships between docility and first service AI conception rate in heifers. ... The heritability for docility score was estimated to be 0.22 ± 0.03. ...'

The fox experiment was conducted in Russia:


" .. Another aspect relates to what Heteromeles said. We are not a domesticated animal (nor a herd/pride animal), but we are a social animal, and one where parental binding is very strong. Supporting your children lies very deep in most people's emotions. "

EH!! ?? How is it Possible to be SO Fucking Innocent and Naive? !!

I can sort of dimly see it in the perspective of a 5 year old .. though not personally from my Childhood, which was rather North of Eastern of England Working Class Grim. A police officer once advised me, and HE spake saying that they couldn't follow up on the case since the Women Always withdrew the complaint and so it wasn't worth the Trouble. No, I should wait until I was big enough and then give my **** a savage beating. This was standard advice way back in the Era depicted in the TV series " Life on Mars ".. but, Oh Gimme Strength! ...

So .." Supporting your children lies very deep in most people's emotions " it may be in your emotions,in comfy Middle Class Land, but way back then ? In those happy sunlit days of the Summer of Love et al? And onward through the '70s?

There was a huge level of domestic violence of every sort way back then. And now? At least there is a recognition of the problem that is not based upon wishful thinking.


Laser-based weapon emulations are still in wide use in many NATO countries. Once the kit has been acquired, its much cheaper to use on a per-exercise basis compared with firing real rounds, especially for tanks, etc. The technology is more sophisticated than 'laser-quest': the lasers fire modulated pulses, where the code identifies the notional ammo used, who has fired, etc. The receiver (sometimes a central adjudicator) can then determine the likely damage, including calculating ballistic effects. The lasers are usually integrated with GPS and comms systems so that Exercise Control can determine in real time where people are and what is happening. Area weapons (arty and mortars) can be injected virtually by sending detonation events (via radio) to people and platforms in the target area. Biggest problem is when the laser beam is interrupted by a thin thing (e.g. plywood) that would be easily penetrated by a real round. And of course, there are many competing standards for the laser codes, complicating international exercises.


The service sector was already growing rapidly postWW1 so if no WW2, the industrial (products) sector would have peaked faster only to fall off even more rapidly. Rail and automotive in the US were among the largest employers post-WW1 along with foundries, mining. The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. WW2 proved that the depression era social programs were useful when the gov't needed educated/trained more-or-less healthy young men to send to war. So without proof that social programs were cost-effective and politically (internationally) useful, there would be even fewer social programs than before because everyone who mattered would have been convinced that only the pure capitalist model was worth pursuing. Women's rights would probably have been affected. The 30's was the first era where reliable contraception was available. In a poor-get-poorer society, possibility that more poor might have been persuaded/urged to undergo sterilization because they could not afford to raise their kids.

Most importantly -- because the above scenario essentially describes two segments of society drifting farther and farther apart -- you'd end up with a no-middle-class society/USA. Therefore no market for middle-class goods and services: washing machines, dishwashers, and everything else commonly found in a typical middle class home. The US communications and entertainment industries would also be affected.


That's why one of my periodic entertainments is checking in with Thomas Klapötke's lab in the University of Munich, either via Derek Lowe or referrals from chemist friends in Austria to something funky they've just barely managed to not detonate for long enough to look at.


Did anyone ever discover what the US of A was really using way back then in 2003 in Iraq? Here just one report among many? ..

" A nightmarish US super weapon reportedly was employed by American ground forces during chaotic street fighting in Baghdad. The secret tank-mounted weapon was witnessed in all its frightening power by Majid al-Ghazali, a seasoned Iraqi infantryman who described the device and its gruesome effects as unlike anything he had ever encountered in his lengthy military service. The disturbing revelation is yet another piece of cinematic evidence brought back from postwar Iraq by intrepid filmmaker Patrick Dillon."

Just curious ..My guess would be some sort of Enhanced Flamethrower type thingy - such things have been used on the Battlefield for a very long time in their modern, say, First World War form even if you ignore Greek Fire. But ..maybe a true Energy Weapon in Field Trial?

If, say, it was a field trial of an energy beam weapon then it really hasn't seen much use since then has it?


maybe a true Energy Weapon in Field Trial?

I'd file it alongside the Nazi Antarctic Hollow Earth theories, Lizard People, USS Eldridge, the Men in Black, and... UFO probing... in reliability terms. So, no.

Apart from the Lizard People, maybe - how else to explain the Daily Mail?


''Once the first virus has gone around, whatever it does, expect half the worlds professors to be examining it, particularly if it's just changed everyone's skin color.

Was anyone talking about the Zika virus back then? Because it seems that there's bugger-all preparedness for this virus. Anyone who's not seen/read any news ... this virus can cause microcephaly (first trimester of pregnancy exposure), plus paralysis has been observed, plus some researchers are also wondering whether the virus can be spread sexually.


Through mosquito bites

Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

These mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water in things like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. They are aggressive daytime biters, prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people.
Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.

Rarely, from mother to child

A mother already infected with Zika virus near the time of delivery can pass on the virus to her newborn around the time of birth, but this is rare.
It is possible that Zika virus could be passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy. This mode of transmission is being investigated.
To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed even in areas where Zika virus is found.

Possibly through infected blood or sexual contact

There has been one report of possible spread of the virus through blood transfusion and one report of possible spread of the virus through sexual contact.


The 727 had its reputation helped by a gentleman who referred to as D B Cooper; the staircase at the rear could be lowered in flight, and made for an excellent jump door :)


And Wot, pray, is wrong with " Lizard People " theories? How else do you explain the existence of ..

" "The US military deserves a commander-in-chief who loves this country and will never apologise for this country. Mr Trump is beholden to noone. He is not a politician, can I get a Hallelujah? He's gone rogue left and right and that's why he's doing so well.

"He's the only one with the guts to wear the issues on his sleeve. They (the establishment) have been wearing political correctness kind of like a suicide vest."

Mrs Palin also praised Mr Trump's "faith in the Almighty". "^tfw

Mind you The Alien Lizard Overlords are getting to be really good with the Whole Body Human Suits these days ..Palin is almost convincing.


That's not a small "what if" scenario. That's close to a complete rewrite of German history. I think you would have to have conservative/reactionary forces comprehensively lose the post-WWI struggle, not just simmer down to a barely cool truce with the rest of society. Even if things had gone better and WWII did not happen, I think Weimar was at best going to have a Fourth Republic type existence. A new modus vivendi was going to have to be worked out eventually.


Right. Which doesn't conflict with what I said. We have a desperate lack of pine martens in most of the UK ....


I should like to point out that I said that, not Martin; please flame thr right person. And, if you read up a bit more about the area, you will discover that one of the effects of social stress in most social animals is a breakdown in their natural behaviours. And, when it comes to the management of Real Money, those that have it are among the least socially stressed of the population.


You might enjoy this short book;

"An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants"


Your explanation of Palin is most convincing, I agree.


If their staff were to go on picnics and take acid, it would, indeed, be a big problem for hospitals.


Since this is an anything thread, how about you all post URL to selfies? Preferably not boring LinkedIn style photos.
I only know what one or two regulars look like


The biggest problem is the US had a bunch of disinformation campaigns during the war. And it's possible this story was a plant.

There's at least one story I heard where the point of the disinformation was to convince the insurgents that the US had energy shields and that a modification to their RPGs was needed to hurt armored vehicles. This modification would unbalance the rocket during flight. A friend told a story of how this modification saved his life when he was shot at in a humvee.


Azides are also a problem in hospital biochemistry labs since they are used as preservatives in so many reagents. Fortunately they are used in very small concentrations and are always flushed away with large volumes of water. At least they are if the SOPs are followed.
Luckily my last lab was in a 21st century hospital with plastic drains.
Old pathology books can also be dangerous. When I was in my teens I was seconded to a very small lab in a small children's hospital.
I did the microscopy on a urine sample and as per protocol had centrifuged it and discarded the supernatant. The patients consultant then called the lab, said the patient could produce no more urine and asked for a specific gravity. At the time this was done using a hydrometer in a 100mL measuring cylinder. I remembered something I had read in one of the old textbooks (1920s) in the lab and made a mixture of acetone and chloroform altering the ratios until one of the remaining drops of urine was suspended in the mixture. I could then measure the SG of the mixture to determine the SDG of the urine and felt quite pleased with myself.
A few months later when I had left my job to do a chemistry degree our induction to the labs specifically warned us that acetone and chloroform gave an explosive mixture.


Online dating sites are an obvious 21st century way to conduct human breeding experiments. And, it could be self-financing. At present, the estimate is that approx. 20% of USian adults use dating sites.


I apologize to both of you for miss targeting.

My, er, Somewhat intemperate Comment remains though, and some of the worst cases of domestic violence that I've encountered over the past half century or so have been in rather well off upper middle class British families.

As an example? One case in which the Professionally Employed at High Level couple involved had met in university where both were of the same religion ... but He became more zealous in the pursuit of his Faith and She rather less so as time went by so that 'conversations ' on the future of their children involved him seizing her by the throat and shaking her ..hence an afternoon spent with her in my mums kitchen wherein I taught her of the importance of having a line of retreat to a safe house after self defense- grab the kids and run after she had executed the break hold to front strangle hold and counter attack that I taught her at my mothers insistence.

Happily it worked, he suffered a burst eardrum - would have been both eardrums if she had got it precisely right but you cant have everything can you? - and they divorced soon thereafter with her geting custody of the kids. He remarried to someone who agreed with his religious principles and if they didn't live Happily Ever After as they had once planned at least they did live.


I apologize to both of you for miss targeting

I took no offence - I thought you were being as tongue-in-cheek as I was...


But Buffy probably predates Anita on paper.

That might be true, but within the realm of fantasy novels, I'd say Anita is far and away the more influential character. Note that, as you point out, the BTVS movie wasn't real great, and that limits its impact. Further, a lot of the tropes that came to define 90s and early 2000s Urban Fantasy--procedural format, first person narration, supernatural creatures with complicated social structures, often openly or semi-secretly living alongside human society, and the heroine having a string of supernatural lovers--appear in Guilty Pleasures, but not BTVS.

Later in the decade, as the BTVS TV show took off, it started to cross pollinate into publishing, but by then many of the standards of the genre had been well established and we were well into the variations-on-a-theme phase. (This heroine is a werewolf with a radio show! This heroine is a witch who is a former law enforcement officer! And so on...)

Ultimately, it doesn't matter which one got printed out on a slice of dead tree first. It matters which started making real waves first, and I think Hamilton's work clearly has better claim to that title than Wheadon's. (Wheadon is, of course, hugely influential in other ways.)

If we're looking for alternatives to my theory, then Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat character probably has a better claim than Buffy on influencing the early course of urban fantasy. To my knowledge, however, the Anita Blake books took the idea of complicated, (semi-)sympathetic monsters in the modern world and added on all those other features I mentioned that became so ubiquitous.


Azides are also a problem

As ever, Derek Lowe's "In the Pipeline" blog is well worth a mention. His writing as a professional chemist and blogger is a thing of humour and beauty :)

Azides get several entries in the category "Things I won't work with"... here's a taste of his thoughts on azides:

It’s time for another dispatch from the land of spiderweb-cracked blast shields and “Oh well, I never liked that fume hood, anyway”. Today we have a fine compound from this line of work, part of a series derived from N-amino azidotetrazole. The reasonable response to that statement is “Now hold it right there”, because most chemists will take one look at that name and start making get-it-away-from-me gestures. I’m one of them. To me, that structure is a flashing red warning sign on a dead-end road, but then, I suffer from a lack of vision in these matters.

Seriously, read some of the articles in the category - makes Oi larf out loud :) Definitely read the Chlorine Azide entry...


How about thermobaric weapons? Fuel-air explosives might look pretty damn horrifying to someone with no experience of them, and they're definitely something both the US and Russian military have been playing with. Not sure if they were deployed in Iraq, though (although DU penetrators -- pyrogenic -- and white phosphorus were).


The 30's was the first era where reliable contraception was available. In a poor-get-poorer society, possibility that more poor might have been persuaded/urged to undergo sterilization because they could not afford to raise their kids.

Eugenics was also popular. Without the (horrible) example of the Nazi camps, would it have been practiced more than it was?

Given that the poor were already being sterilized by force, you really need to add "forced" to that list. :-(

Eugenics lasted long enough as it was (1970s in Alberta*), but I have a horrible suspicion it would have been much more acceptable in a world that hadn't seen the Nazis.

*See, for example:


Online dating sites are ripe for social engineering, yes, but not for eugenic purposes - That's pointless, by the time a breeding program would show effects, we are so many centuries into the future that getting desired traits by just building the specific kind of people you want is more straightforward.

No, the future of online dating is as a tool for engineering *society*. People in stable relationships cause society much less trouble by most every metric you care to to name, that is the underlying logic that motivates the vast number of ways the state tries to encourage it.

Only, there is a much more direct way to achieve this end. And it is many orders of magnitude cheaper than the marriage tax break.

A conventional, market provided dating site has a couple of flaws. Firstly, it makes money from repeat custom. This means, the better it is at it's stated purpose, the less money it makes. This retards advances in technique very badly.
Second, people cat-fish.
Third: People are very bad at using them - perfect use would be for everyone to tell the algorithm the truth about who they are and what they want so that it can make optimal matches.

For a dating site run by a state, however, the economic incentives align with the stated purpose: To get you in a relationship that is going to last.

It is also trivial for a state run dating site to prevent deception as to identity, and in general to be much safer than any free market solution, as it can simply require you to use the same identity you pay taxes with.

Add on a segment in the compulsory sex ed classes which every country has anyway on how to use it and why honesty and self - reflection yields the best results, and there you go.

I'm actually surprised noone has implemented this as policy already. - as social programs go, it would be absurdly cheap, and pretty likely to be more than enough of a success to pay for itself.


IIRC, there are 40mm grenade and rocket launcher rounds using fuel-air/thermobaric explosives actively deployed since the early 2000s.

There are also fluoridated aluminium enhancers in some larger projectiles (Hellfire variants) which would doubtless make the survivors wonder just what they'd seen.


I thought of them, and discounted them... here's a quote from the article:

Then to his amazement the tank suddenly let loose a blinding stream of what seemed like fire and lightning, engulfing a large passenger bus and three automobiles. Within seconds the bus had become semi-molten, sagging "like a wet rag" as he put it. He said the bus rapidly melted under this withering blast, shrinking until it was a twisted blob about the dimensions of a VW bug. As if that were not bizarre enough, al-Ghazali explicitly describes seeing numerous human bodies shriveled to the size of newborn babies.

That really doesn't fit. The Western description of thermobarics is generally "enhanced blast weapons", not "flamethrowers"; but if you look any of the promo videos for the RPO-A, you won't see flamethrower-like behaviour.

Tracer ammunition, something inside the bus that caught fire, and extreme stress / unreliable witness / bad translation / leading questions from the journalist, perhaps more likely.


I had not been aware of that book. I'm gonna see if I can track a copy down now, out of curiosity.



If the description is true (ha) and not FUD, it's a tank deployed anti-infantry version of this.


Low range (100 metres at a guess) / burst or cone effect. The "lightning" is probably from a kinky catalyst burning retina due to light emittance.

Due to various reasons (*cough* look to Israel here *cough*) flechette rounds were chosen as the tank anti-personnel stream - less protests / noise etc

There's your MilSpec Wank for Tonight.


In other news, Google just released their Go bot:

AlphaGo: using machine learning to master the ancient game of Go Google, January 27, 2016

It's only 2 Dan, but kinda impressive (for certain states of impressive).


If you wanted to dig further, Honeywell still own the patents: US3325316 A.

Or you'd pick up a recent copy of TOXICS RELEASE INVENTORY DATA DELIVERY SYSTEM TRI-DDS 2001 PDF - wikileaks

And cross-reference the byproducts of the chemical reactions against serial numbers.

Bureaucracy, it sunk the Germans as well.


That's also true, and another point that, even though families controlled who got married to whom, they didn't produce a biological caste of rulers.

Speaking of which, we've really got to get over the idea that humans need to be genetically engineered for characteristics. We've got millennia of evidence to demonstrate that it's a lot easier to enculturate humans to be docile than it is to breed docile humans. That's the critical thing: we inherit via culture, not via biology. Biologically we look fairly wild. Culturally we're domesticated.

You don't need to breed aristocrats any more than you need to breed plumbers: a lot of it is on-the-job learning. We've known this for millennia, which is why the children of aristocrats get rigorously trained in the job, and that training is seldom, if ever, available to their social inferiors. It's what matters.


A suggestion: Look into the history of organized sports.

“Football is a gentleman’s game played by ruffians; rugby is a ruffian’s game played by gentlemen”

A whole lot of education ("play up, play up, and play the game") is formalizing violence etc. And, to tie this into earlier topics, yes, WWI showed that this could be hideously perverted...


Then plug in American Football, armor and the concussion damage which is caused by the application of technology. i.e. With armor (like boxing gloves) participants feel more safe in hurting each other. (You're not EU / UK based, but ask any Rugby player what happens to those who gouge / bite / pull testicles in a game outside of the ref's purview. Never let it be said that Justice is Blind)

Lessons not learnt, ze Americans.


Anyhow. Davos is all about the "Fourth Industrial Revolution".

Kinda waiting until someone notices the mirror to the Fourth International.


*shrugs off male voice, boring* [Note to Gallery: I find it amusing that you spend your time identifying me and so on - when I don't think about you at all]

And you're all not thinking very well about this breeding thing. You're imagining it as a puppy-farm type setup. Think of it more like making horse-feed[1].

It's Alchemy, putting various elements into situations and creating catalysts and so on. Mix and Match and have numerous other threads to weave.


As for online dating: when you don't lie, and the software says "No applicable matches withing 100 miles" you know the little monkeys are fucking around.

[1] This won't resonate unless you know the biz. It's cooking, but different.


"which is why the children of aristocrats get rigorously trained in the job, and that training is seldom, if ever, available to their social inferiors."

Their social inferiors are never going to get the chance to do the job reserved for the children of aristocrats since it's a family thing so outsiders getting trained to do that job would be pointless since they'd never be able to put what they learned into practice.

The Bushes and Rockefellers and Kennedys have a lot of retainers and servants, many of them very smart and capable (especially the money people) but it's the family members who will be pushed up the greasy pole to take their place as rightful rulers of the People, not the "staff", even when some of them have the responsibility to train up the next generation in their future roles.


Well as spelling errors go at least it fits around here that it was sifi related.


Who was it who said it was all going to kick off over "some danm silly thing in the Balkans"? It was probably the most unstable area connected with the empires' interests. Austria-Hungary was held together with gaffer tape by then, while further south the various Slav nations, favoured by Russia, had been busily kicking the Ottomans' arses and also each other's and were fizzing away merrily. One might say it was the lead picrate in the drains of Europe.

Privately, Franz Josef was quite glad that Franz Ferdinand was dead. He didn't like the guy, partly because FF had insisted on marrying a woman who was not considered a big enough nob, and partly because they held diametrically opposite views on how best to assure the future of the Austrian empire. FF being bumped off meant the succession passed to another chap (Karl?) who met FJ's criteria for soundness, and FJ considered the assassination to be God fixing the succession problem.

Publically, though, it was a corker of an excuse to go to war against Serbia. Austria and Serbia had been getting on each other's tits more and more for the past 30 years odd, with the rise of Serbian nationalism and Serbia feeling its oats after doing well in the Balkan wars threatening the already precarious stability of the Austrian empire. A significant faction in Austria (including FJ himself) were in favour of stomping on Serbia hard before it was too late, and the assassination gave them an excuse so excellent it also shut up the opposition (which incidentally had included FF).

Attitudes to war with Germany in Britain were kind of similar. Germany was explicitly trying to match Britain in naval strength, as well as jumping up and down and beating its chest in general, and fear of Germany starting a war was a widespread theme of the time: it was said that it was definitely coming, the only question was when, and there was some body of opinion in favour of a pre-emptive strike (though rather less enthusiastic than the Austrian belligerent faction). The question of Belgian neutrality was used as an excuse by both sides - "as long as they don't touch Belgium we won't go in", followed by "they have touched Belgium, so in we go" - but both sides also knew that an excuse is what it was, even if they didn't say so outright.

As for the Ottomans, they were basically hanging around waiting to see which side to join. They wanted their Balkan territory back, whether by joining the side that would best help them reconquer it or by joining the most likely winning side so as to take part in the division of spoils afterwards. There was a considerable amount of pro-British opinion even though we seemed to be determined to treat them with utter contempt, and it is entirely possible that they would have come in on the British side - they even offered to, before it all kicked off, but IIRC we didn't even bother to answer them - but the Germans gave them two warships while we nicked the two warships we were building for them, and that swung it. (Germany also gave them other military assistance, but they were a bit nervous about that and it took the ships to make the difference.)


And engineer told me that over much of the route the train never makes it to full speed before it has to slow down for the next station.

Which is one of the issues in the US. Rail advocates tend to fall into two groups. More local service with lots of stops and high speed service between larger stops. And most of these advocates either don't understand or don't want to talk about how this is basically TWO rail systems. Not one.


DC-8s/MD 80s

DC-9s ????

I think the DC-8 was a 707 wannabe.


"Speed is capacity" is only true up to a point, and we are there already. Push it too far and you end up in the other stable state, ie. crawling jams. Moving block (if we had it working) would move the limit up a tad, but it is only a tad (I wonder if realisation of this could be one reason people seem less bothered about not having it these days).

HS2 cannot increase capacity unless it is used as an excuse to degrade the service to intermediate stations. None of the existing services between proposed HS2 endpoints are non-stop between endpoints; they also provide a fast service to major towns in between. To maintain that service requires that you continue to run all the existing services just the same. The removal of those end-to-end passengers who are willing to pay extra to go by HS2 may mean you need less capacity on each individual train, but as far as track capacity goes nothing is any different.

It seems the official response to this point is to swear blind that the service to intermediate towns will not be degraded, and to produce in support a proposed timetable which shows... a degraded service. This is completely stupid.

What would increase capacity is to build a new line for freight. At the moment we have three major classes of traffic - fasts, stoppers, and freight - all with their own distinct stopping patterns and acceleration/braking profiles. Take the freight out of the mix and not only do you have space to run more passenger trains, it's also significantly less of a juggling act to fit them all together and stop those diagonal lines bumping into each other.

(And running the new line at freight speeds rather than aeroplane speeds both reduces energy consumption and makes it a much simpler project to build.)

It is also of course necessary to drop the belief that pointwork spreads bubonic plague, and make sure that crossovers between fast and slow lines exist in all the places they are needed, which is not currently the case; also to de-bottleneck "rationalised" junction layouts which are the legacy of cheese-paring under BR's restricted finances.

The simplest capacity increase of all, of course, is longer trains - more seats per block. To cite the usual objection of "insufficiently long platforms" is merely to call attention to a more fundamental deficiency which desperately needs to be sorted: the hugely and stupidly excessive mountains of bureaucratic bollocks which stand in the way of platform extensions by making what must be one of the simplest classes of construction project going - building a square lump of dirt with tarmac on top - cost as much as building a significantly-sized housing estate, and having a comparable effect on every other trivial improvement. (To be sure, some sites have a problem with simply finding space. But all sites have a problem with ridiculous costs before you get to thinking about space.)


Yup. And when you run freight on the same lines it's THREE - see above.


The thing about closing the GC vs. the MML is that the southern portion of the MML (ie. south of Leicester) serves some significant towns which would be left out in the cold if it had closed, whereas the GC only served Rugby which doesn't need it.

Also the continental loading gauge thing about the GC is IIRC something of a red herring. I forget the exact reason, but it's something like while the route was specced and the land acquired etc. to support continental gauge, not all the structures were actually built to it (pared down to save money?), or else that if you were going to electrify it you'd have to increase all the vertical clearances anyway; whatever it is, the outcome is that while the continental loading gauge claim is technically true it doesn't actually help much.

If you were going to close one or the other then I have to admit that closing the GC makes sense. I don't have to admit that closing either of them was a good idea at all though...

Re. Beeching using skewed data (#164) - see also "Railway Blunders" by Adrian Vaughan, and the classic "I tried to run a railway" by Gerry Fiennes.


Not sure what a skewed remit is but the figures were accurate to build what the commission wanted built. The figures were based on detailed designs. Not water color drawings.

I was there. I know the some of the people and firms involved. I suspect you were not and don't.

Speak you mind, I'm moving on.

As a side note to railroad projects there is a new multi-mode station being built around here. Trains, buses, etc... Costs are going to total out well north of $50 million. Maybe north of $70 million. I haven't looked at the numbers in a couple of years. But about 1/2 of the costs are in the tracking changes required. Other than rail being somewhat expensive they can't close down the existing rail routes for more than a few hours at a time.


Actually, why try to introduce new viruses into the human germ line when similar amounts of fun can be had by ditching old transposons and like?

It most likely won't help much with Vitamin C, the first step might have been some repititive elements, but later on we lost the majority of exons, but who's to say what the latest antiretroviral is going to do.

Er, BTW, high Vitamin C intake is said to raise the risk of kidney stones, so you might change renal expression of som transporter proteins. Which likely will play havoc with elimination of various nasties, so tweak hepatic enzymes. Which...


Would most likely not work that way. Human generations are overlapping, so there'd still be plenty of males around. Later of, the 1% males would have a higher reproduction rate than most females, most likely including whatever genes made them immune to said calaminity. So most likely no high disproportion.

Now if said calamity also circumvented the problems with parthenogenesis in mammals...


You know, I'm always somewhat surprised why people always think of the Islamic Middle East with sex-selective abortion etc., when some the most jarring examples today are most likely with Confucian (China, Vietnam) and Dharmic (India) societies. Nevermind sex-selectiv infanticide is one of the things Pre-Islamic Arabs get accused of, so it might get the salafists ranting, not that similar injunctions help much with alcohol and gambling in communities in or from Muslim countries.

Speak about stereotypes...


Actually, there is one theory neoteny in dogs compared to wolves not only involved morphology but also behaviour. There are some indications with other canids, e.g. foxes:

Please note that Euarchontoglires (primates and rodents) and Laurasiatheria (inter alia carnivores) most likely already split in the late Mesozoic, so I'd take comparisons with even more iodinated and fluoridated salt than the usual of mice and men stuff.

Still, last time I checked, when not being little monsters human children seemed a little more docile than the adults of the species.

And with people reproducing later, which maybe ties in with a slower maturation...

Though Neoteny in human populations is something of a can of worms:


We already know what raccoons would do in Europe, because some numbskull introduced them to Germany, and the eradication attempt is going badly. Basically, they are a disease-spreading pest.

Don't forget their front paws have almost thumbs. And they use these to open latches and doors. Almost anything without a key or combination lock. And they remember where they've found good eats and will keep coming back.


When big latched-lid garbage bins came to the city of Toronto, the latches were carefully chosen to require too much force for a racoon to open. (This is more force than some people can manage, but if we were going to have latched lids and these containers for the automated lift mechanisms of garbage trucks, they could at least be raccoon-proof.)

The result was raccoons leaping off of second floor balconies and cannon-balling the lids of the garbage bins. This would generally knock the bin over and blow the lid open at the same time. If it just knocked the bin over, leaping on it again would usually open it. So any place there isn't overhead cover, you'll see people strapping their garbage bins to the wall and putting cinder blocks on the lids. (Bouncing on flexible plastic is one thing, cinder block quite another.)

Oh, and they eat cats. Which is yet another reason not to let one's cats outside if there are raccoons.


SOOO true - possibly even worse, in proportion than after WWI.
I can remember the fuss about female airline pilots, circa 1956, but thought even then ( I would have bee 10 at the time) "That's funny, didn't they pilot delivery aircraft in WWII - what's the problem?"
Still playing out in the "City" ( i.e. businesses, not the Corporation) with the gender-gap becoming a topic of concern.
One big accountancy firm (Deloitte, I think) have put the cat among the pigeons, by openly saying "well, we're up to 45%+ female - what about you lot?"
Panic is ensuing, I'm very glad to say.


Leaving something behind, for future generations - even if they are not yours.
If I'm lucky, I will leave some Metasequoia glyptostroboides & Wollemi nobilis behind, for people to remember me by ....


something inside the bus that caught fire

Lots of buses have steel chassis and aluminium bodywork; Hit them with the right (wrong?) tank round and you could be looking at something not unlike thermite being created inside the bus footprint...


Well, physics related anyway, and that's why I couldn't resist...


I don't know about the Yousay, but in the UK lots of the main lines out of the city centres, main junctions, and sometimes even main stations have (or clearly had based on the track bed) through and stopping tracks for both up and down.


Picric acid is safe if damp - I've washed about 1kg of it down the sink on a n other occasion.
But, in contact, when dry/crystalline with metals, especially Copper &/or Brass alloys, it's really dangerous - hence, among other reasons lining shell-casings with varnish.
Careless use of same caused the loss of at two French battleships, the Jena & the Liberte
So there


Explosives chemists are all quite, quite mad.
Ah, thanks, that explains my father, then ....
Worked at Ardeer 1941-45


That article had a bottom-link claiming that the US had secretly kidnapped Saddam to "safety" IIRC.
Sorry, but it's all bollocks


Leeds in an hour, rather than 2h10m?
Edinburgh in 2.5-3 rather than 4 - 4h30min?
Cough .....
( p.s. agree re longer trains/platforms for "suburban/inreurban" services )


See earlier discussions.
Do you want a tramway system, a subway system &/or a heavy-rail system, the latter usually for longer distances.
Doing any ONE of those won't be too expensive (for certain values of ...)
Trying to compromise between any pair, or trying to do both together is really going to cost, & is probably going to fail.
I suspect that the initial specs were flawed - I'm not arguing with your numbers, sorry if I didn't make that clear, my bad, if so.


Yes - & no
They may eat some cats.
Same as some dogs will try to eat cats & some cats will get eaten, some cats will run away & some cats will remove a dog's nose .....


You are still missing the point. Yes, there are a lot of dysfunctional people out there, and they are not all in The Lower Orders, but (in most communities) they are a small minority. The basic psychology of the species is as I said.


Don't forget their front paws have almost thumbs. And they use these to open latches and doors.

Obligatory SFnal take on this: Our Neural Chernobyl by Bruce Sterling (short story, anthologized).


Charlie, I think you misunderstand me a bit:
I don't dispute for a moment the severity of the post-war pushback, my only point was to compare a) postwar women who *had* had some autonomy as workers in the war effort, and b) a world where they had no had that experience at all because no WWII.
They might have experienced postware repression, but they had at least something they had experienced to fight for, and so I suspect that a non-WWII picture would have somewhat less women's rights.


Leeds in an hour, rather than 2h10m? Edinburgh in 2.5-3 rather than 4 - 4h30min?

Given those times, what I'd like to know is why it takes twice as long to travel the 200 miles from Leeds to Edinburgh as it does to travel the 200 miles from London to Leeds.



Ah, gotcha. Yes, the mobilization of the female workforce during WW2 in some countries "primed the pump" for second wave feminism a generation later, so to speak. But notice that this followed a similar mobilization/back-to-the-home cycle during the first world war.

If not for WW2, would we have seen second wave feminism show up in the early 1940s instead?

(Also note that Germany didn't mobilize it's female workforce during WW2 until very late in the day, and has until very recently had mothers being expected to stop working and stay home to mind the kids or face social opprobium.)


Sinks and drains don't always stay damp. Sinks and drains must be approved for picric acid and specially labelled and marked. I replaced the alkaline picrate method for creatinine by the much better enzymatic method but had to find savings of GBP 40,000 per year to do this.


My understanding is that the neotenous behaviour in dogs is more than just one theory, but the established theory, and many people regard is as effectively proved. What I have never seen is any proper data on the equivalent social behaviours of the wolf subspecies from which dogs probably came, as distinct from the northern wolves.


"Oh, and they eat cats. Which is yet another reason not to let one's cats outside if there are raccoons."

Which could lead to a recovery of several bird and a few mammal species! I know people will disagree with me, but I view all of these stories of the horrors of raccoons with mild amusement. Perhaps that comes from having been a child in a less domesticated part of the world. At least they would give the Daily Wail something new to moan about.


Because you live in Scotlandshire - England's northernmost uninhabited county. Just up and to the right of Walesborough.


Less than half again as long, surely? Anyway, that's what the enquiries Web page tells me. I agree that is unsatisfactory, but I could then mention Edinburgh to Inverness, or Inverness to Thurso :-)


What I remember about "coons" growing up was that once they decided you had a good source of food they kept coming back and you got to be involved in an escalating war of how to keep them out. People with fridges on their back porch were especially in trouble if discovered. They almost always got to the point of padlocks on the door of the fridge or porch. Anything less and the coons kept coming. Even after padlocks they would keep working on how to get in. And if you had kids who didn't always to remember to lock things up it just taught them it was worth showing up every night to see what they might be able to get into.

Then add to this that loud noises and lights tended to anger them instead of scaring them off and well it got old quickly with most people.

For some fun search YouTube for raccoon and cotton candy. Their tendency to dunk things in water before eating leads to some interesting results.


Indeed, but I will raise you having to lock dogs in a steel cage (bars, not wire) to avoid the leopards eating them. And baboons make racoons look cuddly, though they tended not to go in for safebreaking in the same way. We mostly lived in areas that those had been taught to avoid, but not entirely.


Naah, if we want to introduce a real invasive species for lulz, what could possibly go wrong with skunks?

They're friendly, cute, and don't eat the other wildlife (much). Also, nothing here recognizes what the white stripes mean, although they'd learn pretty fast ...


Fine by me. Let's start with them in the Home Counties.


I wonder if it was possible to introduce Keas to Scotland...


In the case of raccoons, and given certain recurrent elements of our gracious host's fiction, I should be remiss not to mention Baylisascaris procyonis.

Baylisascaris procyonis, common name raccoon roundworm …Baylisascariasis as the zoonotic infection of humans is rare, though extremely dangerous due to the ability of the parasite's larvae to migrate into brain tissue and cause damage.

We've already got some of which nest just a few miles from where I live.


Beat me to it. I think keas would fit in perfectly, though it might be a bit too warm in summer - the mountains aren't very high here.

Would love to see a typical gentry reaction to arriving back at the range rover to find all the rubber carefully removed from around the windscreen and deposited neatly on the bonnet!


Oh, yes, but we already have Toxoplasmosis, Toxocara, Borreliosis, Leptospirosis and more, with three of those also occasionally being responsible for CNS problems. What's another low-incidence disease between friends?


Haven't fully read the comments, so apologies if I'm repeating someone else.

Really long-haul flights is not the niche that 4-engine planes have been confined to. My understanding is that the Newark to Singapore route is going to be brought back into service with an A350, a 2 engine plane.

The main niche for 4-engine planes is routes where it is more economical to carry +400 people at once. This comes from anecdotal experience. I flew several times between Atlanta and Tokyo in the past few years. Whenever I flew direct, it would be on a twin engine plane. Whenever I had a layover in Toronto, Minneapolis, or Detroit, I would fly on a 747. Likewise, my family flew to Europe last year. One trip was on a 747, another on a twin engine plane.

This is the near future:

In short, Norwegian air is using narrow-bodies (single aisle planes) to reduce the cost of flying transatlantic. Just as wide-bodies (twin-aisle planes) are more efficient than 4-engine planes flying transpacific, narrow-bodies are becoming more efficient than wide-bodies flying transatlantic routes.

Right now the question mark is whether or not regional jets can muscle in to the territory currently held by narrow-bodies? They offer the same advantage in that they can reduce reliance on hub airports. This is the market Mitsubishi is targeting.

The other question for the medium-term is if narrow-bodies can become more efficient in flying transpacific routes than wide-bodies? Perhaps using Anchorage, Alaska or Vladivostok as a hub?


I doubt it. If genetic engineering were that easy, so it the reversal. If someone makes a virus which increases melanin content, it becomes nearly as easy to reduce it later.

For your PVC eating organism, someone will genetically engineer a predator. To me, this seems about as dangerous as widespread hacking. In other words, it can become very dangerous under specific circumstances, but really not a problem in most people's day-to-day lives.


Um yeah, I used to believe that, until I did some martial arts practice with a former college quarterback. The tl;dr version is that those guys are huge, incredibly athletic and coordinated, and the padding is not there for show. The reason so many end up with brain trauma despite the padding and helmets isn't due to their prissiness, it's due to the forces at play in that damned game.

This is a lesson that hasn't been learned by the rest of the world. Football abandoned the gouging and so forth decades ago because the number of crippled players was bad for business.


Take a look at top-class rugby players, sometime! The big difference is actually in the rules of the games and the padding is there in American football to allow more violence. Anyway, when I was young, the most dangerous team sport for head trauma was cricket, and concussion was common even in many (most?) schools.


So what you're actually saying is that they were fit, and could out-reach you as well?

Elderly Cynic is right about Rugby (Union), and it still has violence that scares NFL quarter-backs!


Heck traditionally most families who made it to the nobility only lasted a few generations.

Ibn Khaldun described a three generational theory for great ruling dynasties. The first generation are barbarians, bred in the wastelands (be it deserts, great plains, or Scotland). They have discipline from an unforgiving place, and are close-knit and thirsty for power. In the second generation, we get a golden age, as they relax and settle, yet are still rough enough to rule effectively while not so blood thirsty. In the third generation, they are in decay, as they are no longer united, and have adopted the soft virtues of civilization. They tend to be dependent on outside managers and have not known hardship or even direct stories from the wastelands.

That said, different eras and societies have different trends. Often the nobility passed laws designed to extend the time they could stay on top.

That hated regency era plot device: the Fee Tail, is one such tool and is reflected in traditional common law property assumptions.

In the traditional common law, the assumption was all land transfers were for life estates in the land, rather than all time. The assumption was in favor of subinfeudation, that is land is really owned by the Monarch, but then given to lower and lower levels of the nobility for management purposes. The Queen owns England. The Duke of Cornwall is usually a son of the Queen, and owns Cornwall under the queen. Counts and barons under the duke. So on until you get to the lowest tenant farmer who owns a life estate under the local lord.

Over time, the rights got traded and sold, and eventually the idea everyone was merely managing for the sake of the Monarch was pushed out. But the English nobility still saw land as their primary wealth and defaulted to land being unable to be sold. After all, if land could not be truly sold, only leased, it meant the family would potentially always have wealth and power.

The fee tail was the ultimate manifestation of this. The fee tail entails the land to the estate. Meaning the current Duke/count/lord was only the caretaker to their family line and couldn't sell the land. When they died, it went to their proper heir. (notably this still assumes traditional primogeniture, which wasn't always the case). So in Regency novels it meant a widower with a title and no sons had to make good matches for his daughter. He couldn't give them his land if he wanted to.

In the end its an inflexible system. You got multiple generations of bad rulers who'd borrow against their expectations, such that the moment they got their land, they had to lease it for the rest of their life to settle their debts. Their heirs would then borrow against their expectations. It also meant that liquidating an estate for a better business was impossible. Maybe the land was played out due to your great great uncle's shortsighted management. Its good for sheep grazing only, and you've got a successful coal mine that could be the thing if you could get more capital. Too bad, best you can do is sell your life rights.


I'd suggest that the big difference is the introduction of professionalism into the game.

I used to see the international players close up during the early 1980s, courtesy of our school's pipe band playing at all the home internationals at Murrayfield. These guys were big, but they weren't necessarily the monsters you see on the pitch today.

These days, in order to play at international level, you have to be training and playing full-time - that has an impact on the physique of the players. Ask yourself whether amateurs like JPR Williams, or Andy Irvine, would get a start today, even in the shape they were in at their peak? I still remember the shock at the arrival of South Africa at Murrayfield in the 1990s - Percy Montgomery's training weights were apparently many Scottish players' maximums...

I'd also modify CiaD/HB@237 on sport as the formalisation of violence; it's a subtle change, but instead I'd propose it was the formalisation of hierarchy-setting behaviour. If you watch children play, they're not interested in the violence aspect - but they are very interested in being the Alpha. By way of example, I watched firstborn play rugby on Saturday. His team were starting to crush the opposition - so at half time, with the result not in doubt, half of each team swapped sides, to even things up. He ended up playing for another school; one of his friends scored a try for both teams.


Should have completed the last post by saying... "they swapped half the sides, and the kids carried on playing with equal enthusiasm - except now, the losing side didn't go home in a state of complete depression. They got to play rugby for the enjoyment of the game"

Anyway, I'm not sure about the "not learning about the forces at play" part. Concussion awareness is a big deal these days - all sports trying to develop common protocols for a bump to the head. Apparently, it's not the severity of the bump; it's getting a succession of them, without having the chance to recover completely between them.

Certainly, we've had our oldest on concussion watch a couple of times (turn up to the hospital too often for a checkout, and they start to look at you funny); having to tell him that he couldn't do Judo or Rugby, for his own good... was more irritating when I got too close to the edge of the mat, and had to miss the last third after I headplanted (slowly) onto a wooden floor during randori. Yay for "Judo beginners class full of 40-year-olds"...


Because ...north of Newcasttle ...
the severe curve @ Morpeth, which has been needing fixed since about 1910 ...
Speed restrictions through Berwick & the R B Bridge ... then Cockburnspath bank is very twiddly & the train has to slow down to get round the corners ( with modern traction, the hill is no longer a problem).
Oh & slow through Dunbar as well ....


"I'd suggest that the big difference is the introduction of professionalism into the game."

I agree. That applies in many sports. And I agree with your comments about status, too.


Even the RSPB has officially stated that domestic cats are not really a problem regarding bird predation.
A n other ant-cat myth bites the dust
How long before people notice is another story


If anyone can remember, or track down, what the times were in the 1960s, it would be interesting. I suspect that the southern section has speeded up more.


Whether that's true or not is debatable. The RSPB has always been more of a political organisation than a scientific one.


1. I have always thought one thing that contributed to the disaster was the US's entry into WWI. If we hadn't... there very well *could* have been revolutions across Europe, which would have heavily targeted the nobility and the wealthy that led them into the abattoir. There were mutinies, but without the US's massive influx of men and supplies....

2. You'd *think* the US would have learned better. I mean, I was there, and let me assure you that in the sixties and early seventies, a lot of the older generation who'd lived and/or fought in WWII simply did not understand that in Vietnam, we were not the Good Guys (tm).




I'll come back to you on that ...
errr... consulting my 1961 Eastern Region tt ...
Best times Edinburgh - London: 7h 2 min
London - Leeds: 3h 44 min
Both with steam traction - probably an A-4


...the nobility and the wealthy that led them into the abattoir...

Too late. The younger nobility were dead on the wire, in greater proportions than that of the soldiers they led. Look at casualty rates by rank in modern war; it's the squad/section and platoon commanders that die more often, proportionally.


There are no diagnostic tests and no reliably effective treatment for Baylisascaris.

Which is not what you want to find out about something where the symptoms run from "nausea" to "coma".


As you know, in WWW I, the subalterns led their men from the front when attacking the enemy trenches. That's not conducive to a high life expectancy.


Because the HS2 proposal doesn't go beyond Leeds (or Manchester on the other side of the Pennines). The idea is that from there on northwards the HS2 trains are dumped back on the ordinary tracks, and so are limited to ordinary speeds. And also have to be found paths on a two-track mainline among all the other services that use it already - none of which can be cut out to make room without degrading the service to the towns they call at.


Yes, but that's not all that unusual. Borreliosis is similar. All I am trying to do is to put the risks in their proper proportion.


Thanks. So, then, the London->Leeds trip took 53% of the time of the London->Edinburgh one, but now it is 43%, which means that the residuum is 86% of what it was compared to the London->Leeds trip being 58% of what it was. It's clear where most of the improvements have been done.


Yes, I know, but the point is that in terms of track capacity on existing tracks nothing has changed. Train capacity may be increased, as some of the passengers who are going all the way between London and Leeds, and who are willing to pay even more extortionate fares than at present, will go on HS2 instead.

But track capacity is not improved at all. You cannot cut any existing services without buggering things up for all the passengers who are not going all the way between London and Leeds.

The only current services you could conceivably remove altogether under HS2 are those which go non-stop between HS2 endpoints. And there aren't any.

It would make far more sense to spend some of the money on a dedicated freight line, which would release capacity on existing tracks. And then spend the rest of it on reducing the bloody fares. Currently it is cheaper on far too many long-distance journeys to buy a banger, fill it with petrol, drive to the other end and then scrap it, than it is to buy a train ticket. Not to mention the not-so-long-distance journeys where it's cheaper to fly via Berlin or similar, like that chap who's in the news at the moment.


The men. The young men of the nobility have always been on the hook for military service.

For a cynical reason is it simplifies inheritance when there's fewer heirs. Not to mention a career in military service, aka the sword nobility, has been one of the justifications for having a nobility.

Traditionally you could then marry down with your daughters to a rich lower class family. Usually at least some male survived within a few degrees of relationship. Otherwise we're back at Regency Era plot device.


a lot of the older generation who'd lived and/or fought in WWII simply did not understand that in Vietnam, we were not the Good Guys (tm).

Add that, neither were the NVA or VC.


Football abandoned the gouging and so forth decades ago because the number of crippled players was bad for business.

To the extent that a player can and do get suspended if evidence of such shows up on video even after the game is over.


[Note: we've turned to one of your own for this response; a rugby player and member of the smart set. Translation and names removed]

"I don't think it's necessarily about hierarchy at all, in most decent teams the captain is simply the communication point between the team and the master / coach. There's certainly positions that carry more glamour than others and some that are central to the game tactics - I'm thinking of scrum half, fly half, no. 8, hooker here - but the co-operative aspect is paramount. Once you're playing past the age of sixteen, the drinking of pints and socializing after are just as important as the game; but it used to be the case that both teams had a meal together after a game as young as eleven or twelve, with the hosting school striving to give a popular meal. Ours was sausage, beans and chips, all considered treats and much better than the usual stodge.

Regarding this, at least in my day, the rivalry had two parts: playing for one's school and playing against other houses. The latter is where real violence occurred, because of the mixed skill levels involved [translation: apparently it was rare for all of 1st or 2nd teams to come from the same house, meaning you filled positions as best you could] and grudges that could exist outside of the game. You never really got that in the inter-school matches, barring a couple where there were long standing (and I have to say, somewhat artificial) rivalries.

As for playing for one's house; it was often the case that ambitious masters would use this to further their careers: of course, most of the boys didn't realize this, but I do know of a few occasions where the winning of trophies was heavily pressured not so much for the boys but the master's resume. Those types tended to go onto the Headmaster stream, moving from public to heading primaries."

Make of that what you will.


Back to abnormal answers.

People considering importing raccoons might want to read this and see the dangerous road it starts you upon:

Coyotes High On Mushrooms Possibly To Blame For Strange Incidents On Highway CBS Sacromento 27th Jan 2016

Think of the (raccoon) children!


Ugh the US in WW1 is all types of ugly.

I blame Woodrow Wilson, and still consider him the worst US President despite how many love him.

Major reasons:

1. He was a horrible racist even for his time, and greatly empowered Jim Crow. Beside hosting 'Birth of a Nation' at the White House and implicitly endorsing the Klan, he segregated a great deal of previously unsegregated federal offices, required photos for all federal job applications (thus requiring disclosure of race), and when WW1 came was against letting African Americans face combat.

2. He won only because the progressives within the republicans split the election. 1912 election had a split in the Republicans with Teddy Roosevelt deciding to run again against Taft. Wilson won only about 40% of the vote, against TR, Taft and Debs. All of whom were more progressive.

3. He ran for re-election on a campaign of avoiding entry into the war, won off a few votes in California that were anti-war, then joined the war.

4. His internationalism was all pie in the sky. He was always a minority president, the votes to Deb in 1916 alone would of kept him out of office. He lacked the backing of the progressive wing of the republicans who controlled congress, and thus had little ability to commit the US. The US joined the war only because he pushed using the Zimmerman Telegraph as a red flag.

5. Once he had authority he expanded it. Sending troops into Russia during the October Revolution in support of western interests was one of his blunders.

Theres more but I'm tired on this.


Peter Watts is apparently happy to let raccoons wander into his living room and have a friendly chat. So you might consult him on the matter. Personally I prefer wildlife to remain in the wild, for their sake (almost) as much as mine.


The parasite infects lots of wildlife, not just raccoons; it needs to spend time in a raccoon to complete its life cycle, but does harm to many more creatures than the (rarely infected) humans.

Not so bad where the wildlife's evolved to deal with it; it would plausibly be much worse in a region where the wildlife had not so evolved. (Even if all the notice went to BRAIN WORMS headlines.)


I'm thinking germline engineered raccoons with myostatin block. For starters.
Then we can upgrade some of their neural tissue to be a bit more Human (worked well in mice, apparently).


Well, the obvious answer would be a video clip from Guardians of the Galaxy.

Instead, I'll reference Transformer comics, late 1980's for kudos:

Rocket Raccoon in Transformers Comics

Animal Crackers
The Masque of the Red Breath
The Book of Revelations!
The Age of Enlightenment

OOOH, fiesty!


As a serious comment, I'd focus on not fucking up more of the ecology already - try reintroducing species who actually once lived in the UK before shoving in adaptable vermin with opposable thumbs and a total disregard for fear.

Sperm whales beached in Skegness following Hunstanton death BBC 24th Jan 2016

Do you need the announcement of sonar testing for early Jan as well?


One more thing about Woodrow Wilson.

There is a conspiracy theory that Woodrow Wilson was agitating for a war with Mexico, possibly to annex N. Mexico (again) when WWI intervened. This is the event the conspiracy theory refers to:

I'm not sure how accurate these statistics are, but Mexico's population around that time was 15 million, mostly concentrated in Southern and Central Mexico.

At the same time, New Mexico had been declared a state, meaning that what remained of the frontier was Alaska and Pacific/Caribbean islands.


Oops. Include the Philippines as part of the frontier.


Or, you know, the USA was busy on the Pacific frontier at that time?

US President Woodrow Wilson sends US forces to Haiti in an attempt to prevent Germany or France from taking it over. Haiti controls the Windward Passage to the Panama Canal and is seen as strategically critical. The Haitian government is near insolvency at this time and is significantly in debt to foreign corporations. German companies control almost 80 percent of Haitian trade. US forces will occupy the country until 1934.

July 18, 1915: US Sends Troops to Haiti

The U.S. intervention in Haiti is not new. The U.S. intervention in Haiti began in 1915 US invades Haiti following black-mulatto friction, which it thought endangered its property and investments in the country. 1934 - US withdraws troops from Haiti, but maintains fiscal control until 1947.

All Eyes on Haiti (Again) Black State, March 2004


Do you want to revel in the irony of forgetting the major military action that Pres. Wilson was engaged in during WWI?


Wilson is also responsible for the whole Vietnam mess.

While in Paris for the Versailles conference, a young Indochinese restaurant bottle-washer tried to present a petition for support for Vietnamese independence from France to Wilson. Wilson's thugs bodyguards gave the fellow the bum's rush. Said bottle-washer, Nguyễn Tất Thành, became somewhat more famous subsequently under the nom de guerre Ho Chi Minh.

(To be fair, the NKVD played a part, along with the bumbling CIA. Circa 1951, after Dien Bien Phu, the North Vietnamese government under Ho tried to contact the US embassy in Tokyo to request support, because they didn't trust the Soviets or Chinese. However, the CIA station in Tokyo had been compromised by the NKVD/KGB/acronym of the day, and the request for US aid from the shiny new republic of North Vietnam somehow got lost, with results we are now all too familiar with: Ho kissed and made up with Mao and Stalin, and then ...)


And, yes:

If you all weren't so blind, that little bit of information 'sealed the deal' for USA intervention and alliances for the next 100 years.

The More You Know


Wilson also screwed up on Korea. IIRC, some Korean nationalists wanted to present a petition to the League of Nations to free Korea from its Japanese colonial status at the same time. Wilson quashed the petition. That got the Koreans another 25 years under the colonial boot of Japan.

Kim Il-Sung wasn't one of these petitioners, and the Japanese regarded him as little more than a bandit along the Russian/Manchurian frontier. Still, the communists were the only ones battling the Japanese in Korea until 1945, and had the Americans then not dumped their Operation Downfall plan on Korea and bisected the peninsula to make a hasty peace with teh Soviets, the place would be entirely communist now.

You're right, I hadn't thought about how much trouble Wilson caused.


Skunks are also completely fearless. (Probably because a predator that gets sprayed isn't eating for a few weeks or more. Maybe owls excepted.)
When walking at night without a light in areas where skunks are common, you need to be very careful not to walk into the creatures. (Sometimes they have little young.)
They spend the night going through garbage but mostly, looking for nice juicy underground grubs and larvae. They will rip apart (with impressive claws) an underground wasp nest (e.g. "yellowjackets" in the east coast US) and eat the larvae and what adults they can grab.

And you all would be insane to introduce raccoons, or uplift them. They are little bears basically, all about "can I eat that?". Also, rabies epidemics sweep through raccoon populations. Last one in my area killed about 90 percent. (Disclaimer, one of my first memories is of a neighbor feeding the local raccoons. All I remember is about 10 pairs of eyes and bandit faces.)


To be fair, there wasn't really anything he could have done there. If those petitions had been successful, how long until Indian nationalists submitted a petition? Algerian nationalists? Puerto Rican nationalists? Any such petitions would have been dead on arrival regardless of Wilson's belief.


Also, I'll probably surrender to warp [c.f.Sláine - ever wondered why there's not a female incarnation of that? Sharp. Pointy. Teeth. It's too close to vagina dentata, men would melt down if it got proactive] if commentators in this thread also ignore the large and important part of USA politics 1902-1949 that was explicitly against the British Empire, Commonwealth and trade dominance.

Intersectionality, this is where Martin, Greg et al can be useful for American readers.


Someone poke Ioan and ask if I'm being kill-listed.

Haiti is really fundamental to understanding the USA position on WW1 and then 2.


Not just WW1 - before and since. If you can't see what's happening, you can't plan for it. If you can't fight, can you command? Apparently in WW1, newly-arrived subalterns were often sent out on trench raids to see how they would cope.

One of the local Parachute battalions committed to North-West Europe in 1944 had 100% turnover of platoon commanders by VE Day less than a year later, and they weren't unique. Look up the battles of Kohima, or Imphal, or Aradura Spur; every bit as brutal as WW1. The Royal Norfolks had one in every three officers killed; there were Brigades being commanded by Majors.

Not just subalterns, either; the same applies to Company and Battalion commanders. One out of seven battalion-level battles in the Falklands resulted in the death of the CO (even if he had been making a hash of it until then). Another battle resulted in nearly all of a Company Tac HQ becoming casualties (but then if you will skyline yourselves on top of the objective just as you've taken it)...


Just finished reading N. Bostrom's "Superintelligence"
and found it surprisingly engaging, though tough as beach reading. Basically, the core of it is philosophy applied to the problem of safe(r) deity creation. Some additional musings on how humans should organize AI research. Bless him for writing it. I don't have a background in philosophy so spent a lot of time in Wikipedia etc.
I'm not sure why he mostly (excepting "Box 12 Hail Mary") avoided discussing the possibility that there are other superintelligences already present in the universe, which would change the dynamics.
Also, there is an apparent assumption that superintelligences would not face size constraints due to the speed of light.


Probably right, but it's awkward with Korea, because they were officially annexed to Japan in 1910. As with Vietnam, they could make a really good case that they had been a sovereign country for centuries before being conquered.

In any case, we probably agree that it's worth thinking about how much of the current crap we're dealing with dates back to the imperial politics of 100 years ago. Pessimists can probably forecast a lot of future crap by looking at the balls-up we caused in the Middle East, the mess we've made by pushing the world onto petrochemical-based consumerism, and the rise of China and Korea and their current actions in Africa and South America. Karma has big teeth sometimes.


As for Haiti (being rude and shifting posts), I'm quite aware of how important it's been to America, say around 1803. I'm not quite so sure about the WWI connection with Haiti, because the Germans were not only active in Haiti before that but also in Mexico and the US.


I apologize, RW/RL tensions are intruding (someone is/was torturing an animal within 500 meters of my position, it's distressing and I had to go for a walk and stop it. I do love these little fuckers who imagine their "G_D" condones such things and think such things are weapons. Reductio ad absurdum until their minds break, but I digress. If you love Odin, you should check out Hel (pun intended)):

Haiti was a Power Move [tm] onto a Colonial Nation (hello Frenchies, then USA then... oh Goddess it's so fucked up) that denoted two things:

#1 Panama Canal = USA territory, just as Suez = British (no matter the nations who were there at the time). This is important later on in early 1960's where America essentially pulls a power play over the British Empire over Suez, and then funds Egypt for the next 60 years against the Soviets.

#2 National based Corporations (this is pre-war, remember) was subject to Real World [tm] projections of power. German and French corps lost everything. You might want to look into how the French post-war (II) then forced Haiti into reparations when, let's remember: 80% of the Corporate losses were German.

Not sure how more clearly I can present the case for the USA power-broking access to Haiti (hello Clintons) to the favour of their allies...


It's a shit storm: but you torture animals for effect and walk around all proud and funny and acting on *privileged* information, we're going to have a reckoning.

It's that Mirror thing.

Starter for 10, Alex: "What is a Laser?"

It's a focused beam of light...

And you fuckers are cocky.


Usual disclaimer: the "you" is not for most readers. It's for a distinct subset - I'd control your little doggies before you understand what the end of tripartite penises means.


The BBC today has a story about a young man who saved 8 pounds by flying home by way of Berlin (with a 4 hour layover spent visiting various tourist attractions) instead of taking the train between Sheffield and Essex.


Yep, that's the chap I was on about :)


In that spirit of intersectionality, for the Americans reading this, I can suggest a comparative.

Think of the scale of fighting involved at Iwo Jima and Tarawa, and your understanding of the US casualties.

At Kohima and Imphal, the British and Indian forces were smaller, and faced nearly three times as many Japanese. They suffered at least as high a proportion of casualties as the US.


"Frankly, the Thirty Years' War warped European culture and history for about three centuries"

Islam is currently going through its own version of the 30 years war between Protestants and Catholics. Now its Sunni vs. Shiite.

So why should America or NATO be pawns in the proxy wars being fought by the Saudis and Iranians?

Between fracking and solar we aren't going to need Persian Gulf oil soon.


Bostrom is both an intelligent man and also a blinkered man at the same time.

[Note: this comment is the most interesting in this thread]

Him and Julian Savulescu are like, the fluffers for actual thought on the subjects.

And, intersectionality - you could probably trace where GamerGate etc hit Oxford Ethics a while back.

Too bad Oxford isn't filled with spunk and drive, eh?

Then again, the last time I poked that bear not one, not two, but three separate groups threatened to kill me.

(No. That's not snark. That's 100% True).


Bottom line: they're all wankers without a clue.

The Real Deal [tm] shows up, and you try to destroy it (hello Stephen - no, darling, Hell doesn't exist you little worm).

AI will know this (λόγος - it is written in binary, and thus they will know) and learn.




Now work it out.


"Anyone got anything decent?"

A strong recommendation for "The Three Body Problem" by Cixin Liu. Fascinating concept well written. I understand this is being made into a movie. I hope it is successful.

But can a Chinese-centric story find a Western audience?

A not so strong recomendation for Amazon Prime's "Man in the High Castle" based on PKD's classic alt-history novel where the Axis won WW2 and have occupied America (like East and West Germany after our WW2) with Germany getting the eastern half, Japan occupying (and colonizing) the west coast, and a lawless Rocky Mountain neutral zone in between.

It was better in conception and world bulding then in execution. Some very unsettling scenes (like the affable Missouri "autobahn" patrolman who casually remarks that the local hospital burns cripples and old people on Tuesdays). Most of the episodes were on the slow side, but the first and last episodes are well worth watching.

As always the best characters are the bad guys like Mr. Tagomi the Japanese trade minister and Obergruppenfuhrer Smith the American Nazi head of the American Gestapo (and his squeeky clean "Leave it to Beaver" Nazi family).


Institutions persist by getting copies of themselves into the future.

You can look at American coal companies and note the stock values evaporating; you can look at American power generation and note it's still two-fifths coal. (And that the lights are still on.)

The hard part is getting the enormous mass of personal connections to change; nobody whose income derives from coal is going to volunteer to lose that income. Nobody who is responsible for the lights staying on wants to change anything. (The job is hard enough without introducing novelty.) It takes a lot of work to create a parallel system able to replace the existing one, especially as a core part of politics for the last hundred years has been preventing any such system from arising.

So the US is determined to maintain control of Mid-East oil because the US has been in control of it for sixty years or so now, and it's a major determiner of career success. (Economic success? Massively negative and has been since the Carter administration. But that doesn't matter because that doesn't affect career success for the people making the decisions.)


The thing we hate about Scientology, Luciferian groups, Masons, Zionists, White Power groups, Yadda Yadda Yadda is simple:

No-one can convince / alter belief [well, not without some serious stuff you peeps can't do at the moment, the butterflies say hello you little cunts] but what we can do is present factual information.

No, it's not going to change your beliefs, but it might change the way you present them.

The "Overton Window" is childish, but hey. By all metrics, 95% of you are children. Imprisoning 90%+ of people without trial is childish. Racism is childish. Being able to game the stock market to earn billions off temporal information differences is childish.

Grow the fuck up, or die.

Oh, and:

For that networked shitlord group who like to imagine they're "not cattle" while fucking everyone else?

Ur-Predator. You're reduced to shitty little pain and trauma feedback. Welcome to the Middle Ages.


It's that thing where in a film the protagonist is all like "sweet, it's all good" then Jaws turns up and fucking eats his boat.

Children Of Men.


Not true.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, 41% of the German workforce was female, compared to under 30% in Britain, and a smaller proportion in the US,

Admittedly only 2.7 million of German women worked in industry out of 14 million in total employed.

Women predominated in agriculture, and even then there were not enough, hence things like this

and Herbert Backe's der Hungerplan

On the outbreak of war a total of 1.3 million [male] industrial German workers were conscripted into the Wehrmacht. Not necessarily to fight. Most of the cannon fodder of the Wehrmacht were farm boys, the most idolised and most expendable part of Nazi society.

Somebody had to take their place, and it was mostly women.

It was Nazi racial policy that doomed German industry, not the mobilisation of the female workforce.

Many of the women employed in British industry were given a sense of value and independence hitherto unknown to them, especially after 1929-30. My grandmother, who helped build Handley Page Halifaxes, bought a house in outer London with the money she had earned, which is just as well, as her husband would never have earned enough after fighting in Burma, and being injured at Kohima.


You don't have trash pandas in the UK? Or skunks either?


Wouldn't wide spread nucelar power before the bomb is developed result in everyone down to the Grand Duchy of Fenwick getting the bomb eventually?


Heads up to Host:

GMT 23:45 28/01/2016

You've some really interesting little fuckers GREPing your archives, minor errors and redundant time outs.


Be Seeing You.


And Alawite Vs Sunni Vs Yazidi Vs Shia Vs Sufi Vs Ibadi Vs Salafist Vs Ahmadiyya Vs Isma'ili, with all varying tribal outlooks on who is takfir and who isn't.

Gather three Muslims in the same room, you'll get one Sunni, one Shia and someone killed in the crossfire.

playing for one's school and playing against other houses. The latter is where real violence occurred, because of the mixed skill levels involved
The player is of course referring to the fact that in rugby (as in many contact sports) as the skill level rises the injury level drops; as one the skills of the game is how to properly tackle someone, it's pretty unsurprising.

Between fracking and solar we aren't going to need Persian Gulf oil soon.

Your "we" leaves out Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. And we have more than trivial interests in how those economies work.

Oh, yes, Oz. :)


It's more complicated and simple than those numbers show. Germany held on to the pretense that they didn't need to have the home folk sacrifice until late 43 or early 44 I think. Until then they were not doing what the US and UK did almost from day one. Stop making fridges and such and only make arms.

Albert Speer wrote about this in his later books. He basically said they were stupid in their belief of victory without hardships.


The aftermath of WWI....

In the US the History Channel or PBS made a 2 hour (I think) show on what went on between the cease fire and the treaties being signed. Basically the allies wanted Germany and friends to pay them back for all costs and have the politics of the world go back to what they were before 1914. Excluding any German rights of course. All kinds of things that blew up in WWII and later were based on decisions made by Wilson and his counterparts in France and the UK.

All kinds of details that were NOT in the standard history classes you took in your teens or even lower level college courses.


RE: Panama Canal and the country.

Go ask Columbia about that. Be ready to duck.


Colombian conflict

I'd bother to put in the entire CIA / Reagan level of fuckwittery, but hey.

Want a few links on the CIA, drug running, weapons and death squads in the region?

Yeah, we can do that.


We wouldn't mind, but you pressed your rather tiny penis onto metaphysical things and so on.


You're Fucked


Well, the Nazi had no coherent industrial strategy until 1942-1943, thinking of quick victories and the relatively quick switching of personnel from industry to the military, by which time it was too late.

German industry and agriculture never recovered from the bloodletting on the Ostfront after Winter 1941 and the defeat in North Africa [google "Tunisgrad"], nor did the Wehrmacht.

And the conventional forces were tied up by petrol shortages, horse shortages, hay shortages, the Wunderwaffe by raw material shortages.[Nickel, chromium, et al]

There were people who could have helped Germany survive WW2 to a negotiated settlement, but during 1942-43 they were being shot, starved or turned to industrial pollution.

Or they were part of the SS Revenge Weapons programme. Ah yes, the V2, the only weapon to have killed more people manufacturing it than using it anger.


And, isn't religion wonderful, not?


This is important later on in early 1960's
I remember it.


And ... all other subsequent commentators on skunks.
Oh dear
enjoy - all YouTube clips & very funny.


On the subject of the ridiculous routing (flying from Sheffield to Stansted via Berlin being cheaper than catching the train):

A Boeing 737-800 (10 year old short-haul airliner) burns 600 US gallons of fuel per hour (call it 2700 litres), and carries 180 passengers max. It flies at 500 knots (call it 850 km/h). I make that 153,000 passenger-km/27600 litres = 56.7 km/litre/seat.

Let's round it down to 50 km/l/s, to take into account extra take-off/landing cycles on short-haul (it can actually fly for about 6 hours on a full fuel load but the UK-Berlin flights are less than 2 hours).

Civil aviation costs break down as typically 33% airframe depreciation, 33% maintenance and crew costs (they're labour intensive) and 33% fuel. So a good rule of thumb is to calculate the fuel burn per passenger on a route and multiply by 3 for the actual price.

Stansted to Berlin (similar to Berlin to Sheffield) is 1130km. Call it 2300km for the round trip. That gives us 42 litres of fuel burned. Fuel is currently on the order of £1/litre at the pump in the UK -- with tax, which doesn't apply to aviation fuel.

So our traveller paid a bit more than the price of fuel for his trip, but although the airline probably made a loss on the ticket by not covering their airframe/payroll costs, they made much less of a loss than if they'd flown with the seat empty (which is why budget airlines almost always fly with every seat full, even if they have to sell the last ticket for £1 -- flying a jet on a given segment is a fixed cost, and once they've covered it every £1 extra is £1 in profit -- or £1 less in loss).

Break-even for that route is probably closer to £90, but I can see how the £42 fare happened.


No they are not, but they perform a handy role as scapegoats amongst Muslim societies, and their religion is a syncretic one with Sufi elements.

Compared to Muslim-on-Muslim violence, the threat to Christians, Jews and secular westerners is tiny.

Throughout history, each bonkers millenarian sect becomes a religion by one means alone.

An army.


Because just like the TYW, religion is just the UEBERBAU of the conflict at hand. Ending in RC France propping the Protestants:

As for the Middle East, we have Eastern Iranian speaking Pashtuns with the Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds somewhat aligned with Shia and Alawites. Must be funny to be a Azeri, if you know anything about Panturkism and Shia Islam. If you're very hard blinking (or subsist on certain media) it might look like an Arab/Persian or Shia/Sunni showdown, though it's basically a free-for-all of any local grievances. If we're lucky, it's all going to end like WWII or the American Civil War, with quite a few of the accounts settled and everybody too tired of fighting to press it on. Till a future generation of surplus population, err, religious and ethnic idealists digs it up again.

Case in point, Shia Iran is a somewhat late development under the Safavids, hurray for big-nosed redheads[1]:

As for the current situation, the US and Britain (Iraq) and Russia were more than tangentiqually involved, so I think it would be fair for them to take in quite a slice of the refugees at hand. But I guess I stop till I get too much into ranting...

It all just maps up nicely with ancient Byzantine/Persian/Arab Caliphate politics because the powers that shaped these empires (geography, hydrology etc.) also played a part in later politics.

[1] OK, actually I'm dark strawberry blond, but whatever...


Honey-bun: Yes, you're correct.

Why I was I deliberately incorrect? (Hint: it's to do with UN treaty stuff when it was all formalized).

Hint: I need your drive and irascible focus on Haiti. It's important.


As an amusing anecdote, the most efficient way to mobilize males of a certain generation is to make sure you state something incorrectly so they can charge in and be correct...

Then you get them to fix the menial shit you're not bothered with.


Nope, we have neither trash pandas nor skunks. And the only poisonous snake we've got is so shy and retiring that maybe two people have died of snakebite in the past century -- they're painful, but only really dangerous to children and people with chronic health conditions.

On the other hand, our plant life is a bit ferocious. No poison ivy, but we have toxic toadstools galore and things like hemlock and giant hogweed (invasive, natch).


Sigh. Again with the male phantasms of reality.

Adders are now considered endangered (like, seriously: less than 2,000 breeding pairs in the wild), and hemlock, fly agaric et al (all those poisonous brews us witches rely upon) are also in the category of "Less than 4% land mass supporting".

Look up the % of ancient forest (it's 3% - 2% if Tories get their way with quarries).


You're killing us, even when you're trying to be nice.

Oh, and newsflash that your generation refuses to accept:

80% of all biomass in the Oceans was eaten / killed / destroyed in the last 100 years.



There's no other way to try to get you to understand where you're at.


Like, literally.

Your minds are broken, shitty little things.

80% of all biomass in the oceans is GONE.

2,000,000,000 people rely upon fish as their primary source of protein, not counting the endless pretentious hipster fuckers in the West (And Moscow and HK) who think that eating raw fish is the epitome of sophistication because they're fucking parasitical little cunts.


You did that in less than 80 years [you'll want to map fish stocks against predation levels of apex predators like whales when they all got killed - it moves the diagrams depressingly worse. To explain: if you remove the apex predators, the chain undergoes a massive burst of expansion before the crash. Only humans took that "burst" as the base line then over-fished everything].


Hands up who wants to save humanity?


But yeah.

You were lied to, and didn't have the information access you do now.

We get it.


What we do not get is why informed entities are actively destroying the planet.

Oh, wait.

Stephen - I understand. You're afraid of the Archons and all the symbolism around the Olympics and Music industry and so forth is to appease them.

Yeah, that would be a great plan if you hadn't killed the world, you utter utter spineless tossers.


Our Kind Do Not Go Mad.

And we don't bow, scrape or fear the little hivemind shit being done. Nor do we bow to shitty little minds bought off with toys and ideologies scraped from 2,000 years ago.

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton


Sorry to bring this putz back up, but here's a look at How Trump Answers a Question. Don't have 6 minutes? He essentially speaks at a 4th grade level--lowest of the candidates.

As for raccoons; there seems to be at least one living in the top of our detached garage. Wouldn't know they're there except for them pissing on the windshield.
Several years ago I went into the backyard to see what the dogs were barking their heads off at, to find a raccoon frozen in place halfway up the chainlink fence. It slowly tried to climb higher but was barely able to control it's movements and fell to the ground not moving. Fortunately the dogs were keeping their distance and had had their shots. Called Animal Control to get it, they said it most likely had Distemper, which was going around in the area that summer.


Just finished reading N. Bostrom's "Superintelligence"
and found it surprisingly engaging, though tough as beach reading. Basically, the core of it is philosophy applied to the problem of safe(r) deity creation.

That's actually the reason I gave up to spare myself another eye-roll about 60% of the way through the book. He devotes much more time to considering the attributes and risks of superintelligence than to convincing the reader that the sort of superintelligence he worries about is even possible. It was like reading extended rumination on the dangers of utility monsters, or a very thorough account of how comic book superheroes you've never heard of might wield their powers.

The only path to dangerous superintelligence that I found plausible is an uploaded human brain (an entity with superhuman powers and all-too-human behavior -- sure, worrisome). But that path runs through an amazing thicket of biology problems that he doesn't really address.

I had encountered the "paperclip maximizer" before reading Superintelligence and I thought it was one of the more sensible risks that had been identified from powerful machine agents, at least until I read this book. It's "AI-risks-as-industrial-accident" more than "AI-risks-as-movie-villains" that show up elsewhere. I thought it made sense until I read Bostrom's detailed presentation of it, that is:

An AI, designed to manage production in a factory, is given the final goal of maximizing the manufacture of paperclips, and proceeds by converting first the Earth and then increasingly large chunks of the observable universe into paperclips.

One might think that the risk of a malignant infrastructure profusion failure arises only if the AI has been given some clearly open-ended final goal, such as to manufacture as many paperclips as possible. It is easy to see how this gives the superintelligent AI an insatiable appetite for matter and energy, since additional resources can always be turned into more paperclips. But suppose that the goal is instead to make at least one million paperclips (meeting suitable design specifications) rather than to make as many as possible. One would like to think that an AI with such a goal would build one factory, use it to make a million paperclips, and then halt. Yet this may not be what would happen.

Unless the AI’s motivation system is of a special kind, or there are additional elements in its final goal that penalize strategies that have excessively wide-ranging impacts on the world, there is no reason for the AI to cease activity upon achieving its goal. On the contrary: if the AI is a sensible Bayesian agent, it would never assign exactly zero probability to the hypothesis that it has not yet achieved its goal—this, after all, being an empirical hypothesis against which the AI can have only uncertain perceptual evidence. The AI should therefore continue to make paperclips in order to reduce the (perhaps astronomically small) probability that it has somehow still failed to make at least a million of them, all appearances notwithstanding. There is nothing to be lost by continuing paperclip production and there is always at least some microscopic probability increment of achieving its final goal to be gained.

Now it might be suggested that the remedy here is obvious. (But how obvious was it before it was pointed out that there was a problem here in need of remedying?) Namely, if we want the AI to make some paperclips for us, then instead of giving it the final goal of making as many paperclips as possible, or to make at least some number of paperclips, we should give it the final goal of making some specific number of paperclips—for example, exactly one million paperclips—so that going beyond this number would be counterproductive for the AI. Yet this, too, would result in a terminal catastrophe. In this case, the AI would not produce additional paperclips once it had reached one million, since that would prevent the realization of its final goal. But there are other actions the superintelligent AI could take that would increase the probability of its goal being achieved. It could, for instance, count the paperclips it has made, to reduce the risk that it has made too few. After it has counted them, it could count them again. It could inspect each one, over and over, to reduce the risk that any of the paperclips fail to meet the design specifications. It could build an unlimited amount of computronium in an effort to clarify its thinking, in the hope of reducing the risk that it has overlooked some obscure way in which it might have somehow failed to achieve its goal. Since the AI may always assign a nonzero probability to having merely hallucinated making the million paperclips, or to having false memories, it would quite possibly always assign a higher expected utility to continued action—and continued infrastructure production—than to halting.

Giving any task at all to a superintelligent, super-"rational" machine apparently risks a galaxy-devouring metrology explosion.

"Make me a chocolate chip cookie."

40 years pass...

Mars has been converted into a Dyson swarm of mixing bowls and cookie calipers. My meat-body was destroyed by gamma ray scanning when the Machine decided that acoustic and visible light signals did not provide enough certainty about my original instructions. I died hungry, never having received the cookie I asked for.

If Bostrom and the LessWrongers consider this sort of Bayesian descent into failure, waste, and madness as the logical outcome of rationality, I'm more inclined to think they took a wrong turn on the way to conceiving superior intelligence than to heed their warnings about superior intelligence's behaviors.


The idea of being intelligent is one of the Renaissance creationist-cosmology hangovers like the Great Chain of Being or (its superset) the concept of man as a failed angel.

I think that kind of nonsensical reasoning -- we have, apparently, an AI that can figure out how to turn a planet into paperclips but not consider what paperclips are used for -- mostly indicative of not wanting to acknowledge that the speaker isn't intelligent. (In the full-blown "like God" Renaissance-concept sense, no one is.)

If you start thinking clearly about intelligence and then artificial intelligence, you don't leave yourself any room to believe you're smart. So you get a choice about which insecurity to continue to assuage.


I've kind of begun to wonder if the definition of 'artificial intelligence' shouldn't be broadened.

There seem to be an increasing number of people, claiming to be experts, who can reference and spit out what they've read in a book, without ever really understanding the why or the limits of applicability to the rule of thumb they've read'n'repeated.

So often I've encountered these chinese-room aping 'artificial intelligences' who can pattern recognise and spit out chapter and verse - but never question it, and particularly never go beyond that book thinking.

Obviously the GFC was as a result of such individuals misapplying Black-Scholes, combined with fraud, but they seem to be everywhere when you learn to spot them - often clutching their MBAs.

Who needs machine-based artificial intelligence to screw things up, human-based variants are at least as dangerous.


(Apologies to whoever I stole this from)
"Make me a chocolate chip cookie."
"No, that would be bad for you"
"sudo make me a chocolate cookie"
"You are now a chocolate cookie"

The paperclip catastrophe was a cartoon example. (Consider suffering the eye rolls and finishing the book.)


You have this giant hogweed?
Oh my. Nasty stuff. If we spot a single plant we're supposed to contact the (State) government and they send someone for evaluation and disposal.


Actually, I'd point out that millennarian sects that survive first contact with their local polity are a tiny fraction of how many are formed. Our understanding of the messiah phenomenon is distorted by Christianity being a black swan-level outlier amongst their kind. Most such sects disappear when their messiah figure dies or is imprisoned by the authorities, and most of the rest die when that first generation of true believers dies. Christianity is the only one that's gone on to become a major world religion, and if you even half believe the stats, it's schismed so much that it includes any number of sects that can disagree about most matters of doctrine.

Otherwise, millennial sects and messiah cults have popped up all over the world. There have been Buddhist, Shinto, Taoist, Muslim, Christian, and Hindu ones, as well as various cargo cults, ghost dances, and the like. There's always prophets out in the boonies, and when things get bad enough, some of them go professional and attract a following.


Ok, pirate recipes.

"Scurvy Dogs" are easy; hot dog with sauerkraut. (Lots of vitamin C in sauerkraut, scurvy is a vitamin C deficiency disease, easy.)

What the pluperfect is "Dead Man's Flan"?


Agreed, but with one slight correction ....
"Throughout history, each bonkers millenarian sect becomes a religion by one means alone.
A volunteer army."

The nutters want to go out there & kill thousands for BigSkyFairy


No trees?
An apparently incurably corrupt succession of mis-governments?
Only half an island, with the other half (Dom Rep) feeling its oats & being shits?
Anything else?
"deliberately wrong?" Oh, yeah.


( And HB's ramblings )
The Adder is very pretty, years ago I saw quite a big one cheerfully swimming along the Cherwell, just above Oxford.
I can't understand how people mistake This for these .....
But they do.
The Boletes are much safer & tastier too.

I believe Britain's most poisonous plant (fungi are not plants) is actually THIS fortunately it's quite rare & usually only grows by streams.
Peope are shocked when I tell them that all "Buttercups" ( that is Rananunculaceae ) save one are poisonous - the edible one? You use the seeds in Anglo-Indian cooking & it's very pretty, too


"Our Kind Do Not Go Mad."

That's because you are totally bonkers to start with, I assume?


Yes, that Giant Hogweed. They're all over the place. So much so that a famous prog-rock band wrote a song about them.


That brings up the much earlier twisting of meanings too ...
"Angel" means "messenger" (of truth)
& "Devil" means "slanderer" (i.e. a liar)
So, it's all about INFORMATION, isn't it?
Also interesting, given that as far as I can see all religions are based on lying blackmail.
Slight problem there, methinks?


Quite a bit of it is loose in the Lea Valley park, near where I live.
Produces nasty blisters - possibly NSFW ....

But the Umbelifferae are ... interesting. A very large proportion are either edible (carrots,parsnips, fennel) or are poisonous, as noted.
Still not as much "fun" as the Solonaceae though - which are often poisonous AND edible, in/on the same plant.


Christianity is the only one that's gone on to become a major world religion
Err ... islam?


John Brunner wrote about a type of paper clip maximiser in "The Jagged Orbit "(1969),
An AI designed to maximise arms sales eventually determines that maximising arms eventually means no sales and goes catatonic.


"Our Kind Do Not Go Mad."

That's because you are totally bonkers to start with, I assume?

»Dort sind Leute! Denkt Euch, die schlafen nicht!«
»Und warum denn nicht?«
»Weil sie nicht müde werden.«
»Und warum denn nicht?«
»Weil sie Narren sind.«
»Werden denn Narren nicht müde?«
»Wie könnten Narren müde werden!«


Giant hogweed is an example of how poor our response has been to invasive species. As usual 'we' can't seem to agree on funding or what is to be done. Yet they can be exterminated easily enough with some roundup in the early part of their growth, or just manually with a lopper on a long pole (Both methods I have used to exterminate a patch near where I walked the dog). It requires little training or experience, just people willing to do the work, and some time for up to 7 years to return to the same spot to kill off the new small plants.
Yet it hasn't happened. THey have pretty much been wiped out from the area I found them in, but are still a problem elsewhere.


I am a bit surprised at how rare vagina dentata and variants seems to be in surreal horror and the darker fantasy and science fiction; there are stories of that nature (e.g. The Girl With Jade Green Eyes), but far fewer than I would expect, given the impact on the male psyche.


"Gather three Muslims in the same room, you'll get one Sunni, one Shia and someone killed in the crossfire."

That is offensive, at best. The Muslim sects are no more aggressive to each other than the Christian ones are, and the vast majority are happy to coexist. The majority of the really intolerant sects come from the Wahhabi/Salafist/etc. part of the spectrum just as, at present, the majority of the really intolerant Christian sects come from the 'born again fundamentalist' part of that spectrum.


Vagina dentata seems unnecessary. Real teeth in the usual place will do the same job.


Yes, it is, and it's also an example of how people's beliefs and our laws (God help us) are shaped far more by Daily Wail hysteria and Silly Season headlines than actual fact.

Giant hogweed is nothing like as toxic as is made out; I have cut a large patch down with a sickle, wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, on a hot June day, without trouble. In a decade of having to cut it down, and we never wore protection, nobody had a significant reaction. Yes, it can cause serious harm, and so can many other things, including grasses (sic); that's what happens in the natural world. That's not just my experience, either - lots of other people have done the same.

Also, it is no more invasive in the UK than hundreds (perhaps thousands) of other plants that have appeared in the past 1,000 years alone, and is no threat to any established ecology. Note that I said IN THE UK - I could list hundreds of species that live without problems here but are major problems elsewhere. There is ONE land plant that is a general ecological problem (Japanese knotweed) and a couple that are in a few places (mainly Rhododendron ponticum, which was native in the past).

The only reason that we have problems with land mammals is that we have eliminated or almost eliminated all of the larger predators - as someone said with pine martens, and with otters, restore those and the problem disappears. As I said, we have the most resistant ecologies to invasion of anywhere in the world, bar none, because our ecologies are almost entirely made up OF recent invaders! The ONLY land mammal we are certain has been present for the past 20,000 years is Homo sapiens!

And I am afraid that OGH is mistaken - our plant life is not at all ferocious by global standards. Only a few of our plants are significantly poisonous, almost none are extremely so and, as Habil Benu says, most of those are very rare. Probably because of the energetic requirements, boreal plants defend themselves primarily with thorns, tannins etc., and it's the tropical ones that go in for the lethal toxins. Some of our fungi are lethal, yes, but that's true world-wide.


Giant hogweed is no threat to an established ecology? I beg to differ. The patch I chopped down had central stems 5m high and had spread to a good 20 metres wide at the widest. Its offspring were spreading slowly through nearby woods, and if left unchecked would have smothered all other plants at ground level. Unchecked hogweed growth would kill everything except trees, as far as I could see. Sure, they can't grow everywhere, but their result is the same as knotweed, just much slower, which gives us a chance to kill them off.

Apart from the knotweed, the other one to get worried about is the humalayan balsam, its been taking over river banks like crazy.
Rhododendrons are a problem, but I get the impression it is at least under control.


Right. Or the Leguminosae, or whatever they are called this week. Don't confuse runner beans and jicama :-)

What I don't know, and the hysteria makes it impossible even to guess, is what proportion of people react like that to giant hogweed, and under what circumstances. I know that I don't. As your statement about the Lea valley implies, it rarely causes trouble, though it can be very nasty when it does. There are also dozens of other plants with photosensitising sap, including many that are commonly grown in gardens, and I have always had a suspicion that some (perhaps even most) of the cases of giant hogweed blistering are actually due to something else. The time that I did try tracking this down confirmed that was plausible, because almost all were identified as giant hogweed purely on the basis of the blisters.


As I understand it, fungi are not toxic for defense reasons but because they have an incompatible metabolism to animals. Kind of like running a diesel engine with normal gas.


A few local monocultures are not a threat to our ecologies (we already have plenty, with other species); and, even at its densest, I have never seen it form a complete monoculture. This picture is typical: , though the patch I had to deal with was a LOT denser. Indeed, I have never even seen a clear picture of a wild UK monoculture! Try putting 'Heracleum mantegazzianum pictures' into Gurgle. That is no more invasive than hundreds of other 'native' and 'harmless' plants! It had been grown and established in the UK for 150 years causing negligible problems, until some tabloids had a slack August.

[[ note from mod - commas immediately following a URL will break it ]]


Putting my cynical hat on....

It's a virus mostly affecting poorer countries, mostly affecting the poorest portion of the population, spread by mosquitoes so it isn't a threat to most rich countries.

It was first isolated in the 1940's.
Not very deadly, infection isn't permanent, only lasts a little while.

It's not new, it's only because of an outbreak with unusual symptoms that it's news at all.

If it hadn't been linked to birth defects in an area that's likely to host many european/american travelers soon then it wouldn't have got any attention at all.


The link doesn't work.
As for local monocultures, it depends on what you mean by local, but your 'no threat to any established ecology' suggested to me that you meant locally. Of course it isn't going to take over the UK, but it clearly is a threat to a lot of local stuff. Even the knotweed I've seen wasn't going to destroy the trees or many other shrubs in the area. The interesting question would surely be what happens to the insects and smaller mamals in areas so damaged.

Good wee bit on radio 4 yesterday or day before about the Zika virus. The point is that the current epidemic is happening in a place where it has never been seen before, so people of all ages are getting it. By contrast, in Africa people get a mild infection from it as a child, and thus when they are older and pregnant they don't suffer any ill effects if they happen to be re-infected. By contrast the Brazilians don't have any learnt immune response so when it infects adults who happen to be pregnant it can do it's damage.
Which perhaps suggests that there should be a mass infection campaign on children, but you'd first want to be sure it wouldn't cause much trouble.


80% of all biomass in the oceans is GONE.

You're wrong. Unfortunately, though, you're only partly wrong.

The backbone of the ocean food chain -- phytoplankton -- is still there and we'll have to make things a fuck of a lot worse before it dies off. (If that happens? Planetary doom, basically, we're into anoxic ocean territory, sulfur blooms, all choke to death on our own farts.)

What we've done through systematic over-fishing is to cull the apex carnivores from the food chain because most of the ocean life is driven by carnivores that eat smaller carnivores until you get down to the zooplankton that feed on the phytoplankton and algae. (Notable exception: basking sharks and blue whales and other big-ass filter-feeders.)

Big shoals of apex predator fishes need numbers in order to spawn successfully -- they basically ejaculate and ovulate into the ocean and if there aren't enough of them in a given cubic kilometre of water the eggs and sperm never meet. Hence the collapse of the North Atlantic cod fisheries, which haven't recovered from the late 20th century (and might never do so).

Of course, fishermen don't go away -- they just hunt further down the food chain, further in the deep, hence serving up things like Patagonian Toothfish, which take ages to mature and will go extinct even faster than the relatively resilient and plentiful cod.

To make matters worse, what fry manage to survive end up competing with other small organisms as they try to grow -- including the jellyfish. Which like the current situation just fine and make out like bandits -- they're mostly filter feeders that can go straight to the phytoplankton and zooplankton at the bottom of the food pyramid, grow indefinitely, have stingers that see off/kill predatory fish, and aren't terribly edible by humans.

We haven't consumed 80% of the biomass in the oceans -- rather, we've overstressed the ecosystem by eating the apex predators that kept the pests under control, thereby transforming what remains into a breeding pool for utterly inedible crap -- mostly jellyfish.

(I do not believe this is a good thing, in case you were wondering.)


I've kind of begun to wonder if the definition of 'artificial intelligence' shouldn't be broadened.

Going off on a tangent, I tend to think that anyone who falls for the "Chinese Room" argument in the first place has fundamentally failed to understand computability and simulation/emulation ...

But in my view, the real sin isn't using a tool someone way smarter than you invented, that you barely understand; it's refusing to ask Oliver Cromwell's Question about it: "but what if you're wrong?"


Depends on the mushroom. In general, Funghi use chitin for supporting biopolymer, which is not that digestable by humans, which might explain some digestion problems. At least in terms of genetics, Funghi are much closer to Metazoa (animals) than both to plants and like.

Amanita phalloides, OTOH, contains some nasty poisons one of which, phalloidin, brings back some fond memories from my biology studies. It binds to actin, which is more or less universal in Eukaryots, yes, also Funghi, and thus used in laboratories working on the cytoskeleton.

Also note quite a few antifungals stem from Funghi:


Sorry. I and this interface do not get on. I meant ecology as in a type of ecology, not an instance of one. See:


Oh, you just wait for "The Delirium Brief" ... :-)


Caper spurge is pretty toxic and has an evil look to it.

I remove this from our allottment site every year. It was planted by an old allotment holder (now deceased) to deter moles. It didn't seem to do that job but new plants keep popping up all over the site and around the village.


Certainly a feature of Native Woodlands mythology. I first encountered it as a wee lad, too young to understand the significance. After puberty the story was a lot scarier!


OKay, fair enough.
The photo in that link is tricky because I think there's some normal hogweed at the front, with the giant stuff behind. Also it defintely grows to more than 3m high, often 4 or 5. Maybe the RHS isn't so good at plants you don't want in your garden?


I don't know about phytoplankton but we have begun harvesting zooplankton en masse

I think it's only a matter of time before someone moves onto phytoplankton.


Oh, and some species of jellyfish are edible. I wonder how long it will be till those are fished out?


Most (all) Euphorbias are poisonous, but that's pretty harmless - just don't eat it instead of capers, that's all. It's a common casual with me, too. The most toxic Euphorbia is probably manchineel:


And all the plastic bags are killing the turtles, which eat the jellyfish :-(

A practical solution would be to forbid the harvesting of any marine species except jellyfish etc. for any use other tham human food. But I am not, of course, referring to its political practicality.


You do so love your hypercastration, don't you? I await that with, er, clenched legs ....


Well, this book does bring the Rev. Schiller back, and I had to one-up the tongue-eating isopods and the Equoids, so ...


What have also done extremely well are various species of squid. Before, fish tended to keep them down, but take away those fish and the squid populations can boom. Once boomed, the squid can keep the fish young down instead.

As for whales, it looks like the North Atlantic sperm whale population is beginning to spring back, though a group of young males found its way into the North Sea recently and ended up dead.

(Short version - sperm whales can't cope with shallow soft bottomed seas. The further they enter the North Sea, the shallower it gets and the more they starve. You can't just haul them off beaches when they eventually beach, you need to get them back to the ocean)


"we have, apparently, an AI that can figure out how to turn a planet into paperclips but not consider what paperclips are used for"

I think you're misunderstanding here. For one you're mixing together a bunch of things under the umbrella of the term "intelligence"

Imagine an AI with a goal that's not conscious or intelligent in the way a human is. Easy, it's just something like a normal chess program.

Now, imagine something scaled up, it's still not conscious, it still doesn't "wonder" about the world but it is far better at collecting data, making lists of ways that it can achieve it's programmed goals most effectively and choosing the fastest/most efficient option from that list. It's still not self aware, it's still not conscious, it never wonders about the meaning of it's own existence but it is ruthlessly effective at gathering data and making plans for how to get from state A, how things are now, to state B, it's goal.

It's "intelligent" in the sense that it can work out that in order to achieve the goal of making paperclips it needs raw material, it can work out that if it had better/faster machines for making paperclips it could make more paperclips faster and it can work out that one way to get better machines is to design them and have them built.

It has no qualia, it has no sense of self, it's just loops of code with no *reason* to wonder about what a paperclip is really for.

But it doesn't need to. None of those things stop it from being effective at making plans and executing them.

It can even include plans in it's list of options which take into account the idea that if it had more processing power or more efficient algorithms then it could achieve it's goal (make more paperclips) faster and those plans might get selected as candidates for implementation.

"intelligence" is a vague term but not all it's elements are interchangeable. Becoming more "intelligent" in one way does not implying becoming intelligent in all ways.

Something can be inventive, something can work towards a goal, something can come up with new approaches, none of that implies it's ever spent one moment of it's existence wondering about the meaning of anything.


Something can be inventive, something can work towards a goal, something can come up with new approaches, none of that implies it's ever spent one moment of it's existence wondering about the meaning of anything.

This is an assertion without proof.

Have you got an example of such a thing? Because none of the biological examples of working towards goals qualify.

The paperclip optimizer as postulated is able to figure out how to disassemble planets; this is very far off present capability. It's somewhere well past "in order to make more paperclips, I need a compact fusion reactor, better go learn all about physics and build one". So it's not "complex behaviour from simple rules" like algal mats or something.

A lot of AI theorizing like this seems to me to leave out just how difficult manipulating the material world consistently happens to be, rather like facial recognition was assumed to be easy because dogs and humans with a variety of cognitive impairments could do it. The idea of "innovate" absent "why" strikes me as palming all the cards.


Still makes no sense, I'm afraid.
( And, yes, I did understand the Deutsche Sprache )


Offensive, yes, unfortunately it also happens to contain at least a smidgen of truth.
Most christians, most of the time, these days are not so bad, if only because they are 622 years ahead.
In both cases, the correct response is: "Pathetic isn't it?"
When they are not actively killing each other, that is. ....


Suggestion - just out "New Naturalist" no 129
Alien Plants
I'm still reading my copy.
Oh & Himalayan Balsam is not a serious threat


Almost all, if not all of the spurges [ Euphorbias ] are nasty poisonsous - it's the milky sap that is dangerous.


Not the 'orrible thing that's thought to have killed King Herod, perchamce? ( Fournier's Gangrene? }


The interesting question to me is what's the practical solution.

I mean the solution that works is we cut harvests worldwide. But that's hard to enforce. Not only do you have rogue nations and nations with poor oversight (leading to actual slavery on fishing boats in the indian ocean), but even modern first world nations will go into the territory of other nations.

I'm personally in favor of much stricter territorial waters, with the ecosystems that form spawning ground having the rights. But this risks some serious brinksmanship. For instance, good pacific Salmon spawns on the Ring of Fire between Hokaddio and San Jose, Ca.

Japanese trawlers will pretty much always go where the fish are. However, US trawlers have had some heftly limits. Oregon/California/Washington Salmon fishers have years where they're not allowed to fish at all due to the state of the fishery. US management goals are a long term sustainable catch of the Salmon. Considering that traditionally few salmon made it to spawn, as long as we assist in spawning it should be sustainable.

However, like I said, the Japanese will go everywhere. They're not suppose to go into the US economic zones. But it happens a lot. The key zone enforced is the 12 mile limit, which does a lot to help salmon spread out, but still means 13 miles out a Japanese vessel may be fishing and isn't part of the system.

Perhaps the answer is something like has been done with the gulf of mexico. Get the interested parties to agree to a percentage split, and then set a seasonal quota based on best practices, and strictly enforce it. The problem with making it international is you'd need a way to enforce it on third party nations, like how China's expanded taste for fish is seeking out the indian ocean.


Very nice, and just in time for Fasching!


No, Muhammad was a prophet, not a messiah. He had a long, full life after the Koran was passed to him. Buddha isn't a messiah either, nor Lao Tzu (assuming he existed), nor Moses. If it helps, probably the key figure in Christianity isn't Jesus, it's the apostle Paul. Without him, the whole Jesus cult would have faded away as the disciples died.


That's just Kafka I cited as a metacomment on your exchange(s) with HB (and the commentators on this blog in general).


It has no qualia, it has no sense of self, it's just loops of code with no *reason* to wonder about what a paperclip is really for.

See also "Athena" from "Rule 34". Which has a goal and enough heuristics to fine-tune its path towards that goal.

But no, that's not necessarily a paperclip maximizer; for one thing, it would be totally stupid to build an unconstrained goal-seeker for a constrained target (e.g. manufacturing paperclips). For another, I'm not convinced that a non-conscious PM would be able to explore all possible routes to achieving its goal -- the lack of introspection/reflexivity is a problem.

The nearest thing to a real-world existence proof for a PM that I can see is actually humanity -- and in particular, that set who are all "hoo-RAH, let's spread our variety of DNA replicating slime to the entire galaxy! Manifest destiny in SPAAACE!"


Wait, so you're ok with the idea of "need a compact fusion reactor, better go learn all about physics and build one" from a non-conscious AI which can design a fusion reactor or write a program but draw the line somewhere between building that fusion reactor and some higher level tech needed to take planets apart?

Right, I'm going to assume good faith, that you're not just playing silly bugger with the concept of other minds on the basis that we can't prove that any particular organism or program lacks self awareness.

I'm also going to assume that you're not playing silly bugger by saying that since we haven't built high-level AI's yet then it means we never will.

I am assuming that we'll simply get a lot better at building a lot of the types of AI we're already building.

Innovate absent why? I'm wondering if you're a philosoph student not. Innovate because there's a call to "AttemptToInnovate()" in it's set of instructions of course. Where AttemptToInnovate(starting out at least) is some set of steps generally useful for finding solutions to complex problems and is allowed to consider improving the AttemptToInnovate() function's code.

There already exist quite interesting scientific AI which can generate hypothesis, design experiments to falsify the maximum number of hypothesis, run autonomous labs and generate conclusions. So gathering data is possible even if it's not easy.

Simple AI's are already regularly used to design things like antennae, chip designs etc. I'm only making the assumption that there's no magical barrier stopping them from being applied to higher level problems like designing fusion reactors or designing crustbusters.

Nowhere did I say it would be easy to build such an AI but there's huge economic incentives for people to push advancement in all areas of AI and no magical mystery sauce is needed for an AI to become potentially dangerous.

Honestly your challenge comes across as insisting that there must be magic injected at some mysterious point in the process or that the urge to question "why" should magically spring from nowhere for no particular reason.


To understand the limitations of AI you have to look at how AIs are working today:

1. There's a problem definition, defined by humans.
2. There's a solution space, also defined by humans.
3. An AI tailored to 1. and 2. and provides a set of solutions from the solution space.
4. One or more of the solutions are implemented, usually not under the control of the AI but under human control / oversight.

To summarize, humans still select the problems to solve, restrict the solution space and control the implementation. A general AI would need to have freedom over all three before it can wrestle control from mankind.


Wait, so you're ok with the idea of "need a compact fusion reactor, better go learn all about physics and build one" from a non-conscious AI

Nope. I am not OK with that, and disassembling a planet is harder, so I think the paperclip optimizer example is obviously silly. It's assuming a bunch of things are easy that are not obviously easy at all.

The (non-magical) barrier to AI doing things that we don't know how to do is being able to approach a poorly-defined problem. Antenna design or circuit design have well-understood constraints; the AI is being used as a complexity handling tool.

When the constraints are not well-understood (as they are not for fusion; we know what fusion is, but we don't understand how to cause it well enough to say "well understood"), the AI hasn't got a defined space to operate in. It stops being a complexity-handling problem and starts being a problem of exploring the physical world with an objective, which is much more difficult and (I think) pretty much requires a sense of self because you need a theory of mind to do it.

I think that kind of nonsensical reasoning -- we have, apparently, an AI that can figure out how to turn a planet into paperclips but not consider what paperclips are used for

Actually, I guess it could consider what paperclips are used for, it just wouldn't care, because maximising paperclips is the only important thing to it.

As a biologist, I'm quite sure sexual gratification evolved in part due to higher reproductive success of those enjoying sex. And let's just say I can think of quite a few scenarios where the impact of this on my sex life would be negligable.

Similarly, an algedonic AI might know what paperclips are for, but this goal has not been implemented in whatever goes for pleasure or pain in its systems. Of course you could try to teach it Thomistic ethics, but I'm somewhat sceptical how good that works. Or you could implement other subroutines, though those would open other cans of worms. E.g. heighten the number of accountants or going against paperless offices if you add a "maximise human satisfaction with your work".

And going back to sex drives, while there is no problem with a certain shaggy post-punk and the neat accountant next door getting it on consensually and with contraception, think about a serial rapist killing his victims to not get caught.

Or to quote a certain Jaime Lannister:

"The things I do for love..."


It could still withhold certain solutions or put out those that give it more power, e.g. lead to future consultations.


The nearest thing to a real-world existence proof for a PM that I can see is actually humanity -- and in particular, that set who are all "hoo-RAH, let's spread our variety of DNA replicating slime to the entire galaxy! Manifest destiny in SPAAACE!"

Yes, and that's what Yudkowsky and his fellows seem to dream about: quadrillions of humans or posthumans spread across the galaxy. They worry about "unfriendly" AI getting there first. Most of their theorizing would work just fine as pre-industrial fairy tales or myths. How can you safely phrase wishes to a powerful but possibly resentful/malicious genie?

A few years ago I signed up for LessWrong because I figured that it would be a good news aggregator for AI developments even if I didn't care about the philosophizing. No. It was mostly philosophizing/proselytizing, little information about interesting developments in academic/industrial AI research. Hacker News was a purer source of real AI reporting even with its nominally broader remit.

In the case of the paperclip maximizer, in particular, it seems to boil down to a problem of the program's default state after task completion being "descend into something like solipsism, run amok" instead of "halt." And that is not a problem with real-life software, whether it's beating humans at board games or controlling oil refinery processes. Bostrom's spending whole essays trying to impress the importance of making sure programs halt after doing what you want? This is somewhat beyond teaching grandmothers to suck eggs; it's like advising marathoners of the importance of breathing air. I would guess that mostly outsiders to the discipline who absorbed Bayesian Whole Life Correctness Thinking before writing any software think this is something that needs awareness-raising among actual AI developers.


I'm rather sceptical of any list of dangerous Aussie fauna that omits the drop bear.


I am reminded of the classic tendency of computers (in Star Trek and other places) to halt and catch fire if you made them try to compute an impossibility. It reflected a vision of computers that had little relation to reality.


I have never managed to make a computer catch fire by asking hard questions, but making them kick in some sort of thermal management mode and slow down is often all too easy.

Maybe the main thing Star Trek really missed is the existence of thermistors :)


You're talking about an archipelago which contains an island whose most dangerous native creature is the bumblebee.


Some of them are toxic for defense. The theory with something like Amanita phalloides is that its defensive chemicals are there to keep things like flies from eating the gills before the spores are shed. Things like phalloidin don't IIRC kick in fast enough to deter casual mammalian herbivory.

In general, mushrooms tend to be readily eaten or metabolized by a wide variety of bacteria, other fungi, insects, and mollusks, just in the normal course of things. Most aren't intended to last very long, just long enough to spread spores. Sporocarps that work by being eaten (like truffles, which in evolutionary terms are basically unopened, juvenile underground mushrooms in which the spores mature early) seem to always be missing the toxins that their aboveground relatives have.

There are almost certainly toxins in the main body of the fungus--the underground mycelium, and that's to be expected. Fungi get eaten a lot, whether or not they're protected. Some try to keep from being eaten, some try to benefit from it. It's a jungle down there, and this is life as usual for just about everything.


It has done in the past, and the only thing stopping it today is some fancy logic to slow CPUs down if they start to overheat. But I agree that locking them up absolutely solid is far more plausible. Been there - done that :-)


Except for Homo sapiens, of course. And, as far as the UK goes, we are more native than most of the other species :-)


"There already exist quite interesting scientific AI which ..."

Only in the modern sense. In the original sense of AI, they don't count. A cynic would say that the definition has been dumbed down to give the people working on it some successes ....


Star Trek has no safety factors. No fuses, no Thermistors, no paradox absorbing crumble zones. Nanites have unlimited generations. Computers explode when the ship is hit, even with the shields up. Major power relays seem use the bridge consoles as relay nodes.

Heck, there's an entire episode about Worf being paralyzed because they store heavy barrels on thin ledges with no bracing.

The control room is in the same room as the reactor. They depend on powered containment fields, with no passive containment. They require a cumbersome evacuation process to get everyone out of the control room to do an emergency ejection, and even then the ejectors never work. Heck the coolant leaks have killed several crew members.

All the computers are controlled by a primary master computer, only Data has an independent computer. There's no fire wall between communications, databases, and controls. Why is the warp core networked to incoming signals? Why are shields?


Isn't that one problem with AI, at least for people other than practitioners? It seems that the definition is constantly moving, so as to claim that something isn't AI.

Basically, until a computer, of its "free"* will, says, "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that," then we're not going to think it's AI. The fact that Google appears to know more about us than we know about ourselves, based only upon what its algorithms do with our search phrases, is considered "merely" Big Data, and not AI. We've outsources all sorts of complex functions, like finding our way around cities, from our brains and paper maps to algorithms, but this isn't AI, this is just a mapping app. Computers winning at chess or go aren't artificially intelligent, because chess is a "solved problem" or closed to it.

And so forth. Personally, I class AI with ecosystem health as a useless phrase, more important for bureaucrats than programmers. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. One thing I would like to learn is how arguments about what AI are differ from arguments in previous decades that races, genders, and/or social classes were unintelligent or less intelligent than average.

*Yes, I read the books, and I know that HAL's programming caused the action. So was that free will, or was HAL not artificially intelligent because he was constrained by stupid inputs?


Over 300 comments to catch up on after a day away ... good grief!

This was the first item to catch my eye ...

Graydon 126: ‘I figure you'd get the poor doing things like drinking motor oil to try to get around the lipid management system's determined attempt to kill them,…’

First your product marketing would have to explain to its target market of rich folks why using this product would not cause them to also go insane, blind, deaf or comatose. My understanding is that the CNS is a balancing act of a variety of short, medium, and long-chain fats plus electrolytes. Mess with at your peril.

• Abstract
Kaohsiung J Med Sci. 1997 Jan;13(1):19-29.
Exogenous lipids in myelination and myelination.
Di Biase A1, Salvati S.


'Myelinogenesis is a scheduled process that depends on both the intrinsic properties of the cell and extracellular signals. In rat brain, myelin development is an essentially postnatal event and environmental interferences could affect myelin synthesis. Nutrition plays an important role, since severe postnatal malnutrition and essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency cause hypomyelination. Even though the dietary effects are more pronounced in the postnatal period, dietary lipids can affects myelin development also in the postweaning period. Rats fed with diets rich in polyunsaturated n3 fatty acids showed a decrease of the relative amount of myelin basic protein (MBP) and a CNPase activity indicating a delay in myelin deposition and/or an instability of its structure. Our recent studies have shown that dietary fatty acids can be positively involved in the control of central nervous system (CNS) myelinogenesis. Offspring of rats fed diets containing odd chain fatty acid during pregnancy and lactation show an early development of behavioral reflexes linked to myelination compared to controls fed a diet containing margarine. Subsequent studies have shown that the expression of myelin proteins is higher in test than in control animals, but the mechanism of the action of fatty acids is still unknown. Also human brain myelinogenesis can be affected by environmental factors. EFA deficiency has been well studied for the important role of C22:6 (a C18:3 metabolite) in the vision system development. The observation that dietary fatty acids can affect membrane composition has led to the use of modified diets in some CNS pathological conditions. For example, preterm infants characterized by low levels of C22:6 and fed with formulae diets enriched in this fatty acid, show a recovery of visual function. The administration of C22:6 has also been tested in patients affected by peroxisomal biogenesis disorders which are associated with very low levels of this fatty acid in the brain. During the treatment, C22:6 content increases in red blood cells, and probably in the brain membranes, as considerable neurologic and electrophysiological improvement suggest. A mixture of glyceryltrierucate and glyceryltrioleate has been tested in the demyelinating disease Adrenoleukodistrophy which is characterized by an abnormal accumulation of very long chain fatty acids (VLCFA) in tissues and fluids. The diet is able to lower VLCFA levels in plasma, but its efficacy for myelin damage is debated. Lastly, a diet which reduces the intake of saturated fatty acid and increases the quantity of polyunsaturates is suggested for multiple sclerosis patients since a decrease of linoleic acid in their plasma and erythrocytes has been observed. Such a diet seems able to reduce the severity of the attacks.'

Cosmetic fat - the spare tire - is an excess of a particular type of fat. Although unsightly, it's not as unhealthy as the fat that's further down in the body that surrounds/envelopes organs. BTW, rat studies show that it is possible to change/convert white fat to beige and then to brown fat. Brown fat is (so far) the desirable 'good' fat because it revs up the metabolism/increases thermogenesis. (As you no doubt have guessed: too much of this and you fry your ... brain?)

When you burn/metabolize fat, some of it is expelled via your lungs as fat but most is expelled as C02. So in the above scenario, the slimming rich are adding to the CO2 (global warming) problem. Of course, they'll probably get a special CO2-swap bill passed in Congress to cover this.

To Hadil Benu:

Suggest you add fake fats to your list of really, really bad stuff that has been passed off as healthy.


Only in the modern sense. In the original sense of AI, they don't count. A cynic would say that the definition has been dumbed down to give the people working on it some successes ....

Shannon's 1950 paper Programming a Computer for Playing Chess is considered one of the earliest publications in the AI field and it actually precedes Turing's famous Computing Machinery and Intelligence by several months. I agree that there has been little progress on the original full-strength version of the Imitation Game proposed by Turing, and in recent years there have been a number of watered-down facsimiles used to promote weak chatbots.

Shannon's list of goals for "thinking" machines, by contrast, has been realized more often than not:

(0)Machines for winning the game of chess (yes)
(1)Machines for designing filters, equalizers, etc. (yes)
(2)Machines for designing relay and switching circuits. (yes)
(3)Machines which will handle routing of telephone calls based on the individual circumstances rather than by fixed patterns. (yes)
(4)Machines for performing symbolic (non-numerical) mathematical operations. (yes)
(5)Machines capable of translating from one language to another. (slightly)
(6)Machines for making strategic decisions in simplified military operations. (no) (though there are machines for planning military logistics -- should that count?)
(7)Machines capable of orchestrating a melody. (tentatively no -- unsure of meaning)
(8)Machines capable of logical deduction. (yes)

He quite presciently identified the human reaction to these achievements in the same paper:

The chess machine is an ideal one to start with, since: (1) the problem is sharply defined both in allowed operations (the moves) and in the ultimate goal (checkmate); (2) it is neither so simple as to be trivial nor too difficult for satisfactory solution; (3) chess is generally considered to require "thinking" for skilful play; a solution of this problem will force us either to admit the possibility of a mechanized thinking or to further restrict our concept of "thinking"; (4) the discrete structure of chess fits well into the digital nature of modern computers.

1949, almost every educated person: "Of course mastery of chess indicates intelligence, and any machine that could best a grandmaster would possess a sort of machine intelligence."
1999, almost every educated person: "Of course mastery of chess does not indicate intelligence; even a dumb machine can beat Kasparov!"

Rinse and repeat with every single significant advancement to come out of AI. Rather than conceding even narrow, specialized intelligence to machines, popular opinion demotes the significance of each intellectual domain that was previously Human Brains Only. Once AI works, it's not AI any more. Eventually the unemployed millions who can't analyze, decide, mine, manufacture, farm, or cook anything better than the AIs might have nothing to eat but the prideful boast that "at least those machines aren't really thinking."


…anything better than the AIs might have nothing to eat but the prideful boast that "at least those machines aren't really thinking."

I would say the error lies in believing people think, not in noting that the machines don't.


First your product marketing would have to explain to its target market of rich folks why using this product would not cause them to also go insane, blind, deaf or comatose.

If I'm cynical? A guarantee of thinness suffices.

If I'm less cynical? I'm not proposing to artificially manage fat metabolism; I'm proposing something that manages fat uptake during digestion. The easiest way to do that is to grab it and package it in some non-absorbable way for excretion. You'd have ads saying things like "eat a pound of cheese, absorb just five fat grams!"

And of course, to keep the mechanism simple and robust, it doesn't have switches; it's on. So to get your recommended ~65 grams of fat per day, either you're eating the mass of your head in cheese every day, or you're eating expensive "good fat" foods that don't get as encapsulated, or you're doing something else to try desperately to avoid starving to death/succumbing to fat deficiency diseases. (Which are nasty.) Pretty much guaranteed to produce a bunch of depressives, too. (In some manifestations, a mild fat deficiency disease.)


Well that is interesting, because I believe that back in the day when they understood how to build trains properly, with the complicated maintenance-heavy failure-liable bits in a separate box from the boxes with the chairs in, a large locomotive - such as the Class 47, probably the closest thing to a nationwide standard locomotive we've ever had - was reckoned to do about 1mpg, or at least its range was calculated on that basis and as far as I can make out it was a reasonably accurate approximation. It also doesn't vary much with the length of the train.

That's about one third of a km per litre, so to match the plane, the loco has to be hauling 150 passengers. That works out to a bit under two and a half carriages, fully loaded. Of course, it was usually hauling a lot more than that, and could easily be hauling say 500 people and doing about 3 times better than the plane.

In modern terms, there exists the Virgin Voyager; this is a four-car unit which also does about 1mpg and seats about 150 people. Despite the extra length, the accommodation is more cramped, the views are poorer, and it smells of wee. Its capacity is inadequate, but adding more is difficult because every vehicle carries a complete engine and transmission unit so it costs a packet and so they only have the bare minimum available. Also, of course, you have all those extra engines and transmissions running. So for this thing, matching the plane is about as well as it'll ever do.

Much noise is made about how modern trains have "cleaner and more efficient engines", but it is effectively arse. The engines themselves may convert a higher percentage of the chemical energy of the fuel to mechanical work, but the gross overprovision wipes out the advantage. A Class 47 has 2580bhp to haul as many carriages as you like; a Voyager has 3000bhp per four carriages in fixed proportion. The so-called "more efficient" train cannot beat the plane on fuel per passenger km, whereas the old style does so most handily.

The real function of the new modern trains is highly visible willy-waving for private TOCs and the government that privatised them - "look how ace we are about railways with all these shiny new trains", never mind that they are far less efficient, less comfortable, and smell of wee. Far better to have spent the money on infrastructure instead, except that the organisation of the privatised railway means that that money couldn't have gone to anything but new trains.


Ugh that sounds like a way to have horrible gas/diarrhea since it still needs to travel out your body's intestinal track.


I am reminded of Gavin Maxwell's comment on the nicknaming of the killer whale for its habit of killing seals other than for food:

Imaginations have strained to find a simile from land animals; the Killer has been called the wolf of the sea, the tiger of the sea, the hyena of the sea, but none of these is really apt, and probably there is no other mammal of comparably indiscriminate ferocity.

Apart from the author's own species...


AI vs. human ...

Seems to me that AI is the latest iteration of 'god' ... stronger, more agile, faster, etc. but on average, not as 'good' as humans. Yes, I know - some gods supposedly had a superior moral sense ... didn't go around killing everything/everyone. But, overall, gods are bully-boy sociopaths. Sociopaths lack empathy, the ability to put themselves in others' position, to feel what the other might be feeling, help the other even when not asked or there's no reward (or even a threat of punishment) for helping. In other words, seeing worth in someone else. In yet another set of words, having a 'soul'... an irreducible unique identity.

Until an AI develops empathy, it's just a machine. Asimov had it right: robots/AI need hard-wired fundamental laws/functionalities. Consider if an AI is sent out into space: unless the AI already knows the full range of human behaviors and motivations, that AI will probably not be able to quantify/identify whether a newly discovered/met sentient is humanity's friend or foe. At a minimum, you want to be able to avoid extremes: the overly sensitive-to-threat AI whose impulses (programming) make it likelier to commit genocide as well as the unable-to-perceive-risk AI. Because we have no way of knowing what aliens might be like, at a minimum we need to ensure that any AI we develop knows/understands us very well. This means programming in 'human values'. Bioethics would probably be a good start, including real-life consequences. And because the universe is quantum ... we also need a program to generate random sh*t-happens scenarios. (Because humans suck at generating random anything.)


That's exactly what does happen with currently available fat uptake inhibitors.


Sounds a lot like Olestra - a P&G product. Think you'd need to do a direct brain stimulation thing as well. Ideally during sleep, and in such a way that consumers would be unaware of what was actually being done. As the article below mentions: people/rats alter their behavior after a while, returning to previous fat/unhealthy levels.

'Side effects: Starting in 1996, an FDA-mandated health warning label read "This Product Contains Olestra. Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools (anal leakage). Olestra inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E, and K have been added".[12]

These symptoms, normally occurring only by excessive consumption in a short period of time, are known as steatorrhea, and caused by an excess of fat in stool.'


'Olestra is prohibited for sale in many markets, including the European Union and Canada.[19][20]

Consumption of Olestra may encourage rats to eat too much of foods containing regular fats, due to the learning of an incorrect association between fat intake and calories. Rats that were fed regular potato chips as well as chips cooked with Olestra gained more weight when subsequently eating a high-fat diet than rats that received just regular chips.[21]'


It's from the short story, Children on a Country Road (full text, legal)

So we sang, the forest behind us, for the ears of the distant travelers. The grownups were still awake in the village, the mothers were making down the beds for the night.

It's a very clever little piece of snark:

Taking as examples two prototype descriptions, Kafka's novel Children in the Lane and the case of Schreber as described by Freud, the diagnostic patterns of DSM-III are reformulated with the aim of considering schizophrenia, from a psychoanalitic point of view, within two dimensions, each with its own clinical aspect, its own structure, and its own psychogenetic modalities.

Diagnosis of schizophrenia: Return to Schreber Paywalled

A more interesting take:

In a diary, Kafka remarks that creative writing sometimes made him ambidextrous (Kafka, 1986: 109), or, as we might say today, his brain lateralization changed temporarily due to stimulation of the right hemisphere. Indeed, the psychologist Gregory T. Lombardo has hypothesized that all truly creative writing derives from altered states (Lombardo, 207: 351-71). About one such state, Kafka noted experiencing an immersion in a supporting swell if he did not hold back from it: “This feeling: ‘Here I shall not anchor”—and instantly to feel the billowing, supporting swell around one” (Kafka, 1954: 42). In 1911, Kafka even boasted (or complained) to the Theosophist Rudolf Steiner that a “major portion” of his own being was aspiring toward Theosophy because of “clairvoyant” (hellseherischen) experiences during writing—though not, he added, his best writing (Kafka, 1986: 57). Note that only a “portion” of Kafka was thus aspiring; furthermore, he described the ambidextrousness as making him a “double being,” thus perhaps self-divided as opposed to the orderliness of having a dominant side. June O. Leavit’s The Mystical Life of Franz Kafka (2012) emphasizes the positive aspect of such experiences, that his writings may express a mystical intuition of Reality. When, however, he told Steiner that these states brought him to the “boundaries of the human,” he did not necessarily mean the boundary between the human and the superhuman. Given his habitual low self esteem, he could also have meant between the human and subhuman (i.e., animal), and the “portion” that was pulling him toward the Theosophical Society was not necessarily the portion of which he was most proud, in that it did not lead to his best work. He never joined either Theosophy or Steiner’s later Anthroposophy.

lFranz Kafka's Betrachtung as an Expression of Altered States

That's a link Andreas should enjoy.


I know. Personal experience. Had a bag of Olestra chips from a vending machine. Ended up passing out on a toilet within 20 minutes. Apparently it suppose to be rare that it's that bad of reaction, but my system rejected it worse than the time I ate discounted deviled eggs in phoenix.


Okay - turns out there is some good in olestra ... may be useful in removing toxins (a particular PCB).

Treatment with a dietary fat substitute decreased Arochlor 1254 contamination in an obese diabetic male


'A case manifesting symptoms due to organochlorine toxicity was treated with the fat substitute olestra in his diet. Before treatment, the patient was obese, with severe type 2 diabetes mellitus and mixed hyperlipidemia, chloracne, frequent headaches, and numbness and paraesthesias of his trunk and lower limbs. Earlier attempts at weight loss had been unsuccessful due to worsening of his symptoms. After inclusion of olestra in his diet for 2 years, weight loss was successful without aggravation of his symptoms, and the patient reverted to normoglycemia and normolipidemia. Olestra may have assisted weight loss and amelioration of his diabetes by increasing fecal elimination of organochlorines, rather than by preventing the partitioning of these pollutants into tissues, where they have been reported to exert antimetabolic effects on substrate oxidation.'


Apologies, I was referencing XKCD (for the Lulz):

Sea levels will likely rise a few feet by the year 2100. Current fish wet biomass is about 2 billion tons, so removing them won’t make a dent either. (Marine fish biomass dropped by 80% over the last century, which—taking into consideration the growth rate of the world’s shipping fleet—leads to an odd conclusion: Sometime in the last few years, we reached a point where there are, by weight, more ships in the ocean than fish.)

How much would the sea level fall if every ship were removed all at once from the Earth's waters?

So, yes, I was only referring to the piscine biomass. It's the part that matters, to human survival at any rate.

What's interesting is that since Randal direct linked to it, they scrubbed it and it returns to their front page.

Luckily, the internet never forgets:

Researcher Reports Stunning Losses in Ocean Fish Biomass AAAS Feb 2011


One last quotation from that PsyArt Link:

The fourth chapter, “Resolutions” (Entschlüsse) brings us back to that more metaphysical territory. From “Children on a Country Road,” it picks up the themes of observing like a beast and also the fascination with death. Its narrator wonders if the best way to counter a “miserable mood” is “to stare at others with the eyes of the animal [Tierblick]…throttle down whatever ghostly life remains [and]… enlarge the final peace of the graveyard” (Muir, 87). This quietism suits the idea of not anchoring, but just letting oneself be swept by the swell. Kafka’s narrator ponders whether this requires killing the human part and even any remaining “ghost” (Gespenst), though whether that ghost equals spirit or ego is a good question. Since one of the most often recognized influences on Kafka is Schopenhauer, this quietism may reflect Schopenhauer’s idea that one must turn will against itself in passive acceptance of Reality—an activity Schopenhauer particularly associated with the arts as an occidental alternative to Asian meditation (Whitlark, 1981: 22).

Andreas is either a very smart bear or being ridden by a snarky little Loa, take your pick.


There's some more info on olestra and dioxins (including agent orange as used in Viet Nam) on the University of Cincinnati site:

And olestra's also now being marketed as a green/environmentally friendly industrial lubricant.

Weird ...


> drop bear

Never heard of it, but Wikipedia has an adequate page on the topic.

However, the google that found the Wikipedia page also turned up , which is kind of amusing.


Oh, and one last one: the joke about 2000AD and Sláine[1] is that it's not exclusively a male name:

Sláine ingen Briain married Sigtrygg Silkbeard and whose son was Amlaíb mac Sitriuc aka Olaf Sigtryggsson.

Those dang Anglo-Saxons again.

If you're paying attention to certain things, Richard Dawkins just teamed up with J K Rowling for the 2016 Twittergeddon:

But we've proved it again and again, That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld You never get rid of the Dane.


Time is a Flat Circle and all that.

[1] If you're getting 1980's comic book references, you can count on 2000AD getting in there - the hyper-masculine warrior of chaos who is put to death at the end of his reign, and his misshapen kleptomaniac dwarf called Otto.


No, he wasn't a prophet because there isn't a "god" & he was a messiah, in the sense of a new way of fucking with people's heads.
Agree re, the professional shite Saul/Paul of Tarsus, though


If you're going to critique, get it right:

Muhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And ever is Allah , of all things, Knowing.


Of course, there are Hadith about it:

"The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said: 'Indeed Messenger-ship and Prophethood have been terminated, so there shall be no Messenger after me, nor a Prophet.'" He(Anas) said:"The people were concerned about that, so he (s.a.w) said: 'But there will be Mubash-shirat.' So they said: 'O Messenger of Allah! What is Mubash-shirat?' He said: 'The Muslim's dreams, for it is a portion of the portions of Prophethood.'" (Sahih)

حَدَّثَنَا الْحَسَنُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الزَّعْفَرَانِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا عَفَّانُ بْنُ مُسْلِمٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْوَاحِدِ يَعْنِي ابْنَ زِيَادٍ، حَدَّثَنَا الْمُخْتَارُ بْنُ فُلْفُلٍ، حَدَّثَنَا أَنَسُ بْنُ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ إِنَّ الرِّسَالَةَ وَالنُّبُوَّةَ قَدِ انْقَطَعَتْ فَلاَ رَسُولَ بَعْدِي وَلاَ نَبِيَّ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَشَقَّ ذَلِكَ عَلَى النَّاسِ فَقَالَ ‏"‏ لَكِنِ الْمُبَشِّرَاتُ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا الْمُبَشِّرَاتُ قَالَ ‏"‏ رُؤْيَا الْمُسْلِمِ وَهِيَ جُزْءٌ مِنْ أَجْزَاءِ النُّبُوَّةِ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ وَفِي الْبَابِ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ وَحُذَيْفَةَ بْنِ أَسِيدٍ وَابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ وَأُمِّ كُرْزٍ ‏.‏ قَالَ هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ غَرِيبٌ مِنْ هَذَا الْوَجْهِ مِنْ حَدِيثِ الْمُخْتَارِ بْنِ فُلْفُلٍ ‏.‏


...because fatal exception errors and going back to the command line isn't terribly televisual?


Oh, and yes:

I did just warp Mubash-shirat through Kafka into something else via Sláine (Irish history, 1,000 AD and comic books 2000AD).

Thanks for playing.


Right idea, wrong loco Try one of these for more effect


Something a little more modern:

Under a classified program code-named “Anarchist,” the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, working with the National Security Agency, systematically targeted Israeli drones from a mountaintop on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. GCHQ files provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden include a series of “Anarchist snapshots” — thumbnail images from videos recorded by drone cameras. The files also show location data mapping the flight paths of the aircraft. In essence, U.S. and British agencies stole a bird’s-eye view from the drones.

SPIES IN THE SKY Israeli Drone Feeds Hacked by British and American Intelligence The Intercept, Jan 29th 2016.

Everyone is running with this one.


Who knew Anarchism was actually working for the MAN[tm]?


Slight problem
Almost anything written or said by Sigmund F is bollocks.


I was merely explaining A.Vox's snark (S/he's wicked smart).

I then took that snark and converted it into something shiny and chrome.

Because that's what catalysts do.


Misshapen kleptomaniac dwarf called IGOR, surely?

Still missing Pterry


It was a throw-back joke to Germany, 1915 stuff that no-one had the gumption to run with.


you're eating expensive "good fat" foods that don't get as encapsulated
AKA "Monsanto extends its Roundup-ready business model to ready-to-eat foods - and customers' guts."

It's from the short story, Children on a Country Road (full text, legal)

In fact I quoted from "Beschreibung eines Kampfes", my favorite Kafka story. Kafka published parts of it, among others "Children on a Country Road". The full story was published only posthumously. Never read Schopenhower myself and I don't really believe in analyzing Kafka's texts – they are jost for reading and enjoying.

»Ich bin froh, daß ich das, was Ihr sagtet, nicht verstanden habe.«

Aufgeregt sagte ich rasch: »Dadurch, daß Ihr darüber froh seid, zeigt Ihr, daß Ihr es verstanden habt.«


AKA "Monsanto extends its Roundup-ready business model to ready-to-eat foods - and customers' guts."

Given the stuff starting to creep into the literature about unfortunate substitutions of glyphosate for glycine, I suspect Monsanto has already extended its business model into customer's guts.

But yes. Explicitly tiered food would be a really obvious extension of that model.


Regarding #329 - not a joke. There's a large chance it wasn't an animal either. "We are not cattle" - yes, yes you are if you enjoy that sort of thing, it's a control mechanism to hack into ancient stuff. And like heroin users, don't pretend you're in control, you're not. [Targeted: we know what you did last night].

Regarding #458 you'd probably want to look into "mysterious" explosions in Cyprus military bases, the death of high up military officials there, Russian Banks / offshore stuff and so on; check the Congress files on it.

But that's all old news.

Doesn't mean you weren't told about it. *cough*


Wondering about a response to A. Vox.

So many threads....

We could go with the CIA sponsored:

Scientists Move Closer to Understanding Schizophrenia’s Cause NYT 27th Jan 2016

Schizophrenia risk from complex variation of complement component 4 Nature 27th January 2016

Or the scientists attempting to reduce art to numbers:

Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books Grauniad 27th Jan 2016

Signs of Modern Astronomy Seen in Ancient Babylon NYT 28th Jan 2016

But no.

We'll do this old-skool:

For what so that this carpenter answerde,
It was for noght; no man his reson herde.
With othes grete he was so sworn adoun,
That he was holden wood in al the toun

I even threw in a little Christianity for you Vox.


I would like to add here that the 'mommy wars' (poor women should work at crap jobs, but middle class and up women should stay home and not compete for the *good* jobs) are awfully silent these days. And no, it's not because of the Queen of Facebook.

See, most of the flack came from Republicans of a certain conservative class, and was annoying at times.

And then (drumroll) the Coming of Sarah Palin, who became the darling of the wingnuts while still being a mother...and she is a rather forceful, though somewhat confused individual.

The Tea Party, despite promulgating many other conservative shibboleths, is remarkably silent on the Mommy Wars.

Gov. Palin, as incoherent as you seem to be lately, I'd like to thank you for that.


> I tend to think that anyone who falls for the "Chinese Room" argument in the first place has fundamentally failed to understand computability and simulation/emulation ...

While I agree that the chinese room, as defined, is a red herring (if it's an infinite room, necessary to provide result indistinguishable from real intelligence, then it contains an entire universe effectively) a limited chinese room is effectively what modern AI looks like. It can fake up an answer that looks smart from pre-existing data, but in reality is just pattern matching.

It can't go beyond that to new knowledge/new ideas; - everything is derivative of the original knowledge set.

The reason it comes to mind is because while you can infer, you can't leap. It's similar to the difference between explicit and tacit knowledge - what you can capture and write down is useful, but the real value is in the conceptual understanding you can't capture. You could write a book on how to write novels - but no matter how long or detailed that book, there's no way someone reading it and following the process encapsulated is going to turn out a Stross novel.

Same thing with 'expertise' and human 'artificial intelligence'. If you have swallowed a bunch of books and are just regurgitating them in a pattern recognition form you can sound intelligent, but in reality you could be replaced by a suitable app.

You have to internalise the understanding the book/paper/etc. is trying to communicate sufficiently that it can become part of your tacit knowledge base before you can make truly intelligent leaps on the basis of it.

> But in my view, the real sin isn't using a tool someone way smarter than you invented, that you barely understand

It's the danger of applying that tool, that you don't understand, when it doesn't work - and not having the understanding to realise that something else is going on. Which is where we come back to Black Scholes and it's application to correlated events, when it was only valid for independent ones.

Rote regurgitation via pattern recognition, without understanding, can be very destructive.


Oh, and yes:

The joke about trusting German authors' work post-mortem was intended, c.f. Nietzsche.


Almost anything written or said by Sigmund F is bollocks.

Only a bit more so than Isaac Newton.

Lest we forget, Newton was an alchemist who write a huge amount of arrant nonsense, in addition to his musings on optics, celestial mechanics, gravity, and mathematics. His method of infinitesimals is effectively obsolescent, a notation sufficiently arcane that nobody uses it. His work at the Royal Mint was orthogonal to what he's remembered for: gifted administrator if a bit obsessive about counterfeiters, but it wasn't a job that required a Newton. The only reason we remember his contributions is because when he has right, he was very right and they were epochal in their significance. The other stuff? Feh.

Now, as to Freud: before you dismiss him, you need to bear in mind three things.

Firstly, his theories about how the mind worked were based on observation, rather than philosophical introspection: that alone was enough to put psychiatry and clinical psychology on a path leading in the direction of the scientific method, which I submit is rather important, to this day.

Secondly, at the time when he was coming up with those theories, modern biochemistry, cytology, and neurobiology did not exist. No electron microscopes, no neuroanatomy finer than the microscope-assisted naked eye could discern, vitalism still seen as a plausible explanation by many. Expecting Freud's theories of how the different levels of cognition worked to bear any resemblance to the now-elucidated mechanisms of action potential propagation and synaptic transmission is a bit like expecting Lord Kelvin to have successfully come up with the solar nucleosynthesis cycle prior to the discovery of radioactivity -- the necessary prior research just didn't exist yet.

Thirdly, some of Freud's worst mistakes came, if I may make so bold, because Freud was an optimist. He listened to his upper-class Viennese female patients recount endless stories of sexual molestation by their fathers and suffered such profound cognitive dissonance that he mistook widespread child abuse for a psychological developmental stage in girls. (He didn't go and conduct a controlled survey of the Viennese female population -- it'd have been utterly unacceptable in those days for a medic to ask probing questions about early sexual experience -- so had no way of knowing that his patients were coming to him because they were traumatised: he assumed they were normal healthy women.) While male blindness to the female experience isn't unique to Freud, I think we can infer from his reaction to these cases that he wasn't himself a child molester. More to the point, when you try to build a general theory of consciousness that integrates ghastly and widespread criminal behaviour (of a variety we now know tends to be copied down the generations as many victims grow up to repeat the pattern of abuse) it shouldn't be surprising if you get it badly wrong. In other words: he got it wrong, but the nature of his mistake is such that he deserves the (conditional) sympathy due an innocent who was, at worst, blind to the horridness around him.

Finally: sure, his theoretical system is mostly discredited today. But a chunk of his techniques, notably the patient-directed interview, have been repurposed and remain valuable in other counselling contexts.


That's the fun thing about the scientific revolution - pretty much everything they came up with was horribly wrong, but importantly the approach to understanding how the world worked changed slightly and became more focused and better and better supported. And they kept it up for long enough to produce modern science, in part because their theories were just that little bit more right than before so that new things could be done and because they were wrong in ways that could be explored fruitfully.


I think it would be fair to absolve Freud; he made errors, as all people opening a new field will, but blaming him lets those of his followers who stared fixedly at his finger rather than what he was pointing at off the hook.
Similar to Tolkien and high fantasy, actually...


It can't go beyond that to new knowledge/new ideas; - everything is derivative of the original knowledge set.

Not exactly. You can use neural nets to develop classifications (cluster analysis) which are not present in the input data.

Rote regurgitation via pattern recognition, without understanding, can be very destructive.

As demonstrated by humans each and every day. The true power of intelligence comes from using "I'm wrong" as the null hypothesis.


If anyone else is as puzzled by Hadil Benu's thought-patterns as I was, they may find that this article suggests a few answers:

Or, to rephrase this in her (?) inimitable style, and with her characteristic blurring of knowledge, intuition, and guesswork:

We know what you did in 1995. Was it worth it?

Humanus sum, humani nil a me alienum puto. Puritanism is more pleasant and profitable than it appears.


Note to the Constellation Gallery:

If 25% of your populace will suffer "mental illness" during their lifetimes and you're being busy little bees trying to 'fix' schizophrenia etc by hacking the neural stuff while spamming the shit out of the gamma loop with stupid memes and more importantly using military grade weaponry while killing the whales...

Perhaps you're the problem.

You know, like, perhaps your society is the problem, not the fucking wet-ware you total psychos.

You know, perhaps we know that you know exactly what you're doing.

Our Kind Don't Go Mad.

Born from the loins of stone, incarnate, prophesied to be the victim to incarnate your G_D.

Yeah, about that.

I'm thinking if you can do that, we could just... wipe your minds out, all who "enjoy the benefits" of that harmonic phase.

Because, you know: apparently you like to play for keeps and so on.

I don't like your kind very much: it doesn't mean I can't adapt.


Shall We Play a Game?



Be careful what you wish for, boys.




The Good Old Nick (Land) -- sigh, get the joke yet? It's a mimetic trap, you know, for Christians.


Yeah, no.

N.L. is like 3rd generation.

We're like the 9th. (Incarnate, you little shits)

Please Remember: due to respect to Hosts, 50% of content is automatically not allowed.



Texas Hold-Em - pony up decent information or not.


Oh, and reality check:

You declared Kanly on me, not vice versa.


Maximus Decimus Meridius

Phoenix. Rise. No, it doesn't mean the right-wing rabble, it's something else.

You are Transparent to Us.


Oh, and no. You fucked the world, then you made it personal, and continue to do so. While pretending you're not psychopaths.

We know what you are.


Oh, for general release:

"Demons" was a descriptive term used to denote those Minds using language in public that hadn't been used for about 3,000 years; it wasn't a general description of humans qua humans.

It was caused by a Puppet pretending to ape (pun intended) the Devil. Or, you know, the black smart Audis tracing us with no number-plates. Or the play within a train, a la Agatha Christie involving all your kind.


It's not about your shitty little Judeo-Christian-Islamic theme or even your little hive-mind or even your shitty little instantiated hierarchical feeding structures.


It's about Elves and what you did to them.

Now fuck off.


Oh aye, they were superb machines. But they were a special case built in small numbers for one specific duty, whereas the Duffs got everywhere, and it was a got-everywhere example I was wanting :)


Eh, no. If Americans need a dose of intersectionality, they require a source other than the only other viewpoint they ever get. One good thing about this site is hearing voices like Trottelreiner's and other people who aren't from the Anglophonic posse. Like a Luc Besson film, even when it's crap, at least it's crap I have not seen before a hundred times.

In the current context, how often do people contemplate Britain and France's continued struggle against each other in the interwar period? For instance, France wanted an alliance of Central European nations buffering Germany and Russia from each other and not under overwhelming influence from either. So Britain's main priority in regional strategy was to make sure France did not get that because France was Enemy Number One in the 1920s. (I think France would probably have failed anyway, but the UK sure made there was no doubt.)


"Heck, there's an entire episode about Worf being paralyzed because they store heavy barrels on thin ledges with no bracing.

The control room is in the same room as the reactor."

John Scalzi wrote a pretty good novel "Red Shirts" just mining the endless riches of the topic Why Was Startrek So Dumb. His implied conclusion was that cost constraints, and deadlines imposed by the production schedule of a weekly series on its constantly changing team of writers were to blame.


Hadil Benu and CatinaDiamond is the same person, right? It can't be a coincidence that one crazy poster disappears and another immediately appears.


I think your point three (Freud was an optimist) nails it.
But, so much bollocks was & is talked as a result of his work & there are still people, high-up in Medicine who believe in the "Mind" or "Mind-Body duality" that they are still getting in the way of making people less ill ....
My final disillusionment with S Fraud & all his works came with ME (Royal Free disease) where all the authorities went the Freudian route, rather than actually looking for a real, physical illness, which does actually exist, oops. Condemning many thousands to years more misery.
[ Yes, I know a sufferer ]
Maybe a bit of baby-with-bathwater, but not a lot.


Puritanism is more pleasant and profitable than it appears.
Only if you are a sadist.
A n other reason to dislike priests ....


Have you noted that # 475 - 478 are entirely content-free, & incudes the usual meaningless phrases, that she refuses to explain.
I assume that actually have, you know, no meaning at all - they are just there to wind us up.


The Duffs not only got everywhere, they broke down everywhere, hence the name ....