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Laundry summer madness sale!

Today, and for the next two weeks, those of you lucky enough to live in North America (not the UK/EU/rest of world: sorry) can buy the ebook edition of The Atrocity Archives, the first book in the Laundry Files, for just $1.99!

Oh, and if you've been holding off buying the latest book in the series, the ebook price of The Nightmare Stacks has now dropped (to $7.99, from $9.99). It hasn't quite caught up in the UK, but the UK paperback of "The Nightmare Stacks" is due out next Thursday (and the ebook price should drop then).

(Note that Ace do not plan to publish "The Nightmare Stacks" in paperback in the US at this time. The midlist mass market paperback distribution channel in the US is imploding, as ebooks have cannibalized the market for disposable reading matter. (There might at some point be a trade paperback, but don't hold your breath.)

Finally, we're about two months away from the next Laundry Files novel, The Delirium Brief is due out in the USA on July 11th, and in the UK on July 6th.

So if you've been holding off on getting your teeth into the Laundry Files, now is the best time to stock up on summer reading!


In the UK and EU and Commonwealth, the Laundry Files are published by Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown, a subsidiary of Hachette.

Hachette mandate DRM on all electronic media, No Exceptions.

In North America the first seven novels in the Laundry Files are published by Ace, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

PRH mandate DRM on all electronic media, No Exceptions.

(My editors are aware of my preferences and if group-wide policy ever changes, I'm sure we'll work something out.)

But as of "The Delirium Brief" the series is moving to Publishing (who already publish Equoid and Three Tales from the Laundry.) does not require DRM, and the Laundry stories available from them are and will continue to be DRM-free.

(Because DRM is enabled via the retailer/platform rather than the publisher, there is an occasional risk that it will get switched on by accident. If this happens, notify me and I'll kvetch at Tor's ebook publishing team, who will fix the problem. No need to leave one star reviews!)



The Delirium Brief -

When do we get a look inside, pretty pleeease ....


In a couple of weeks, via IIRC.


hoping The Delirium Brief is not about halucinogenic underwear


Also currently available for $1.99 on Apple's iBooks store, my preferred venue for ebooks when I can't get 'em DRM-free from places like Humble Bundle or Story Bundle. I didn't check Barnes & Noble or Kobo.


Does anyone have a link to the US paperback?

Amazon doesn't have it listed (nor does B&N, for that matter)


May I congratulate you for actually specifying the countries in whIch the offer is available, a practice that is sadly all too rare among authors who are noting Amazon deals on their books.


US paperback of which book, precisely?

(If you mean "The Atrocity Archives", well, this offer applies only to the ebook ...)


Actually, US editions are available in most non-English-speaking countries. </pedantry>


IIRC that's the original cover for the A-Archives & much better than mine ... though look at those deep, space-eating valves ( sorry crt-monitors for the desktops ....


When may we have a Nightmare Stacks spoiler thread? I've had a few questions rattling about.


Did you change the spelling on your name, or is that nothing more than an a graphics glitch? Might even be a good move, most readers would pronounce it like 'Strohs', positive brand associations and all that.


hoping The Delirium Brief is not about halucinogenic underwear

That does sound like something that would have come up in one of young Bob's misadventures.


IIRC at least two stories in the "Dangerous Visions" collections were such.


You are mistaken; ebook territorial sales limits are one of the things amazon and other e-tailers enforce quite rigorously (why do you think they like customers to file an address with them even for electronic sales?).

In this case, the books are licensed for sale in the USA, Canada, and a short list of non-exclusive third-party territories where the UK-licensed editions are also sold on a non-exclusive basis.

If you're in the USA you won't notice this. And of course physical books are sold subject to the first sale doctrine (meaning: once the customer has paid for them nobody can control where they're mailed to — they're the purchaser's property, whereas with an ebook the legal fiction is that you're only buying a license to use the content within certain geographical limits).


You can have a "Nightmare Stacks" spoiler thread in a few weeks, when the paperback is on sale in the UK and the US ebook price has dropped.

There will be no mass market paperback edition of "The Nightmare Stacks" in the USA; the mass market distribution channel is currently imploding. (Ace might put out a trade paperback, but this is not decided as far as I know.)


Does this mean that technically you aren't allowed to load your e-reader with books and take it on holiday?

Wonder if license violation is considered a good enough reason to detain people at borders.


See correction in OP. "The Nightmare Stacks" will not be issued in paperback in the USA.


Copyright is the right to make a copy. You aren't making any new or additional copies when you cross a border, so no copyright issue arises, any more than taking paperbacks on holiday. The act of selling a book (or e-book) is the act that is geo-licensed by the rightsholder.

E.g. the Audible T&Cs at have no reference to geography except under "applicable law" (and are surprisingly clean and clear in general).

(Any customs or immigration officers who try to image your electronic device with copyrighted content are in breach of copyright though, exactly as if they photocopied every page of a paperback novel in your luggage. I'd love to see Amazon/Audible or another large publisher sue...)


But as OGH said you are buying a geographically limited license, not a copy. If the license does specify geographic limits then whether or not you were entitled to download the file in the first place is irrelevant.

OTOH you probably aren't violating any T&C unless you actually read something, but the same border security types can compel you to turn the device on...

It would be nice to see amazon suing governments for breaches of copyright but we all know that customs/border security are effectively above the law so I can't see it happening unfortunately.


The situation is extremely complex, and tied up with whether the big online sales outlets have managed to change the law by operating outside it. I am not a lawyer, but had to find out about this in a software context, and have attempted to chase up the definitive sources several times. This is also an answer to 'john'.

In English (and, I believe, Scottish) and most jurisdictions derived from it, licences are valid only if agreed under contract. And, despite the claims, online sales agreements and shrink-wrapped conditions do not meet the conditions for being valid contracts - there is no negotiation, for a start. But, on the other hand, the right to possess a copy (under copyright) is not as simple as being mere property, and there can be conditions attached. Until and unless the law is clarified, either by statute or binding precedent, almost all 'DRM' online buying selling is operating outside the law (which is NOT the same as being illegal).


My apologies, I meant the paperback of The Nightmare Stacks

Which I see from your later response will not exist.

Bummer... having books in a series in different sizes trips my OCD something awful. Perhaps it is finally time to go full e-book.


H'mm. I'm in Canada, and the ebook is showing as full price ($8.99) at


"The Nightmare Stacks" will not be issued in paperback in the USA.

I assume the likelihood of Tor buying the rights to, and reissuing the previous Laundry books depends on sales of future books? Or is that totally unlikely?


Any idea how this impacts one's cloud-based services/products? I've heard that customs can ask to see your phone's contact list, so wonder how far such questioning/examination might extend if someone uses cloud services exclusively.

My belief is that the major selling point for cloud services is to enable users to access their data (ebooks) from any point on the planet using any device vs. carting around their data inside one specific device that might get lost, broken or stolen. No idea whether cloud suppliers have checked into the legalese of this universally-accessible claim or whether it's marketing hyperbole.

BTW, AMZN's cloud services (AWS) revenue is about $12B, currently the most stable part of their business.


Yes. Redoubled in spades, and with brass knobs on. Words fail me when describing what a legal mess that is. And that's not just copyright, but the legality of owning certain texts, data protection, yada, yada, yada. Oh, yes, every large online sales outlet claims to state what the law is, but that's as much to rush the lawmakers into making the law do what they want as to bully their customers into obeying their rules. Not all scams are illegal :-(

On the other hand, a great many of the statements to the contrary that are circulating across the Web aren't any better; the fact that a statement "A is legal / a crime / a tort" is false does not mean that the statement "A is not ..." is true.

And, lastly, it's virtually impossible to run a multi-user computer system without breaking the letter of some law or other, and completely impossible when using 'the cloud' but that doesn't mean those laws are void.


Thanks! ...

Have been leery of 'cloud' contracts/T&C mostly because history has shown that when corporate take-overs happen, customer promises go out the window. And tech take-overs and mergers occur semi-regularly.

On a related note ... NET NEUTRALITY is the next agenda item on DT's chopping block as per John Oliver's piece last night urging USians to once again tell their elected reps and the FCC that losing net neutrality is a bad idea.


The UK paperback is a trade edition but nearly the exact same size as the US paperback. Cover design is a little different, but you could always get a complete set ...?


it's actually impossible, unless Ace are so foolish as to allow the books to lapse out of print and revert the rights to me (in which case I can republish them myself, or license them to another publisher).

I think this is very unlikely to happen in the next decade.


the ebook price of The Nightmare Stacks has now dropped (to $7.99, from $9.99).

Current prices according to the link in your post:

Kindle $13.50

Hardcover $14.69

Paperback $8.41

That's prices (which was your link) and I'm in Canada. prices are:

Kindle Edition CDN$ 15.99

Hardcover CDN$ 29.93

Atrocity archives is also not showing a sale:

Kindle $7.59

Hardcover from $8.94

Paperback $14.98


If I hit (where I am not logged in) instead of (where I am — my kindle thinks I'm in the USA) I see the $7.59 price for Atrocity Archives instead of the (US) sale price. And CDN 15.99 for the ebook of Nightmare Stacks rather than the $6.99 that shows me?

Are you sure you're logged in?

(I'm not going to sound the alarm with my publisher unless I get confirmation from two or more people that the pricing is borked and they're correctly logged in on


It's much worse than U.S. Customs asking to "see" your phone, here's the story of an American citizen who was detained by Customs for secondary screening who was more or less forced to unlock his phone. It was taken from the room for 5-10 minutes, which was plenty of time to image it or place spyware on it.

If I ever leave the country again, I'm buying a second phone and loading a bare minimum of information on it. I can access anything that I truly need through web interfaces, and as long as the second phone has 4G and GPS, I'll be good. When I went to Europe two years ago, I bought an Asus Chromebook as a weight-saving alternative to my MacBook Air, it was also $200 if it was lost or stolen, and all I needed was surfing and the ability to copy camera memory cards to USB sticks. I don't know if I'll ever cross the U.S. border with a full laptop again, I'll certainly avoid doing that.


I'm logged in on, with a Canadian address. The Kindle edition is listed as $8.99.


A few potential paths:

1- New business opp for tech security outfits along the lines of 'Our latest app will tell you what the border attempted to do on your device, and whether or not they succeeded'.

2- The more travelers cave in to pressure to have their devices taken to be searched outside their view, the greater the so-called public/social acceptance of this practice (precedence).

3- Rent-a-tech-device for frequent business travelers from your org's IT-cleared supplier because $200 a pop adds up for frequent business travelers. Or, your org could have a bin of travel-ready/approved devices. Not a good option if your org happens to be EVL Inc. and they're providing this perk/device to snoop on you.


Oddly enough, there was a study that came out in the last two weeks, that ebooks sales were dropping, and paperback had started climbing again. According to my 18 yr old stepson, he likes the feel of paper, and it's easier to read, and he's not the only one.



I'm not planning on visiting the US in the next year. But.

My phone option if I have to make such a trip is: my old iPhone 6 Plus. (I currently use a 7 Plus.) Stick a PAYG SIM in it, vape it, and link to a burner AppleID provisioned using a gift voucher rather than my credit card. It's no longer set up as a 2FA authentication device and I don't need to leave my passwords, cloud, or social media accounts on it; just ebooks, music, and videos for the flight over, plus a very abbreviated address book of trip contacts. If I really want to work on the road, I can install Scrivener and sync a couple of projects across via iTunes/cable from my Mac before I go, and save a zip backup archive onto a Sandisk Connect wifi stick while traveling.

If I clear immigration/customs okay and want to download my world onto it, I can phone my wife and get her to generate an authentication code using my current phone. (I trust her with the unlock code to the device.)

The 2.5 year old device feels a bit sluggish and the screen is a little less sharp and the camera is worse than the current phone, but it works and I can afford to shrug and walk away from it. More to the point, I can afford to vape and reprovision it from scratch without the head-pain of messing up the handheld device that is the hub of my digital life and goes literally everywhere with me.

If the paranoia steps up another notch ... I could fall back 5-10 years in tech: my travel kit turns into an iPod Classic and a Kindle Keyboard 3 and a dumb phone. (This would be a royal PITA, but I could cope for a few days.) More likely, though, at that point I'd have second thoughts about travelling.

There are some alarming rumblings coming out of TSA/DHS right now. For example, they are rumoured to be considering banning laptops and tablets in carry-on luggage between the UK and USA, as they already have on flights from some middle eastern airports to the USA. I am not sanguine about trusting a laptop or tablet — even a burner — to a checked bag when all checked bags are supposed to be, well, checked (and presumably rooted). They're also rumoured to be demanding social media details for some passengers singled out for extra screening — "only about 0.5% of visitors", but a TSA official was quoted as saying "we'll be looking for signs of suspicious behaviour, like tweeting or commenting negatively about President Trump". (Yeah, that would be me over in the bad boy corner if they actually go the distance.)

Frankly, these days I view burner devices as an additional cost on top of air fares, insurance, and hotel bills for making business trips to the USA. It has a deterrent effect on travel. I gather tourism and business traveller revenue is already down by some double-digit billions of dollars this year, since the Trump inauguration, so ...


Be very suspicious of such surveys.

The data comes from the major publishers. Who, since the end of the Apple/DoJ anti-trust price-fixing settlement, have been ramping ebook prices egregiously — trade fiction was down to a ceiling of $9.99 but I'm seeing some as high as $14.99 currently as they experiment to find the right price point for milking the reading public. Meanwhile, ebook sales are known to drop by about 40% per dollar above $4.99, with a dead cat bounce around the $9.99 mark, before they fall off a cliff. And paperback prices are static.

Upshot: ebook sales from the companies providing data for those surveys may be down because idiot marketing kids are experimenting with demand based pricing and driving the price out of any sensible level, while sales are booming in the self-pub/small-pub sector (which is a whole lot more competitive on price because they don't have the organizational bloat of a major house to support).


Will they take note & back off, or will they take note & double down? I think I know the answer to that one. Trump is obviously going the Erdogan route? Any more thoughts?


Ahem. Trump's people — Pence and Bannon especially — would like to go the Erdogan route. Trump himself is so ignorant he'd prefer to go the CEO route ("you're fired!"). But really, they can't do that. The US government is carefully rigged to be about as maneuverable as a supertanker; it doesn't turn on a sixpence. Given a few years and a working majority and some more gerrymandering they might be able to get somewhere, but in his first hundred days Trump achieved very little, and even the "let's fuck the poor" healthcare bill they squeezed through Congress is likely to get mangled in the Senate.

This is not to say that Trump is harmless. But he's finding it a lot harder to be harmful than he expected, largely due to incompetence.


Any chance of the laundry files in an omnibus format in the near future?


If I hit (where I am not logged in) instead of (where I am — my kindle thinks I'm in the USA) I see the $7.59 price for Atrocity Archives instead of the (US) sale price. And CDN 15.99 for the ebook of Nightmare Stacks rather than the $6.99 that shows me?

I was logged in to at the time. The price is now $8.99 for Kindle edition of AA on

No account, as I live in Canada. Kindle edition is now showing $7.59 there while not logged in.

Needless to say, $7.59 is not $1.99.

Nightmare stacks is showing at $15.99 in Canada and $13.99 in the US for the Kindle editions.

Same prices show on the iTunes Store when I check in iBooks.

Dunno what's going on, but clearly not what your publisher told you would happen.


It's also somewhat hopeful that Bannon and his grand plans for dismantling the EU appear to be on the outs right now after he embarrassed Trump with several executive orders that got him a ton of bad press before being shot down by the courts. The US and the world can handle a little garden variety corruption under the Kushners a lot more easily than feeding the prevailing international order through a wood chipper.

Anyway, back on topic... this is awesome! I introduced the significant other to Charlie by way of Glasshouse this Christmas and she really enjoyed it. I think I'll pick AA up for her as well and see if I can't get her hooked.


Can confirm the $8.99/$15.99 prices for Atrocity Archives/Nightmare Stacks on

Seeing the same in the Canadian Kobo store (US prices are exactly as advertised).


Just out of curiousity, are we going to see Jim Gray in any future Laundry book? I've been rereading The Argageddon Score and he's such a good character and very ambiguous villain - no tells I can find from the text whether he was another patsy or a prime-mover in Mo's problems.

On one hand, I want to see him meet a terrible fate. On the other hand, maybe he doesn't deserve it.


None whatsoever.

(I believe the series may be purchased as an ebook bundle via amazon — i.e. you buy the lot, and if you already bought a few the price of those items is deducted from the total. But that's about it.)


Amazon have got you pegged as a Canadian customer and the prices you're seeing don't get the special offer on Atrocity Archives. Seems the price drop for Nightmare Stacks hasn't propagated to the .ca store, either.


with a dead cat bounce around the $9.99 mark, before they fall off a cliff. Ack. I'm weary to pay €10 or more for an eBook (but will certainly buy more books at €2,99).

TDB sells for €10,99 in Germany (and US$ 12,09 in the US), which is beyond the 9,99 border. I'm not sure that's a good move.


So it's a special offer for American customers, then?

Just kinda assumed that Canada was part of North America…


It's a special offer for USian customers then!


The blog post did say "those of you lucky enough to live in North America ", which includes Canada.


Books are traditionally sold at a reverse auction — high-priced editions first, then gradual reduction in costs to reach those customers who're reluctant to pay more.

Only due to traditional printing/distribution technology most books only got two auction price points: hardcover and mass-market (cheap paperback). Oh, and remainders don't count (authors don't get any money from remainder sales, they don't always even defray production costs).

Ebooks ... can be sold with far more granular reverse auction pricing, but it's all subject to the author/publisher contract as to how sales are accounted for. Traditional publishing contracts are "hard wired" to equate royalty rates to physical binding type (e.g. hardcover/paperback accounting pays different percentage royalties per sale).

I will note that Publishing, my new US publisher, is not Tor; it's an internal start-up within Macmillan that uses Tor for paper distribution (and to some extent for production and staff — my editor there is also a senior person at Tor) but focusses on ebooks and has totally new contract terms. I don't expect them to do highly granular reverse-auction pricing from the get-go, but they're much more open to experimentation than the parent contract because they're not legally forbidden from doing that.

In the meantime, I can say that the price of TDB will definitely drop about 9-12 months after first publication, even if there's never a mass-market paperback release as such. Likely to US $6.99, plus VAT (if you're buying via, Amazon charge you VAT at the German standard rate for ebooks — 22%, IIRC).


The data comes from the major publishers. Who, since the end of the Apple/DoJ anti-trust price-fixing settlement, have been ramping ebook prices egregiously

That explains a lot. Like many of the other commenters I'm wary of spending lots of money on ebooks, when I can't be sure that one day they might not just disappear.

I've been buying paperback copies of things more recently because they've been cheaper than the ebooks.

My personal dead cat point for an e-book is about £4.


I've asked for clarification.


Ack. I'm weary to pay €10 or more for an eBook (but will certainly buy more books at €2,99).

For me, this depends on the book in question. For example, for me the price point of easily buying an eBook is about 15-20 € - if the book is an roleplaying book. There are a couple of factors for this. Mainly, the market for them is quite small, especially for games which are not D&D. Even that game sees much fewer releases now than in the previous versions. For indie games, which might see sales of maybe a couple of thousand, the production cost is so high that the price can't really be on the order of 5 € if the author wants to make any kind of profit.

The other thing is that for years all the RPG pdfs I have bought have been freely usable. Usually they do have watermarks, but for me that's no hindrance. For example, Drivetrhurpg has all my purchases downloadable from its site, but I also have the pdf files on multiple devices I own.

For "regular" books, it depends. Some professional books are cheaper as eBooks and I most likely won't want to retain them for uncountable years - I've already thrown out two or three generations of IT books already so the problem of how do I read the books ten years from now is not as big as with for example novels.


A minor niggle: that's for new fiction, and mass-market non-fiction. It's very different for reprinting old fiction (i.e. that went out of print but is now in demand), and very different again for speciality non-fiction.


While I have paid more for E-books than for paperbacks, I am very reluctant to do so, and even more if they are not convertible to lock-free Epub. If, as I expect, our new regime signs us up to the USA's laws (e.g. the DMCA), I shall seriously consider abandoning the mainstream suppliers.


I fear that trying to understand international intellectual property laws could consume my whole life to no good ends. It's as twisty as a derivative trader's mind, as someone said.

So I'll just buy Charlie's books the day they come out, at full price, then reread them enough times to make the effective cost about a buck a reading.

I'm looking forward to seeing how BOFH shows his goofy, geeky, vulnerable side now that he's kinda invulnerable. I'm looking forward to seeing... dang. No spoilers. Frankly, I'm just looking forward to whatever Charlie brings us. Cheers from the Wet Coast of Canada.


Currently, only has a listing from Orbit for TDB, slated for release on 2017-07-13. I don't care about price, but I care about DRM (a bit) and release date (very much!).

Should I wait for Tor to list TBD in Germany, or should I preorder the Orbit version?


I'm not sure Tor are allowed to sell TDB in Germany — it's EU territory which I think is exclusive to the UK publisher (but I'm not about to break off work to go dumpster-diving through 20-page contracts written in dense legalese).


It could easily be a simple mistake, but I figured you should know.


So I circumnavigated the EU in the good ship iBooks and checked who had heard of that upcoming book.

I have no explanation for the US edition being cheaper than the UK edition in Norway and Sweden. Related to the North Atlantic Current, maybe?


I can confirm that as of 10:08 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the price of the ebook at Amazon and iBooks is $8.99. So no Canadian sale pricing at this time.


Nothing technical about it. There are several reports of Kindle owners going abroad and finding their library has diminished.



This is why, although I use the Kindle (it's the most ubiquitous cross-platform reader app with reading position syncing and also the most well-stocked store), I always crack the DRM on every ebook I buy and import into Calibre for archival purposes, transcoding into epub format.

That way, if something goes horribly wrong (e.g. a total Kindle cloud service failure, or a more local issue like Amazon deleting my account) I still have the ability to read content I have paid for.

This is technically a violation of the terms of service. It's also a violation that I know various other authors and publishing folks commit, on the same basis. Because the ToSs that emanate from corporate hive minds are not actually reasonable or compatible with the real-world use humans make of the services in question; they're drafted to comply with multiple conflicting supply chain contracts that all attempt to address for the worst abuse cases the lawyers working for the suppliers can imagine.


Yes, though I don't use Kindle. However, your description of the situation is the major online vendors' one. A perfectly valid alternative one is that those terms are void, and Amazon is committing a tort by depriving you of access to your property/rights. It largely depends on whether the law of sale or that of contract applies and, if the latter, whether such agreements are valid contracts - and anyone who claims that is clear is lying/bullshitting/deluded. That's why the major online vendors are so reluctant to take action against anyone who isn't clearly breaking some explicit law - they don't want to risk a binding precedent going against them.

Note to people who don't know (mainly UK): passing copies on to other people IS a clear tort under copyright law, and there was (?) draft legislation to make publishing such material a crime.


Damn. I was unclear. Selling in breach of copyright has been a crime for ages - the proposed (?) change was to make publishing for free a crime if it even might deprive the copyright holder of income.


For the record, in Romania I can buy ebooks off the Amazon US store but not off the UK store. So the "3rd party territories" don't quite overlap.

Not that I buy any of your books as ebook lately, I get signed hardcovers from Transreal ;)


For those who prefer iBooks over Kindle and who are also too lazy to do searches:


Editor at Ace confirms price offer on ATROCITY ARCHIVES applies in Canada as well; there's been some sort of database hitch, but they're manually propagating the price change now.


it's EU territory which I think is exclusive to the UK publisher

Expect that to change in the next couple of years, then.


We're not even vaguely near 300, but... Comey's firing.

Charlie, here's an addition to your prediction of the year's events: Trumpolini has Air Force 1 fly him to South Africa, where he requests asylum, as criminal money laundering charges are announced, along with treason, against him, members of his family, and several members of his Cabinet.


Only over new contracts going forward: IIRC the boilerplate is "in the UK and EU and other territories listed in schedule (blah) ..."


Not seeing it; I think it's more likely that at the 2018 mid-terms the Republican party will successfully vote-suppress their way to a few more governors until they've got the supermajority needed to call a Constitutional Convention and rewrite the rulebook to give themselves immunity (and to allow the POTUS to sue newspapers/TV channels/social media out of existence for criticising him). Expect overturn of Roe v. Wade and Loving v. Virginia, repeal of separation of Church and State, and other constitutional reforms to occur at the same time.


Hey Charlie,

Not to be a pest, but do you have any answers for my question about Jim Gray at number 43? Thanks. ("Dum de dum dum" will do nicely if nothing else works.)


Which answers your take on my question on a n other thread, re: "1832" - I think? Except, won't the protests & revolts get even more enthusiastic & be repressed even more vigorously which means a n other round of escalation, which ....


Yeah. The GOP has spent two whole generations attempting to recreate the Confederacy because any federal government that passed Civil Rights wasn't legitimate. They're not going to stop now.

A general strike -- a real, sustained, general insurrection sort of thing -- might work, but there's no language for any such thing in the US. There's a thin chance that enough of the military will construct Trump as a foreign agent and act, but I wouldn't bet on that one, either. Institutional paralysis.

(Comey was apparently surprised, and thought it was a joke; since I still haven't found an answer to "what would James Comey do differently if they were a Russian agent", and since it would take a very stupid person to consider Trump to have any need to know at all, I have to wonder if Comey was surprised because Putin would never approve of firing their agent in place as the FBI Director.)


Did you mistype (the way I often do ) there? Expect overturn of Roe v. Wade and Loving v. Virginia, repeal of separation of Church and State, and other constitutional reformsrepressions to occur at the same time. ??


And - Erdogan-style suppression of the press has already started



He doesn't appear in The Delirium Brief; he may feature in The Labyrinth Index but that's not yet very well mapped out.


and next rename the US as The Republic of Gilead, as in Atwood's Handmaid Tale? :-) It looks a lot too extreme and farfetched. I'm not American (USian...) but I suppose a federal ban on abortion would infringe states' rights (ironic, ain't it?). Repealing the disestabilishment clause opens a can of worms (a US State Church? which one? At state level? yes, in colonial times some colonies had the vote right tied to belonging to the estabilished Church, but now? ) Also, given the popular vote, a Constitutional Convention may backfire. Imagine it being ruled by Sanders democrats, or even leftier. A new constitution estabilishing secular state, single-payer NHS, constitutional right to unionize, and even direct popular vote (with runoff, French style) for the POTUS...


Y'all are way too optimistic. (And probably suffer from a reluctance to get what you want if it hurts people.)

Go look at the food price index and note what it's doing since 2000. (Note especially what happened in 2012, that anomalous warm year. Further note that it's looking incontrovertible that the climate regime tipped in 2005, and we're now in an accelerating web of feedbacks.)

Note that the economic Carbon Bubble absolutely craters oil demand, oil stocks, and the existing engines of the American post-war economy (cars and home construction) just as soon as the market notices. It's quite possible the US Congress will ban TaaS to keep that from happening from the transport sector, but they can't stop the Chinese solar project short of a nuclear war. This destroys the basis of American hegemony. It ALSO destroys the internal American economy. (Fortunately for us all, so does the nuclear war.)

Thing is, the Republicans as modernly constructed are fear parasites; you can think of them as a secularization of a pre-millennial dispensationalist offshoot-Christian death cult with "fear of social status loss" replacing "fear of hell". They've got the language and the cognitive structures and the expectations of apocalyptic outcomes; the expected outcomes (female emancipation, loss of white supremacy, replacement of the presumptive social norms[1] with a low-judgement recognition of diversity) aren't what we're going to get (food insecurity, political instability, convulsive economic change) but the response is already "business as usual has intolerable outcomes, we must seize control". They've already finished justifying to themselves why they can't hold an actual vote and restricting the franchise to those who agree with them is right and proper and necessary. This is a huge advantage when lunging for control.[2] It certainly renders the outcome of a constitutional convention predictable.

Combine that with being, for the most part and in the main, innumerate, magical-thinking, and driven by really basic primate status markers, and you get an attempt to recreate the Confederacy. (No civil rights, sharply restricted franchise, unofficial wealth-based aristocracy, slavery, much political violence, no free press, and women are chattel.) Which is what they're already doing, and will do much harder as the degree of actual economic disruption becomes apparent.

The Republic of Gilead is postulated as a much nicer place than the Confederacy, and a Confederacy with the tech for pan-opticon surveillance and DNA testing (if not modification)? Think about that for a bit.

[1] most especially, "wealth is the only proof of virtue"

[2] control isn't available, and trying for it never works, and is likely to be especially disastrous this time.


And not just the USA. That is why Theresa May wants the House of Lords to be a clone of the House of Commons, and why she has pulled the plug on funding for the campaigns to get the young to register for voting (see #77). Personally, I am beginning to wonder whether R'lyeh would be any worse than what we are facing :-(


Which is one reason Momentum is pushing voter registration


To bring us SLIGHTLY back on topic, perhaps the polling algorithms used last year in the U.S. empowered the Orange Beast to inspire his followers and dismay the opposition. Also, note the explicit use of the term "The Resistance" as the opposition begins to organize . . . . The Chinese curse comes home to roost.


You are saying & are supported by the figures, that food prices are falling? Surely this is a good thing?

"TaaS" Uh? Something to do with blockchains apparently, but still - Uh?

Also, "they" have only a limited window to do this, otherwise they will be massively thrown-out in 2020. Calling the opposition"the resistance" is good - it will wake people up, I hope. But it's going to be messy in the meantime.


I suspect Graydon is referring to this chart.


You'd also need to factor in other cost-of-living items like rent, energy/utilities, transportation, medicine, etc. against a backdrop of a real decline in wages to see the overall picture.

(Haven't looked for the above data yet which should be available from UN-type [unbiased] sources.)


It's quite possible the US Congress will ban TaaS to keep that from happening from the transport sector, but they can't stop the Chinese solar project short of a nuclear war.

Also, the US government can't stop TaaS catching on elsewhere. Japan springs to mind: wealthy and geographically dense, and TaaS would be good for an aging population. Most of the north-west EU — places like the UK, Germany, France, Italy. Urban populations especially.

(Greg: TaaS is basically the sudden, disruptlive replacement of the automobile as a vehicle of mass transport as early as 2030 by the intersection of electric vehicles with phase 5 self-driving taxis. Some projections suggest that TaaS — transport as a service — will follow a sigmoidal new-technology adoption curve like the roll-out of smartphones rather than the usual incremental uptake of new technologies within the mature automotive sector: it'll happen so fast that we won't even have time to sell our cars, we'll just wake up one morning and suddenly realize we're using TaaS 90% of the time instead of driving. Notable exceptions: weird off-road stuff like what you use your Landie for, and people in rural areas. But the mass car-owning culture will wither and die really rapidly, much as young folks these days only have land lines for ADSL broadband, not for yakking to people on the phone.)


It's not the cost, it's the volatility.


Personally, I am beginning to wonder whether R'lyeh would be any worse than what we are facing :-(

I am keeping my lips zipped very tightly about the next couple of Laundry novels, but let's just say the political commentary is not exactly at the back of my mind ...


TaaS: Transport As A Service.

Start with Uber. Yes, I know they're evil, but: you have an app on your phone, you want to go somewhere, you tell it where you want to go, and a vehicle rolls up and takes you there.

Currently there's a human driver in the loop but Tesla are designing their cars to be (a) electric, (b) with the sensors to support autonomous operation (once the software is baked), and (c) Uber say that as soon as someone can build a real phase 5 autonomous electric vehicle (or AEV) they'll take several thousand, just for beta-testing.

Most car journeys are short, predictable, and an unpleasant dangerous chore for the trained monkey behind the wheel. TaaS means you don't need to own a car, there's just a personal transport capsule whenever you need to go somewhere, silent and safe and without a steering wheel. Ultimately you don't need to own a car: the idea is that cities will be served by fleets of AEVs, allowing a much higher load factor than conventional cars can achieve.

Yes, we've been all over this on the blog. The difference is now that the technology think-tanks are pricing it up as an explosively disruptive technology, the way cellphones and smartphones disrupted the traditional twisted-pair voice telephone line (which is only still a thing at all because we repurposed them for broadband internet and cable TV).

Most car journeys are short, predictable, and an unpleasant dangerous chore for the trained monkey behind the wheel.

Driving is one of the most cognitively demanding tasks most humans will ever perform. It is also insufficiently recognised as such. (I'm willing to bet that at least some readers of this instinctively dismissed the idea. But seriously: a driver has indirect control of a substantial mass moving much faster than any human natural mode, and needs to keep track of potentially dozens or even hundreds of similar objects driven by people about whose state of mind almost no information is available. While also watching out for unpowered transport such as pedestrians and bikes, information-or-command media such as road markings and signs, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It's no wonder most people are so very bad at it; it's astonishingly complex, once you actually look at it.)


Well, it's also the trend; bit early 70s spike with the Oil Embargo, tending down within variation, then there's the warm year of 98, the 2005 climate regime tip, and 2012. I think this summarizes accurately as "food prices are highly sensitive to heat"; we're in for a lot more heat.

(and yes, that chart.)


"I am keeping my lips zipped very tightly ..."

You don't want to give Theresa May ideas?


Thanks for the explanation; I knew no more than Greg did what it meant. I thought it was a typo for TASS, but that didn't fit.

"'ll happen so fast that we won't even have time to sell our cars, we'll just wake up one morning and suddenly realize we're using TaaS 90% of the time instead of driving."

90% does not blammo cars, in the same way that existing public transport doesn't... because those 10% of cases that it doesn't cover mean you still need to have a car. And once you've gone to the trouble of getting it and shelling out for tax and insurance then it makes sense to also use it for journeys that public transport does cover, because it's so much more convenient to have your own thing available the instant you want it and it's cheaper too.

"Notable exceptions: weird off-road stuff like what you use your Landie for, and people in rural areas."

And people like me... I can confidently predict I'll keep my own car as long as I can drive it even if I have to brew my own fuel from grass clippings, because the alternative is certain to be set up on the same pattern as other services these days, ie. throwing up as many pointless obstacles as possible and annoying me at every turn. I expect it to:

  • Be a huge pain to order the thing in the first place, because its website is unusable for fifteen stupid reasons and I have to hack up pages of user JS to transform it into something that doesn't make me want to smash the screen - or - it won't even have a website, and I have to reverse-engineer a .apk and build my own interface to it. I hate doing that
  • Not work unless you have an account
  • Make the account require personal details which are none of any other bugger's business, thank you very much
  • Not work unless you "verify your personal details" by providing something even more personal
  • Not work with cash; either it'll require a card, or something even more awkward like a balance on the account that you can only top up with a card
  • and anything else to make it as unlike as possible the traditional version of the service where you just hand over cash and every transaction is an isolated anonymous incident, nothing is recorded or correlated.

And on top of all that... I'd bet my right arm that they won't let you smoke. And have smoke sensors so you can't just ignore the sign. That puts it out of the window even if nothing else does.


Also, the US government can't stop TaaS catching on elsewhere. Japan springs to mind: wealthy and geographically dense, and TaaS would be good for an aging population. Most of the north-west EU — places like the UK, Germany, France, Italy. Urban populations especially.

All factual. I think TaaS is a very good thing; it gets the total energy cost of transportation (which includes building and maintaining roads) way down.

It's got implications, though; 12,000 Teslas (presuming an average battery is a bit under the 85 kWh size) is 1 GWh of battery in the car, and another ~1.4 to store the renewable sourced electrons to charge it. At one-tenth the current numbers, there would be about 25 million cars and trucks in the US. That's -- on the back of this same envelope -- five terawatt-hours of batteries.

For storage, simple, safe, reliable nickel-iron batteries are about 75 cents (USD) per Wh [1]; somewhere north of four trillion dollars in batteries. At twenty year rollover, two hundred billion dollars a year in batteries. (Plus shipping and reprocessing industries.) That's probably a floor for the US battery market for transport; 90% vehicle reduction is probably high, and a single charge per vehicle is plausibly low, too.

Exxon Mobil has total revenues on the order of 250 billion dollars a year.

So there is going to be a battery market just for transport comparable in size to the oil industry. Battery tech, battery factories, battery reprocessing, and battery standardization are all very good places to invest.

[1] about the same as current lithium batter costs


All very true, and on top of that you have to identify all the innumerable points of consideration using fragmentary and crappy data often obtained only in glimpses and quite possibly derived by extrapolation. This is what gives me doubts about the autonomous vehicle idea - there is such a tremendous variety of one-in-a-million weird things that can happen that they actually crop up quite often, while it is impossible to be confident that your software can cope with all the enormous number of possibilities, and almost certain that it can't cope with most of them, with no way to know how it will fail or what they even are until it happens. Would software recognise that the two tiny gleams in the bottom left of the field of view are not caused by noise or raindrops or dirt on the lens or some wet plant or piece of rubbish shining on the verge, but are in fact reflections from the shoes of a man dressed all in very dark black and otherwise totally invisible in the darkness? It took me a noticeable time to work it out.


Also: food prices are highly sensitive to energy input prices (i.e. oil), but all the regulars here who haven't been asleep for the past five years already knew that.


Okay, gotcha - thanks!


Re: 'TaaS means you don't need to own a car, there's just a personal transport capsule whenever you need to go somewhere, ...'

What happens during flood/fire/tornado season? Which customers get first dibs on these vehicles? Part of the appeal of private cars in the US is not having to rely on your neighbors or gov't to help you. Plus, anyone who doesn't get first dibs would probably file a law suit.


No worries; wouldn't want you to waste valuable lifetime hunting legalese.

In the meantime, TDB is now available from both Tor and Orbit for pre-order on Interesting pricing from Tor: to get TBD two days earlier, one would have to pay 3€ more.


Any autonomous car manufacturer that doesn't learn at least the obvious lesson from Joshua Brown's death and relies on emulating the Mark I eyeball alone without any kind of *DAR backup deserves the no sales I'd hope they get.


Oh yes. Which means the economic carbon bubble popping is likely going to happen with a big spike in food prices. (And possibly emergency measures to keep farm machinery supplied with diesel at "can afford to harvest" prices.)


Please...please. I read that, and a picture flashed into my mind, of a giant toad-like being eating the Orange Cheetoh head-first.....



What is "fire/flood/tornado season"?

These things aren't exactly universal. As noted, there are environments where this won't work. I will note that horses stayed in use for quite some time even after automobiles were a thing—transitions take a little time.

(As for evacuation? That's a job for buses or multioccupier vehicles, not private transit. Which is a peculiarly American fetish.)

As for Pigeon's earlier comment about smoking, I wouldn't use an AEV from a vendor that permitted smoking on board. Hint: mild asthma triggered by airborn pollution, especially cigarette smoke.


Note that US $250 solid-state LIDAR units aimed at self-driving vehicles are a thing, with mass production scheduled shortly. (A few years ago LIDAR was a multi-tens-of-thousands of dollars option, but not with a market of millions of units driving prices down.)


Naah, CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN happens in May/June 2014 in the Laundry universe.

("The Labyrinth Index" is set in early 2015, after the Lovecraftian Singularity.)


I think the Great Orange One actually gets along fairly well with frogs, at least the cartoon variety that prance around in SS drag.

After the singularity? Oh my. I had not even considered that, I'd figured the series would be a wrap as it was descending because well... singularity. Can't wait.


Just promise us that if you do go full-Elder-Gods-arrive-and-it-is-awful, that you won't go too far into "R'leyh as human politics." I get that the temptation is strong, (how anyone can not-hate current politics is beyond me) but the coming of the Elder Gods should make Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia or Pol Pot's Cambodia look like the very models of enlightenment.

I hate to be pushy here - it's your story, start-to-finish - but I'd be incredibly disappointed to find that the horrors of Case Nightmare Green were more than 10-15 percent "satire of human politics."


On the subject of TAAS, my story on the subject is about half-done. It ties up the gig economy, AI, TAAS, and surveillance into a difficult knot. Hopefully it will be saleable, but I'll give any of the regulars a preview if someone is interested.


Further on the subject of TAAS, I wonder if that's the reason for Putin intervening so strongly in the elections of so many very powerful countries. Russia's economy is highly-based on gas; staving off TAAS is one of the few things I can see which is worth the risk - Putin was very lucky that someone as low-drama as Obama was in office. (Had I been president I would have been much more... forceful.)

And when I say "risk," I mean I'm a little surprised that someone hasn't started a shooting war over the whole thing, or maybe authorized their intelligence services to do __ __ __ or maybe __ ___ (and no, I won't be filling in those blanks.)


I'd be incredibly disappointed to find that the horrors of Case Nightmare Green were more than 10-15 percent "satire of human politics

Oh, so would I!

But you know what?

It's nightmares all the way down.

(And I'd like you to imagine Prime Minister Nigel Farage—er, Alan B'Stard—with hideous eldritch powers, only he's the lesser evil ...)


"...someone as low-drama as Obama was in office."

From Low-Drama Obama to Tantrump.


I'm very much with Charlie on that one; I wouldn't use a vehicle (of any kind) operated by a company that permitted smoking in them. Frankly, smoking should be banned in all enclosed public spaces (and preferably all open public spaces too). Why should your right to fill the air with known carcinogens override our right to continue breathing normally, not to mention everyone else's right to stay healthy?


In which case, it's a "bad thing" - much more in line with what my own suspicions indicate: The price of veg in supermarkets seem ridiculous to me, seeing as I never buy any....


Well, if so ... good. PROVIDED the political idiots ( Like some of the so-called "Greens" - note ) make allowances for those exceptions & don't make the usual politicos' mistake ( of all parties) of/that one size must fit all, even though it won't

Classic example being the "greens" visceral hatred of nuclear power


Uber are ( I sincerely hope) about to completely reamed. Google are (apparently) suing them for stealing their technology & staff & it's beginning to look as though the pending HMRC-vs-Uber case here will probably come down on the side of "Uber is an employer" which will shaft them Bastards


Which is why, again I am not a typical user. My annual mileage is very low ( not exceeded 3000 for over 10 years now) but, when I need it, I really need it - & though I live in London, I do not "drive in London" except for delivery/pick-up purposes. That's what public transport is for, or feet or my bicycle .... But "The Planners" are only interested in One-size-fits-all" - there's a disastrous experiment of that sort going on in my borough, driven by sectional political interests, & some really petty spite.


One of Clarke's Laws was: "A perfect machine has no moving parts" wasn't it?

And the LIDAR unit you mention does exactly that.


A N Other website I visit daily, which has as it's base subject a subset of transportation, has recently been heavily hit by man-in-the middle Russian ( & Ukrainian - because if the R's are doing it, then so must we ) hacking/subversion/penetration attacks. Very annoying to all concerned, to say the least - I wonder of the Doughnut know about it?


young folks these days only have land lines for ADSL broadband, not for yakking to people on the phone Well, thanks for that; it's the first time in years I've been called "young" by anyone not old enough to be my parent! ;-)


Which is about prioritisation skills; the chav with the fartbox that's 300 yards in front and going 15mph faster isn't an immediate issue. Neither is the truck you overtook and are pulling away from. The truck that's 150 yards in front and 10mph slower is, as is the BMW i8 that's 150 yards behind and will be about with you when you want to overtake the truck.


I wouldn't use an AEV from a vendor that permitted smoking on board. Neither would I, just because I strongly dislike the smell of stale cigarette smoke. Full disclosure; I actually enjoy the smell of cigar or pipe smoke though (and yes that does confuse cigarettists I know).


Of course - why wouldn't they? They have been doing it for years, but are more competent and so don't get exposed :-)


Good cigars - not Pittsburgh stogies! Our reaction is more common than you might think - cigarette smoke also makes me cough badly, and the others don't, so it's not just the smell.


Greg - if like me you dislike both Google and Uber intensely (although Uber slightly more) this article is worth a giggle.

TL:DR Google has invested $300m in Uber prior to this falling out.



I'm concerned about the rollout of autonomous vehicles not because I enjoy driving (which I do, and continue to work at the complex task Chrisj mentioned @91), but because of the dangers inherent in the transition period, when both human and computer-guided vehicles share the road. An overnight complete shift to TaaS would be far safer, but is impractical. In addition to the unlikelihood that low density areas would be adequately served, there will be significant emotional resistance from those of us who are attached to our vehicles (which includes a number of Brits, not just us 'Muricans). In which case the state would try to compel compliance, with likely widespread resistance.

I also see emergency services, particularly police, being quite resistant to relying on TaaS, regardless of the merits.

Mixing human and computer-controlled vehicles is the most dangerous case. I doubt I need to expand on why for this audience.


Mixing human and computer-controlled vehicles is the most dangerous case. I doubt I need to expand on why for this audience For instance, the times where a human driver reads the "body language" of another vehicle and lifts off or even brakes whilst it's still "a ways away" and avoids a shunt so completely that their passengers may not even notice that they've done so?


Oops, that should be likelihood on line 3, not unlikelihood.


That's part of it - I am a very focused driver, and take a certain amount of pride in my skill (after 44 years of daily driving, I SHOULD be pretty good at it). We interact with other vehicles on the basis of humans at the controls. Those of us who pay attention while driving are always looking for those who are not; as Chrisj noted, this is an intensive mental and physical act, particularly in dense traffic like I see here in Stuttgart.

One of the limitations in getting TaaS going will be designing and implementing systems that can deal with the random motions of people who are NOT good at driving. Likewise, human drivers will have to learn and adjust to the actions of computer-guided vehicles. There WILL be deaths during this transition.


I note that the automotive industry spends on the order of £400 on advertising for every car sold. It's not just brand awareness, but a lifestyle thing, like cigarette ads in the 1960s and 1970s; for some entertainment sit down one evening and pay attention to the car ads. Count how many of them show no other vehicles on the same road as the one they're selling — using scenic rural drives at dawn — or, for urban runabouts, how many portray the vehicle without a driver zipping around queues of stationary traffic, transforming into a mecha and breakdancing through a pedestrian plaza, or otherwise being operated in any manner consistent with observable reality.

The narrative driver in most car ads is "freedom", with a side-order of "privacy in public" and a slice of "luxury" at the high end. It's never about being stuck in stop-go traffic on a major artery while you're trying to hit the supermarket on your way home from work, or the nanny run to drop the kids off at school in the middle of rush hour. And if you subject yourself to 3-4 hour dose of evening TV, you're likely to get 15-20 minutes of this lifestyle propaganda injected through your eyeballs while you're not paying attention.

It's fine to enjoy driving, but the place for it is at a track, not on the public highway where 95% of the people around you are just trying to get somewhere without being killed.

(Emergency services will be the last to go to TaaS, although I can see them using drones and maybe TaaS vans as supplementary equipment carriers. Think in terms of police or paramedic first responders on off-road capable motorbikes, who know that if they need a stretcher or an overhead view or some other equipment it'll turn up on autopilot momentarily, rather than having to haul it all around in a big-ass pick-up or estate car that can't necessarily get to the scene of trouble. (The arrest van or ambulance can arrive once the passenger has been detained/stabilized.)


No, I was right the first time. This is why I really need an editor.


Actually, self-driving vehicles already have some pretty good collision-avoidance chops. Here's a video of a Tesla Model S anticipating and avoiding a collision two cars ahead, before it happens.


I completely agree. I get a laugh every time I see an ad with a car driving over a deserted road with the disclaimer "Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt." or words to that effect.


(Are we on an official derail now?):)

If I were tasked with implementing this change, the first thing I'd require is that every vehicle have a beacon showing location and velocity, similar to transponders on aircraft. Of course, that moves the panopticon along quite nicely.


Charlie #130 It's fine to enjoy driving, but the place for it is at a track, not on the public highway where 95% of the people around you are just trying to get somewhere without being killed. Disagree: it's entirely possible to enjoy driving without attempting to drive 10/10. For example, I enjoy (and suspect Dave P does too) trying to follow in a traffic procession out of town and seeing how far/long a time I can go without using the brakes (changing down to get engine braking rather than enable a smooth pull away counts as using the brakes here). This is also a good way of building anticipation.

Charlie #132 - Watch the telemetry (bottom of screen), as well as the road. The Tesla doesn't brake until just after the impact (based on speed readout): The main reason it's faster than me is that it's switching throttle to brake in software and not literally moving its foot from one pedal to the other.


I have the specs for ATC IFF; all Mode 1 and Mode 3A give is range and bearing from the radar, plus an octal identity code and returned signal enhancement. Mode C only gives height as an ATC height level. Ground position and velocity vector are done in software on the radar output. Mode S gives more information, but still relies on the radar computer for position and speed data.

ADS-B may give the data you want, but isn't a transponder system. I'm also not sure that it has an adequate update frequency for automotive applications where you can (legitimately and safely) pass within 1m or 2m of another vehicle at (UK legal) closing speeds of 53m/s.


Yes! Are you familiar with hypermiling ( )? It's the approach I've used for freeway driving for decades.


Yes, I was greatly simplifying for reasons of comparison. In all likelihood, data similar to Mode 1/3A would be gathered for use by a municipal traffic management system, where centralized processors could build a near real-time traffic picture; part of the autonomous vehicle implementation challenge is how much processing and control is on-vehicle vs. centralized.


I'm familiar with the concept, but don't tend to actually use most of it, being more interested in getting there quickly, safely and feeling relaxed than in wringing out every last fractional mpg.


Well, I'm not dogmatic on the subject. But, without being obvious about it, I get about 10% better mileage than my wife in the same car over the same roads.


It's not just brand awareness, but a lifestyle thing.

Yeah, and I know people for whom it's quite hard to imagine that somebody would not want to own a car. We sold our car three years ago, because we live in an apartment house in an area with good public transportation (and near people we can usually borrow a car from if we really need it). Later, a relative was trying to get us to buy a car, any car, to save money from the insurance. At that point the car insurance in Finland got these bonuses if you didn't have to use it, so the relative told us that we could save several hundred euros a year if we bought a car. I told them that just having a car would cost first about ten thousand euros to buy one (cheap used which wouldn't break immediately) and then two or three thousand euros a year just to basically own one. Saving a few hundred euros a year by paying first quite much more didn't really sound like saving to me and I really couldn't explain this.

Afterwards I realized that the assumption was that of course we should own a car - then we would have saved the money from the bonuses. Not having a car was unthinkable.


It's nightmares all the way down.

That's how it should be when you're having sex with your new fungal friend! . . . . . . . (The Fun Guy from Yuggoth.)


Don't forget the stuff actively aimed at distracting you; i.e. advertising (billboards, etc.).

I wonder if there's a lawsuit in there...


Re: 'What is "fire/flood/tornado season"?'

These days, it's pretty much everyday and covering more acreage with each occurrence.

Agree with your comments overall.


Spot on. The other alternative case ... You are just behind someone who is stop-starting, who all-too-clearly hasn't a clue & the safest place is in front of them, well in front of them. ( Not so common as it used to be though )


How would TaaS deal with the popularity of large pickup trucks in the US (especially in greater Trumpland?)

Remember, these people view any attempt to restrict their large cars as an attack on their "freedom".



Not sure if being Ironic or not.

A crashed advertisement reveals the code of the facial recognition system used by a pizza shop in Oslo... Twitter, 10th May, 2017

Yep, those digital (or should that be Steam Driven?) screens are actively matching your face to a DB... and that's only the ones looking for $$$.

[Hint: sound waves to ping apps also do other, much more naughty things. Lesson, girls of the 13 Coven, you missed it: the burger was made of human, sure, but you were too focused on selfies and social media to spot the Bright Green Butterfly in the Garden. Spoilers: Not a Native Species. Oh, and you're not Witches if you miss that basic bitch stuff].

Where were we?

Oh, right:

1) Grats Host on Locus Prize! (er, TBX). 2) #113 Why should your right to fill the air with known carcinogens override our right to continue breathing normally, not to mention everyone else's right to stay healthy?

This is darkly ironic. If you eat fish, doubly so.

'Dramatic' decline in European birds linked to industrial agriculture Deutsche Welle, 4th May, 2017 (DW is the German State broadcaster - so, trustworthy)

Where have all the insects gone? Science, AAAS, 10th May, 2017

Spoilers: you can't see / smell them, so you're more worried about the stuff you can smell (that's the real trigger - no-one really worries about open log fires or BBQs, because your Minds have 200k+ hardwired "NICE NICE WARM COZY SEX SLEEP" attached to them, but they're just as bad).

Now riddle yourself what that says about your self-awareness.


Really not impressed with the Coven and the Air-force at the same time. If you're not going to spot the Spoilers in the background, why bother?


Yeah Been an obvious change in people's driving habits in the past 10 years ( I suspect "driven" by total wankers in driving schools ) No-one uses their gearbox anymore & the amount of totally unneccessary braking engaged in is (to me) - scary: you should be at minimum speed as you enter a corner & then power (just) through-&-out ... Anticipation seems to be dropping, too & the wide lines people take on corners, rather than a minimum-energy path is also ridiculous. Where did this shit come from?


Oh, and for Host:

It’s gruesome, but could help investigations

Forensic scientists caught a deer munching on a human carcass for the first time ever Popular Science, 5th May, 2017


So... those domesticated 'horse' analogs... they must have had a wild ancestor, right?


I have been told that modern cars shouldn't engine brake, but cannot recall a good reason being given for that. Some numpty car industry person might have one. As for wide corners and suchlike, that's surely more stupidity and bad teaching. I can't say about anticipation, but mobile computers are a major cause of people driving weirdly; I see them on the motorway all the time, faces down and driving at 60mph.

But at the same time there is a huge number of new cars on the road, which seems to be down to the new financing methods making it easier for people to rent new cars from the manufacturers, all for simple monthly payments and after 4 years you buy it or exchange for a new one.

That the manufacturers like it means I don't, but plenty of people seem to think it's a great deal. I am still trying to work out why.


Triptych, for the Coven.

Interesting thing about Apricots: they contain more C20H27NO11 than any other fruits, especially the more folklore driven mythology about Apple Seeds (hello, Snakes).


The More You Know.




And, @Host since the Coven missed that pitch amongst the spam / bullshit, and Our Kind do not go mad...

Will Trump's lies cost lives? Can we break his spell? Killer cognitive bias. YT: Factual, 6:59, May 7th, 2017.

If you don't watch videos, it's by Pindex ( Stephen Fry's new startup is a Pinterest for education Telegraph, Feb 2016) and is all about the usual D-K stuff, blah blah.

Hilarious point: 5:18, talking about smiles with reference to a "FBI SPECIALIST" who is... SO OBVIOUSLY NOT SMILING GENUINELY THAT I NEED TO RIP OUT HIS SPLEEN.

Do you Apes not seriously see this immediately?

On a meta-note:

1 ShareBlue is tanking, they're total muppets. Reddit is getting chaotic, but the lack of talent ("pepe is dead" - no shit dude, THOT frog-jumped you by about 5 months, hello do a GREP). 2 Coven attack patterns, YAWN, missed the big butterfly. Natter Natter Natter Feel Great Pain "Psychopath MEME deployed", "We're Big Grils we can do mirrors tooo" ... Oh shit, Butterfly in the Garden. BLINDED. EYES. MISSED. IT. 3 NHS - now spreading across the globe. #Wildhunt (spoilers: this is just a field test - Spain / Russia are feeling the worst of it, it's not about what you're being told it is)



Wait till the Malware Ransombots meet the Hidden App Facial Recognition Stuff.




TTBOMK "modern cars shouldn't engine brake" is bollocks. I can't think of any common engine type of which that is true apart from premix two-strokes, which are not found in modern cars. Can't see why it should be true of anything with forced lubrication.

The practice of deliberately avoiding engine braking is something that has emerged from the dogma of one particular school of "advanced driving" thought, which says that you should decelerate in neutral using the brakes and only engage a gear once you've finished decelerating. I think this is a bunch of arse, and so do other schools of "advanced driving" thought, which results in vi/emacs-type threads on forums which discuss such subjects. This hasn't stopped it becoming adopted as standard by basic-level driving schools though, probably because it's easier to teach as much as anything.

Not sure about the wide lines on corners. Most peoples' cornering seems to me to be done under the influence of unthinking fear of centrifugal force, so they tiptoe round with the brakes on the whole time wishing the road was straight, and then accelerate once the corner is over. I say "unthinking" because they obviously haven't discovered that decelerating before entry and then cornering under mild drive, as Greg describes, makes the force they fear less perceptible, whereas their method does the reverse.

Most of the time the optimum line for a corner on the open road, unless there are no hedges, is somewhere between the limits of wide-as-possible and spaceship-style minimum energy curve: go in wide, then turn in late as the view begins to open up. The idea is to maximise forward visibility through as much of the bend as possible. You do need to teach yourself to do it, as it feels a bit unnatural, and when a passenger I tend to notice that people turn in far too early and therefore go round a lot of the bend without their braking distance.


Wait, what? Decelerate in neutral? What if you suddenly need to accelerate again? Which fuckwit thought this up?
And yet people seem to love using their clutch, I've seen so many people hold their car on a slope with nothing but their clutch for ages, 20, 30 seconds, when I've pulled my handbrake on instead.


The predictions that TaaS will take off are based on cost savings to users. Think of it as fractional reserve car ownership. You don't have to get rid of your car to use TaaS, any more than you have to do so in order to use Uber or Lyft; you just end up using your car less and less until you realize you don't need it any more.

The monster truck owners are welcome to keep their monster trucks ... and their relative poverty. Eventually, when TaaS is obviously superior, they'll mostly switch over (although I expect plenty of pick-up trucks to remain in business use).


#1) Grats Host on Locus Prize! (er, TBX).

Naah, it just means I made the list in my category. I've won a few of these; no big deal. And I expect not to win this year (hint: Charlie Jane Anders' "All the Birds in the Sky" is something special).


Ye, nose wiggle. We do know, but we like giving compliments.

Anyhooo, Voices (Non-Void, financial sector) are stating quite clearly that 2008 type break-down + RuMpY-FUn-CAMPers will come together is getting serious bandwidth and IS SOON[tm]. They kinda planned it for a 2018 shift, but, you know, fuck them since they're doing Casual Offense.

Your gut feelings were right about Kansas...

Problem is, that Green Bright Butterfly in the Garden. (Greg: yes, this is both literal, metaphorical and many other levels).

Lesson 101: MBAs talking about Predators and so forth. An American Prayer YT: Music/Poetry, The Doors, 3:04



You Cannot Drop what You never Raised Up. You cannot Govern what you didn't Make. Blah, Blah, fucking psychos. Sui Generis


Hurray! The Atrocity Archives is on sale in Canada now! It's CDN$1.89.


I'm not convinced TAAS adoption will be that fast based in part on the comments up thread, the technical and legislative hurdles are fairly minor when compared to the social and psychological ones which I think will act as a brake on adoption. Just bear in mind that unless you are in the 1% buying a car is probably the most financially loss making thing we do, yet we still do it. Even those that only buy second hand only mitigate the damage Yet we continue at the rate of about 4% of the adult population per year. On something that will lose 60% of its value in 3 years from new. On that basis there is very little about car ownership that makes sense from a cost perspective.

You hit on all the marketing upthread which pushes this agenda and I don't think it's going to die quietly it's likely to be strongly demographically linked to the young and the old at first I think.

If I was a betting man I'd look to pick up some cheap shares just after the TaaS bubble bursts in 2034.


Don't quite get this. You had car insurance where the insurers gave you money if you didn't claim, but you still had to tax your car at several k a year even if you never moved it off your own land?

Or did the insurers just knock a hefty chunk off the fee if you didn't claim, and the people making the suggestions were sufficiently innumerate to realise that (several k - several hundred) is still greater than zero?

The first is really weird, and the second is really stupid, but neither of them is quite weird/stupid enough for me to rule it out of consideration altogether, especially when the alternative is what it is.

As for "should" or "shouldn't" have a car, it seems to me that people who have any such opinion most often take a dogmatically binary position which makes them look silly. It's either "everyone should" or "everyone shouldn't" when of course neither is true. Living in some places it's perfectly easy to get by without a car, as long as you don't mind not being able to transport loads bigger than a couple of shopping bags or never going to all the nice places you can't get to without a car. Living in other places if you don't have a car you're completely screwed. It all depends what country you're in and whereabouts you are in it (noting also that to live in nice places usually does require a car, while places you can get away without a car tend to be intrinsically shit.)

Heck, there are some places where there's nothing you could do with a car if you did have one except watch it rust, but you are completely screwed if you don't have a boat. Boats for all! They're a basic human right! - No, boats are evil! Ban all boats!

I don't see autonomous taxis making much difference to whether people have cars or not, because all the things you can do with them you can do already with ordinary taxis. (Not having a human driver is an advantage to the taxi operator, but not to the user.) But people don't, partly because they're more expensive, and partly because having to rely on an external agency for transport instead of just being able to get in and go is a pain in the arse. Autonomous taxis will still be just as much of a pain in the arse, and while they may be cheaper than current taxis they still won't be cheaper than driving yourself, because no public transport operator ever has the basic noddle to understand the idea.

Anyway, why should they? The disadvantages of cars arise from using them, not having them. The important factor is how much car travelling people do, not who owns the cars. The only way replacing private cars with autonomous taxis can mitigate the disadvantages of car use is by pissing people off so they don't make as many/as long journeys.


Do you Apes not seriously see this immediately? Thanks for that D-K link. Since you ask, yes we see it immediately, well, most of us. That smile looks painful. Reactions to smiles (real or fake) are another story. (Same applies to other tells.)

Took a hardcopy break today to read Complexity and compositionality in fluid intelligence (1 May 2017?) (Still fascinated with the subject, yes. Small study, and surprising that it is being published in 2017.) Following the principle of compositionality, we propose that the critical function in fluid intelligence is splitting a complex whole into simple, separately attended parts. Some commentary suggesting application to education: I think this study provides a great illustration of one of the most challenging aspects of teaching – finding a manner to present complex new material in a form that initially minimises the cognitive demand for the learners – as well as clearly demonstrating the possible gains if a successful strategy is utilised.

The human sense of smell: It's stronger than we think, abstract, or full paper for those with access, Poor human olfaction is a 19th-century myth A physicist friend of family had a party trick where everyone would go into the library, and he'd tell somebody that he'd leave the room and then they should pick a book and open it and reshelve it, then he'd return and find it. He'd smell the books and quickly find the one that was opened.


The other thing about TaaS is that if it works, purely robot traffic about doubles road capacity. (even the naive, not-optimized-to-form-trains, versions.)

Roads are EXTREMELY expensive. The fiscal pressure to get all the human drivers off the road as soon as TaaS works is overwhelming, and there are no countervailing pressures.

(Plus the time savings to parents and those caring for the elderly are similarly extreme. Monster truck owners can't expect to form a dominant political faction.)


Yeah, that's exactly my view of it. Doesn't stop there being a significant school of thought advocating it though. Their argument, as I understand it, is that it reduces your footwork, and the reduction in control doesn't matter because you've used your anticipation to make sure it won't matter. To me, the flaw in that argument is kind of obvious...

There is a certain amusement in watching fierce but relentlessly genteel flamewars between 60+yo whitemaleconservatives on utterly daft subjects. Another one is about whether or not you should bother indicating at junctions when there's nobody else about. One side says just indicate as an automatic action so you don't have to think about it, the other side says it's good to be thinking about it to remind you to think about whether or not there's anyone else about.


Since you ask, yes we see it immediately, well, most of us.

No, you really don't. You see the easy shit (thus the link, the crassness of it is an actual meta-joke with Fry having to be REALLY FUCKING BLATANT for Americans)

Coven Set-up, Human Burger. [No, really: burger was made of You. Not cool and all because of some frakked up nonsense about how "tasting the flesh of man will pervert...". ZZZ. No, it doesn't. It makes the people who made it / believed it would into monsters, THATSTHEFUCKINGJOKE.JPG.

Honey Bee, Honey Bee, We're gonna rescue you: Window Stuck! Gosh, Drama! Off Script: Yeah, fine, now watch that fucking squirrel and the Bright Green Butterfly.

Actors: "Not in the Script"

Target: "Are you so fucking ignorant that you can't understand a meta-reverse-Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"?

Actors: We're on FaceBook!

Target: Yes. Well done. Have your Yellow Star for being good grils.


If you want to break a Coven, well. The Counter-spell is quite the thing.


Right, but what cost savings to users? It's still going to be more expensive than driving yourself, unless there's a massive subsidy for it. This is a cast-iron guarantee because of the ubiquity of alien squids. Without subsidy, they will set the fares at some level greater than whatever figure they come up with for how much making the journey costs them. They will generate that figure by some batshit insane calculation that includes things like trying to pretend you don't have to pay for it by pretending you're paying for it twice even though the pretending to pay for it twice works but the pretending not to pay for it doesn't, and fifty other such barmy imaginings only conceivable to a diseased mind from the strange seas of a distant star. The ordinary user, given the choice of handing over an amount of money deemed appropriate by an alien squid or making the journey in their own car, won't even have to think about it.

It is also guaranteed that they won't see any problem with this and will wonder why people aren't using it as much as they think they should be, because that's been happening for years. Several times I've seen public transport operators arguing that their fares are actually not flaming bloody outrageous on the basis that people ought to compare them with driving using the methods of an alien squid instead of a normal person. Naturally it goes down like a lead balloon, but they never notice and never stop repeating the same daft argument.

Also, the "use your car less and less until you hit zero" wish doesn't work, because only exceptional cases ever will hit zero. Most will bottom out at a few percent ish, for those occasional occasions where public transport won't work. Not having a car at all would mean not being able to do whatever nice or desirable things those occasions are about, so getting to zero would mean accepting an increase in crappiness that I doubt many would be happy with.


The monster truck

Totally irrelevant to the post, but here's a 100 petabyte thumb drive disguised as a monster truck:


Sorry, but I disagree with all of that.

Road capacity relates to how many cars the size of a car lets you fit on the size of the road. The "effective size" of a car is a variable figure which goes as c+av+bv2 where c is the physical size of the car, a is reaction time and b is max brake force. You can shave this at speed with autonomous cars by reducing a, but the difference is minor. b is already at the limit for rubber tyres on tarmac. But in the areas where congestion is most of a problem, speeds get low enough that the terms in v are small compared with c; and to reduce c you either have to reduce the size of the people inside it, which is strictly a long-term project (unless you're the Master), or go so fast that the other terms become completely unmanageable.

Roads will still cost the same amount to build and maintain regardless of how the vehicles using them are directed. They will only become cheaper if the total amount of travelling becomes less. Autonomous vehicles will not have that effect; autonomous taxis will if anything make matters worse, as they're bound to rack up some dead mileage whereas a private car can't.

Time savings for parents and the elderly - or anyone else for that matter - don't happen. On the contrary, every journey is subject to the additional delay of waiting for the taxi to show up. Even if autonomous vehicles are allowed to exceed the national maximum speed limit for human drivers, it is still really hard to make up the delay by going faster unless it's a really long motorway journey (in British terms, at least). Urban speed limits are set as much for the comfort and convenience of pedestrians as anything, so they are not going to change.


I have not read the study, but I can see the reasons for the flip. The car insurance industry charges probably approx. (within say x4) the same amount as you pay for gas. That is a big money, and a lot of it is put into investments. Having that money input dry up is going to cause all kinds of weird side-effects, but I would bet that the remaining drivers on the road are going to see their rates go up dramatically. Second, autos like everything else produced, gets economies of scale. If car sales bottom out there goes the scale, and cars go up in price and the cost to repair them. Cars get much more expensive to own, which motivates people to use TaaS, which causes the price go up more, etc, etc. Once things get to a critical mass the car companies, supporting industries (such as car repair, car parts, insurance) pretty much implode.

Also, the number of cars on the road probably won't change much, but the size of the cars could be reduced dramatically (think most commuters in Smart FourTwos). I suspect this will reduce traffic jams just because the roads effectively got bigger. In cities it could help a tremendous amount by removing the space used by parked cars.

This also has to potential to kill mass-transit, because why bother?

The bad thing of course is that if there is not enough competition, then once most of the market is using TaaS, the prices go up because they have a captive market.


Autonomous cars do two things human drivers can't. They talk to each other -- many of the planned schemes share sensor data/road conditions, as well as speed, direction, and brake status -- but most importantly, they can maintain a constant speed. Humans can't. A very big fraction of freeway traffic jams arise from cascades of braking. Robots don't do that. There's been quite a lot of work in Japan on this, and this is where the expected doubling of capacity comes from; a combination of effectively zero reaction time, co-operative movements, and removing the jostling that's a major source of slowdowns and thus lost capacity. (Volvo has done a bunch of work on getting a group of autonomous vehicles to link up wirelessly and drive bumper-to-bumper at highway speeds for the aerodynamic benefits.) (Oh, and b may be at the limit for rubber tyres on tarmac, but it's NOT at the limit for running your electric drive motor as a generator plus your brakes; the Chevy Bolt already does that and it doesn't have in-wheel motors (in principle able to be run in reverse) or a powered suspension. (Something Michelin, of all people, have done a lot of work on.))

I think you're misunderstanding the service models; the models generally aren't based on queuing for fares like taxis. The models are all very much "schedule pickup". For a reasonably capable system, there isn't much dead time. The expected degree of impromptu use is fairly small, and has time scale based pricing. So "I want to get picked up at seven and be taken to work on these days" is cheap when you book ahead; "I need a car at my beck and call for a week" is less cheap.


There WILL be deaths during this transition.

More than there already are?

I'm beginning to see a lot of "if they cause even one death they must be banned" rhetoric in various places, which bothers me because that standard isn't applied to most other things except potential terrorist attacks.If we applied that standard to regular drivers we wouldn't have cars (or horses, which have been known to kick people to death).

I installed a dashcam recently, and it's been both humbling and a bit scary reviewing the footage. Humbling because I know I'm not that good a driver, but on the video I see a lot of potential situations I missed that I should have spotted and been ready for. Scary because I see a significant number of people obliviously swapping lanes, running lights, walking across the street without looking, etc.

I find it hard to imagine that automatic cars would be worse than the large number of people I see driving while texting or talking on the phone (which is illegal, but bloody difficult to enforce).


Insurance may price human drivers off the road, but that doesn't force people on to public transport, it just means they get their own autonomous car. If autonomous taxis are Smart-sized that is a further discouragement, for the same reason that you see so few Smarts on the road as it is - people don't want to travel in something that small.


No, still not convinced. The problem with systems like that is that they are fine when everything is working, but they also get rid of a lot of the margin for error, so when something does go wrong the results are catastrophic. A fleet of robot cars all driving without their braking distances because they expect to be told when anyone else is braking will, if one of them suffers a mechanical failure (eg. tyre blowout), rapidly transform itself into robot soup. (The limiting example does indeed suffer from this failure mode, but mostly gets away with it by operating under distinctly more rigorously-defined conditions.)

I suspect I am not alone in my doubts, because it is a good 20 years since I saw a photo of a string of trucks (with human drivers supervising, but not doing anything) testing "electronic drawbar" equipment on a public road. If that functionality was then at "good enough to take it out on the public road" but 20 years later still hasn't got much forrarder, it suggests the problem is more difficult than it looks.

The point about b already being at the limit is not about how the braking force is generated, but how it is transmitted to the road. Ordinary friction brakes are amply capable of generating sufficient braking force that its transmission to the road fails, hence the development of ABS to back you off from that point. (The "big brakes" thing on performance cars isn't about generating more force, it's about dissipating the heat and using more heat-tolerant but lower-friction linings, so you can keep on generating the force time after time without brake fade.)

Re service model: that fails to address exactly the sort of thing that is a major reason for having your own car (regardless of how it is piloted) and so needing no alternative. People don't live clockwork lives all the time (thank God), but the amount of clockwork living makes them appreciate all the more being able to go where they want, when they want, without having to bugger about, in their non-clockwork times. And there are plenty of people with no clockwork at all, doing all the things that people driving about in the daytime do.


"A physicist friend of family had a party trick"

That was Richard Feynman, he also claimed to be able to smell ant trails and distinguish the signals they left each other. Any family anecdotes about him?


Don't quite get this. You had car insurance where the insurers gave you money if you didn't claim, but you still had to tax your car at several k a year even if you never moved it off your own land? Or did the insurers just knock a hefty chunk off the fee if you didn't claim, and the people making the suggestions were sufficiently innumerate to realise that (several k - several hundred) is still greater than zero?

As I understand it (I have never owned a car myself, and the things have already changed) there is two types of car insurance here: the mandatory one and then optional ones. They all of course cost money. If you drive carefully enough, and are lucky, or never claim money from the insurance, the insurance companies had this "personal bonus system" where you would pay less for the insurances. I'm not sure if it was both the optional and mandatory ones.

As for "should" or "shouldn't" have a car, it seems to me that people who have any such opinion most often take a dogmatically binary position which makes them look silly.

Yes, I agree completely. We live in a comfortable suburb with the public transport, and my work is close enough for walking, and our life has been arranged so that we don't usually have a car (no summer cottage, no hobbies requiring a car). If we were to move somewhere else, to have a nice single house for example, we would probably need two cars easily.

Also, in Finland, the distances are quite long anywhere outside the cities, and the public transportation is not that hot in many places, so a car is pretty much mandatory. I was just questioning the need to have a car in a suburb where for us the car mostly stays in the parking lot, sometimes for weeks at a time.

Which brings me to the point that yes, owning a car can be a detriment to other people even if it's not driven: it needs to be parked somewhere, and for example in our apartment houses there are not "enough" parking spots, so the roadsides are pretty much parked full all the time. It's even worse when there's something happening in the nearby ice rink - many of the people come there by car and park basically wherever they can even if it's not a parking spot...


There are exceptions ... mine is very slowly, appreciating, simply because they are not making any more & there is no real replacement. But it is a very niche market ...


This also has to potential to kill mass-transit, because why bother? This is an oft-repeated myth & also a really nast wet dream by certain factions - spiritual" descendants of the vile Marples or the real actual villains cartooned in "Roger Rabbit"
Not going to happen - you STILL simply cannot fit all those autonomous vehicles into the centres of the towns & cities.


It's not the size, its the very short & therefore inherently unstable wheelbase. Smarts are actively dangerous - I se them passing me on the M-way ( I'm doing approx 68 ) & they are visibly rocking longitudinally. Urk


The if it causes one death thing is I think as much to do with various people wanting someone to blame for whatever goes wrong. Car accidents can often just be ignored as accidents, or blamed on the dead driver, but if there is a failure or malfunction in an automatic car, that's got a specific cause why it just ran into a wall and killed everyone on board. Only humans are allowed to make mistakes, but even that is less permitted these days. So the government or such would have to set up laws and things to cover that sort of thing and say "It's an accident, get over it no you can't sue the manufacturer for 100 million dollars".

As for indicating at junctions, I'm on the good to do it automatically side of things, but I do also think about things too, because I'm odd. One way to think about things is observe the poor driving of others around you... I have been giving a new person a lift to work from the railway station, and before this he didn't really believe the whol Audis, BMW's are badly driven cars thing. Now he does, because he's seen so many of them cut lanes, manouvre without indicating and generally drive badly.


many of the people come there by car and park basically wherever they can even if it's not a parking spot

You get that here if you live opposite a school. Parents park wherever while waiting for their kids, including at the bottom of a driveway blocking it, and get very upset when told to move.


I loathe these car threads, but will point out one generally ignored aspect. You have, again, spotted the edges of something that other people haven't. In order to get the efficiency, you have to eliminate 'unusual' vehicles - which includes cyclists, pedestrians and horse-riders. No problems on motorways etc., but we are already seeing the motor lobby, which has tried to get cycling banned since the 1920s, moving into the end-game, with the current policies and beliefs (even among the ignorant majority of occasional cyclists) that cycling should be moved 'off-road' or have special lanes (generally meaning into the gutter and onto footpaths). The data are quite clear: those locations are MORE dangerous, and are incompatible with cycling being used as an alternative to driving. And, of course, very few people walk more than a mile or so as a way of getting from A to B any longer.

But automated cars have a worse danger for cyclists, pedestrians and horse-riders. We already have police forces that have policies of regarding all incidents involving cyclists as being entirely the cyclists' fault, and have a policy of closing the cases without investigation even if independent witnesses or evidence show that the driver was using the motor vehicle as a weapon to assault the cyclist (or worse). The UK establishment has always been interventionist on the side of big business, which is why the railways, airways etc. are essentially except from civil law and often criminal law. All we need is for a law to put the onus on the other party to prove that an automated car was at fault to claim damages for us to see the roads being finally taken away from non-motorised traffic (which is what they were built for).

Yes, I drive, and own a car, and have done for half a century. But it's a method of transport, not a damn penis extension.


A more optimistic view might suggest a simple bit of legislation to enforce a minimum separation distance between Autonomous cars and anything they ovetake.

Intact I thought no you can almost guarantee that there will be a hard coded minimum safe distance at least at first because the trailblazers won't want a cyclist or horse smeared over their lovely new tech just as they are trying to get it mainstream.

What's going to be easier to implement a law with feircely opposed lobbying or a simple software mod?


In the UK? Get real :-( Inter alia, many roads simply do not HAVE the space for such a distance.

Oh, yes, it's possible, provided that it was done properly, which means that (a) it would increase considerably with the car's speed, (b) it would be condition-dependent (e.g. larger in gusting winds and for high-sided vehicles), (c) it would also allow the car to ignore white lines and speed limits if necessary, (d) some roads were modified to have adequate passing places and (e) the population were taught how to allow passing. NO chance!


That was Richard Feynman, he also claimed to be able to smell ant trails and distinguish the signals they left each other. No, it was another physicist; he might have learned the game from Feynman. A few second/third hand stories from other people but nothing special. OK, a second hand one, from memory of a story: Feynman did small physics tutoring sessions with young (undergrad age?) students who interested him, outside his normal teaching work. Haven't seen that written down anywhere (but haven't looked).


Time savings for parents and the elderly - or anyone else for that matter - don't happen. On the contrary, every journey is subject to the additional delay of waiting for the taxi to show up.

I think you're overlooking the fact that every journey has two ends. True, a taxi service can't guarantee the ability to leave home right now, although owning your own self-driving car can. But how often do you need to do that? Right now as opposed to in five minutes? Time savings happen at the other end, when the human is deposited right in front of their destination and can forget about the car. I would have saved a lot of time and stress over the years if I could drive somewhere and then tell my car to sod off and park itself until I called for it again.

Like all vehicle problems, one size does not fit all. But I'm an urban dweller and I can see a great advantage in not having to worry where, or if, a parking space can be found.


In pursuit of efficiency we should just make everyone in the world speak and write in the same language.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, the council is very happy to both make it easier to kill cyclists and harder to actually drive through town. A combination of badly maintained roads, badly designed junctions and timings, cycle lanes like you describe and the new 20mph limit everywhere, means that drivers spend more time pumping out lovely health giving exhaust fumes, or being frustrated at their inability to actually drive anywhere in any reasonable time.


I was thinking about that for my story, and I think that TAAS will involve a major change in how cars are built and what they look like, so here is the new lineup for 2050, including the truck-substitutes:

1.) POD-CARS. These are for commuters who need to get work done on the way to the office and don't want to be disturbed. Each pod has a laptop-sized desk, a little speaker system for in-car meetings (think bluetooth for your phone as in modern cars, with some refinements) or for music. Pod-Cars come in 2, 4, and 6 pod models depending on the market.

2.) LIMOS, popularly called "party-cars" or "shuttles." These cars are used for commuters who don't need to get work done on the morning or afternoon commute, and are used for parties in the later evening hours. The ability to book a party-car for an actual party is dependent on one's age and reputation score with the rental company. They seat 6-10 people and the seats are set up in an oval around a central space. The seats on a party-car can by raised to sitting height or lowered to almost floor level.

3.) HYBRID LIMOS/POD CARS. 2 or 4 pods combined with a larger open space that seats 4-6 people. Used by commuters and frequently used on family vacations so the adults can get away from the kids when appropriate.

4.) TRUCK-SUBSTITUTES. These more specialized vehicles are used by people who work in the field on jobs which last 1-5 days. They can hold 4-6 people and also carry 4-6 wheeled, refrigerator-sized tool chests. The parts/construction materials are sent to and from site separately. Most buildings have a lock system that connects to the tool chests, enabling the technicians to secure their tools. (As a currently-employed field technician I observe that the bit with the parts being on site when I arrive is already happening.)

5.) DELIVERY VEHICLES. These are vehicles which have space for one or two people plus an AI-controlled system which stores boxes and delivers them to a hatch on the side of the vehicle. Workers for a delivery service are frequently gig-workers trying to pick up some extra cash.

6.) SEMI-TRUCKS. Not much different from what we currently see. Sometimes workers are hired from the gig economy to clean the vehicles after use so the semi-trucks don't have to return to their depots.

There some important, non-obvious differences between these vehicles and the ones we currently see on the road. First of all, these vehicles are much wider than current cars, sometimes as much as three meters wide. AI drivers don't need three feet of lane on each side of the car in order to be safe. They're perfectly happy with six inches on each side of the car most of the time and in conditions such as high, gusty winds the AIs in the cars can cooperate to make sure they are not blown into each other. (Lanes are no-longer painted on highways; they are defined by the AI software in response to changing conditions.)

Second, these cars don't generally have seat-belts. AIs are much better drivers than humans. The fatality rate is two orders of magnitude less than it was in 2020, and the multiple airbags which surround the passengers are more than enough to keep people safe in accidents. Most fatalities involve human drivers, vehicles which have broken down, or vehicles which have suffered AI failure.

Third, the physical design of cars has changed massively. The AI is usually somewhere in the center of the car, and there is no need for front and rear windows behind hoods or in front of the car's trunk (the car's boot.) Some vehicles don't have windows at all. Thus most vehicles are shaped like stubby canoes with bows on the back and front to minimize air-resistance. AIs don't care whether the engine is mounted in the front or the rear, so all engines and batteries are rear-mounted in order to minimize the possibility that a hot engine or exploding battery will land in someone's lap due to an accident, and both engines and batteries are ejectable.

Automobile companies saw which way the wind was blowing and absorbed car-rental companies in order to make TAAS work. (or vice-versa) The initial system of bookings was based around the auto-companies ideal of market segmentation; i.e. "2.7 million people will buy Toyota Corollas this year" but it was rapidly replaced by an open-source software called "Crossroads," which does not rely on that kind of segmentation and treats people as individuals. Crossroads also allows for the use of private servers, plugins, and add-ons, so it is not always used in the fashion its author intended.

A huge gig economy has grown up around cars due to the use of Crossroads, which handles reputation scores and assigns gigs to Travellers, (Traveller is now defined as a job-title rather than anything else and refers to someone who makes their living working the gig-economy which has built up around cars, frequently including prostitution.) Travellers are assumed to be a bohemian/hippie types who don't want to integrate with the real world. The reality, of course, is more complex. Most travellers carry AIs of their own to help navigate the complex gig-economy which has grown up around the automobile.

The gig economy is useful to the car companies because it allows for minor work such as cleaning or light-bulb replacement to be done while on the road in order to make sure a car does not need to return to its depot, which is generally a loss for car companies in financial terms. The AIs in the cars generally pay according to local conditions, with payment usually in miles - in other words, "if you'll vacuum me I'll give you a free ride." Markets exist to turn miles into other goods.

Lastly, the idea of cars as private spaces has become much more prominent; most car companies store their surveillance footage in a central location with AI-equipped lawyers on site 24/7 in order to make it as hard as possible for even the most powerful government to get footage which doesn't involve an criminal event. Some cases of this type have made it to the Supreme Court and an anonymous car usually carries more legal privacy than a home or office.


When I teach people to drive I remind them that replacing brakes is much cheaper than replacing clutches.


Re: 'POD-CARS. ... come in 2, 4, and 6 pod models depending on the market.'

Interesting idea esp. if you told this as a series of stories, one story for every life/pod stage. Maybe from the POV of Cinderella's AI Pumpkin Carriage as 'Life Passage: From Cottage to Castle.'


"I don't see autonomous taxis making much difference to whether people have cars or not,"

The point is that your routing paradigm changes. Instead of picking up one fare and routing that one fare via a single car, you pick up multiple fares and route them through a system similar to the Internet as if they were data-packets. For example, during the morning commute, the system knows where everyone lives and where everyone needs to go. It picks up five people, seemingly at random, and it turns out that they all work on the same block.


"On the contrary, every journey is subject to the additional delay of waiting for the taxi to show up..."

I doubt it. You'll have an AI of your own, tied into the "autonomous taxi" system and you won't have to do more than press a button and tell the system where you want to go. A car will show up within a minute or two. Also, AI-driven cars will be much better than humans at giving you a vibration-free, level surface; car time will become useful time, which will more than make up for any waits; you won't be conversing with the driver, you'll be working, sleeping, or even boffing (the AI will not care about your sex life any more than the current Internet cares about your porn habits.)


"Those of us who pay attention while driving are always looking for those who are not" That's why the key to both personal safety and low effort is to APPEAR to be an inattentive, intoxicated, or inexperienced driver while actually paying close attention. This flushes out other drivers who are actually inattentive, intoxicated, or inexperienced--when they fail to account for your false failings--allowing you to focus on them. I like to pretend to be texting. Of course, there's the possibility of this getting really fractal. What if some of these other bad drivers I detect are pulling the same dodge on a higher level? Street interactions are too brief for anyone to ever really know how deep it goes.

The model should be cruise control. All cars should still have to have a responsible human driver and controls. Self driving capability should be something a driver can turn on as an assist. So there would be self driven cars around, just with humans supervising. This would get people used to interacting with the autopilots, but with safety wheels. So, of course, it probably won't go that way.


"The problem with systems like that is that they are fine when everything is working, but they also get rid of a lot of the margin for error, so when something does go wrong the results are catastrophic. A fleet of robot cars all driving without their braking distances because they expect to be told when anyone else is braking will, if one of them suffers a mechanical failure (eg. tyre blowout), rapidly transform itself into robot soup."

The capacity issue pretty-much solves itself. The maximum-capacity time is the morning and evening commutes. At all other times there will be a surplus of available vehicles.

As for the braking, AI will solve two issues. First, that humans at shit at driving safely during a blowout at high-speeds. This is not a problem for well-trained AIs. Second, why does an AI car need a pneumatic tire? Once you give an AI complete control over your suspension system you'll get your comfortable ride without a tire filled with air.

This doesn't mean that mechanical failure isn't a factor, it just means that you can't do that one trick where cars drive real close to each other. At 60 mph, which is about 88 feet/second, roughly half that distance is taken up with human reaction time, generally assumed to be half a second, so AIs have a different formula for driving safely at speed; instead of one car-length per 10/mph, 1/2 car length per mph. There's still considerable improvement in an emergency situation.


Right now it's one long story as a set of smaller nested stories, but it's all heading someplace. Also, surveillance and a "new" political philosophy.


"In pursuit of efficiency we should just make everyone in the world speak and write in the same language."


Really though there's a great consolidation going on and language really is going more or less that way. Efficiency exerts a natural pressure, and it's standardizing effects aren't always centrally planned. Also, uniformity isn't necessarily the most efficient thing always (same sized cubes), sometimes well fitting variety is more efficient, like atoms in an alloy. It's just a matter of a planner (or nature) finding the (or a) right mix and the (or a) right way of putting the components together. Simple efficiency is efficient only in simple ways.


I will be VERY disappointed if Charlie Jane Anders' book picks up a lot of awards.

I got about a hundred pages into "All the Birds in the Sky" and gave it up as an annoying slog about people I disliked, but not badly enough to keep reading in the hope that something suitably nasty would happen to them. I found the prose not actively bad, but not engaging enough to compensate for the rest of the package. The world-building, such as it was, was thin and trite.

It may be that I have aged out of my tolerance for adolescent angst. Or I have simply read WAY too much of it over the years that bears too little resemblance to the horrible time I spent in junior high, and have lost patience with it. (I have definitely aged out of my former tolerance for some romance tropes, but that is a different rant).

I suspect the famous quote about dissimilar unhappy families applies to unhappy school experiences, too.


That would be a pretty powerful reason for people to stick to their own cars. Car-sharing schemes for commuting already exist; they exist because people won't share cars without a scheme of some sort, to give them some sort of compensation to make up for having to put up with some other bugger being in the car (whether as passenger or driver). One of the major advantages of cars for commuting even when there is a public transport alternative is that you can guarantee to be on your own.

Don't get too hung up on my choice of "blowout" as an example; I just picked that because it's a cliché, easily understood as "disaster" without need for further explanation. As it happens, I've had a high speed front-wheel blowout myself and it was remarkable principally for the absence of drama or disaster. On the other hand, I can recall at least two mechanical failures (of completely different natures) which resulted in a total loss of steering control, neither of which could have been mitigated by any kind of autopilot (for completely different reasons), and it was simply a matter of luck that they were both low-speed events that didn't cause any damage to my actual body as opposed to the vehicle. I could go on thinking of similarly irrecoverable failure modes, of both internal and external causation, all night, but it would get really tedious.

Active suspension already exists, albeit not used much because it's expensive and saps power and not worth the hassle apart from in exceptional cases. It's not the control side that's difficult, but the mechanical side - things with mass that need to be moved very quickly. It doesn't remove the need for tyres because the mechanical limitations make it impractical to get the frequency response to extend up that far.


Let's do the math.

Under the current paradigm going from my house to Downtown Los Angeles is about 60 miles, so we'd assume 59 cents a mile (the current IRS allowance per mile if driving for business) and get $35.40 cents a mile, with a drive time of 2.5-3 hours. A round-trip commute would cost 71 dollars and 5-6 hours, all of those hours being taken up by driving, which as someone above noted is an intense cognitive task.

With TAAS, I have absolute privacy riding in a Pod-Car with 5 other riders going to the same block (the car drops each of us of separately in front of our own buildings.) The car-company counts their internal cost as .59 cents a mile, and the car drives 85 miles in the course of making the round trip. However, given AI driving and decreased congestion, the trip takes from 3.5-4 hours and costs me .24 per mile, or a total of 20.4 dollars. The car company makes 122.40 for the trip


cycling should be moved 'off-road' or have special lanes (generally meaning into the gutter and onto footpaths)

Or, perhaps, onto protected cycleways, as was done in the 1930s in Britain.

In the 1930s, Britain's Ministry of Transport commissioned the building of 500-miles of protected cycleways. Between 1934 and 1940 more than 300 miles of these innovative cycleways were actually built, usually both sides of the new "arterial roads" springing up all over the country.

I've backed both of Reid's books on Kickstarter, and am considering backing this even though the chances of me cycling in Britain are low.

One thing I got from his first book is that the beginnings of good publicly funded roads were advocated for by cyclists, not motorists. Roads Were Not Built For Cars is fascinating, and I strongly recommend it.


Sorry, clicked the wrong button and submitted before I was ready. Note that paragraphs above have numbers that aren't quite right. Let's start over:

Under the current paradigm going from my house to Downtown Los Angeles is about 60 miles of driving, so we'd assume 59 cents a mile (the current IRS allowance per mile if driving for business) and get $35.40 cents a mile, with a drive time of 2.5-3 hours. A round-trip commute would cost $70.80 and 5-6 hours, all of those hours being taken up by driving, which as someone above noted is an intense cognitive task.

With TAAS, I have absolute privacy riding in a Pod-Car with 5 other riders going to the same block (the car drops each of us of separately in front of our own buildings.) The car-company counts their internal cost as .59 cents a mile, and the car drives 170 miles in the course of making the round trip, costing the car company $100.30. However, given AI driving and decreased congestion, the trip takes from 3.5-4 hours and costs me .21 per mile, or a total of 37.50 dollars. The car company makes 214.20 for the round trip, making it profitable for them. (These are minimal numbers. It's still a bargain at much higher prices.)

The result is that I spend a minimum of 1.5 hours a day less in a car and I'm not driving, so I can be productive during my car time, or I can sleep, or read the latest book... From here it looks like a bargain. If AI driving decreases the chance of death by any reasonable margin...


I used to have a car which looked as if it was falling to bits (in particular, the front bumper was visibly not parallel with the road). It was very satisfying watching other drivers get out of its way :)


A generation ago I drove a pickup truck that had more visible rust and primer than paint. Amazingly, no one parked close enough to block me in, and I could always open my door fully :-)


Like rust and primer are contagious... completely within the norms of human behavior, but still weird.



Since you wanted (not You, but You) to up the Game, here it is, in Black and White, λόγος:

1 Your Mind is a dendrite network, easily damaged 2 Your Ecology is a dendrite network, easily damaged 3 Your Society is a dendrite network, easily damaged 4 All of the above rely on each other, a tripartite network of health.

Look for the things killing off the interlinked chains. Oh, like, I don't know, most of your fucking economic Corporations[1].

Oh and yes: ZZZzz.. Not a Tree, it's a fucking 4D web.


1 Your Minds are being damaged, deliberately 2 Your Ecology is being damaged, deliberately 3 Your Society is being damaged, deliberately

Do. The. Fucking. λόγος.

John Stalvern waited. The lights above him blinked and sparked out of the air. There were demons in the base. He didn’t see them, but had expected them now for years. His warnings to Cernel Joson were not listenend to and now it was too late. Far too late for now, anyway. John was a space marine for fourteen years. When he was young he watched the spaceships and he said to dad “I want to be on the ships daddy.” Dad said “No! You will BE KILL BY DEMONS” There was a time when he believed him. Then as he got oldered he stopped. But now in the space station base of the UAC he knew there were demons. “This is Joson” the radio crackered. “You must fight the demons!” So John gotted his palsma rifle and blew up the wall. “HE GOING TO KILL US” said the demons “I will shoot at him” said the cyberdemon and he fired the rocket missiles. John plasmaed at him and tried to blew him up. But then the ceiling fell and they were trapped and not able to kill. “No! I must kill the demons” he shouted The radio said “No, John. You are the demons” And then John was a zombie.


You're getting fucked. Badly.

Work out Who Is Doing The Fucking, Then Remove Them.

Then you have to kill their slaves, sadly (at least the ones whose Minds are permanently broken).

Our Kind Do Not Go Mad.

[1] Anyone telling you that burning 1-2 billion years worth of energy and all you get is wage slavery and shitty plastic toys in return is fucking you. Fucking you so hard it's hard to believe.


Another dent or scratch on my truck, not even noticeable. While on their newer vehicle… so why risk it?


I expect to see fewer 'mundane' fatalities as autonomous vehicles become more common. Eliminating drink driving from the equation would be a major step forward. I have no figures in front of me, but the incidence of fatal accidents where alcohol is a factor is extraordinary. And it makes driving under the influence of other drugs look like statistical outliers or fringe issues by comparison. Fatigue is also a killer, where many of the cognitive symptoms - apart from the risk taking, perhaps - are like varying degrees of blood alcohol levels.

That said, as someone who started out in CS about 25 years ago, I will reserve my judgement about the efficacy of 'AI' (more realistically described as 'refined programmer algorithms' than an adaptive intelligence) for the complexities of navigating real-world traffic. I suspect there are plenty of others here with a longer memory of 'AI being 20 years away' for the last 50 years. It's long been the 'profitable fusion reactor' of computer science.

My biggest concern is a piecemeal uptake. If all vehicles flipped to 'AI' at once, I'd be much more confident. I am far less confident that embryonic AI in vehicles can react in a safe way to a large proportion of vehicles still driven by the latest model of hominid. That's because we're still not dealing with AI. We're dealing with algorithms that have been weighted by training scenarios. Unlike an intelligence, artificial or otherwise, they cannot improvise a totally new 'algorithm' in an unpredictable scenario - which may have even have moral dimensions.

I'd like to see an initial focus on autonomous braking and evasion. Essentially, avoiding a collision, and and avoiding a cascade effect on following traffic. This is precisely where human reactions are too slow, and unless you've been on some intensive defensive driving courses, the intuitive reaction at high speed is very often the worst course of action. A less ambitious directive: "Refuse actions likely to result in a collision; evade collision due to others' actions if possible; minimise evasive manoeuvres likely to panic other drivers; come to a complete stop when safe to do so."

That's a 'hard' enough problem as it is. Let's see some work on the algorithmic equivalent of the seat belt first.

And I realise this has nothing to with 'The Delirium Brief'! I'm ready for the always likeable Bob Howard again. Not his insufferable wife that he's endlessly apologising to, or walking on eggshells around. Please just once, I want to see Bob rake this prima donna over the coals - in high Enochian if possible. Next time she scolds him, perhaps he could pretend to play on the world's smallest violin, and go out drinking with the lads from the Artist's Rifles.


Waltham Forest have got exactly the same disease. All in the name of being cycle-friendly. ( ! ) Wankers is an unfair comparison to honest masturbators when compared to the London Borough of What the Fuck ( LBWF)



How many times?

There simply isn't enough physical space on the roads. That is why we have buses & trains.

Peak-hour Victoria Line tube: An eight-carriage tube train every 105 seconds. Full & standing from Blackhorse Rd to Victoria in one direction & Brixton to Finsbury Park in the other. [ 384 seats, the same number standing - & often more, Walthasmstow to Victoria in 25 minutes ] Every peak-hour local train Chingford-Liverpool St will disgorge somewhere between 750 & 1000 people every 15 minutes, as will trains from at least 10 other destinations - & you are going to get all these people into pods to get them to their work & the empty pods out again?

And pods/driverless are going to make trains & public transport unnecessary? Bollocks



my house to Downtown Los Angeles is about 60 miles ... with a drive time of 2.5-3 hours Peterborough - Kings Cross: 45 minutes, 76.25 miles. Reading - Paddington: 28 minutes, 36 miles Even Ghu help us all, Brighton - Victoria: 58 mins, 50.75 miles, but includes two stops.

Let's START AGAIN, shall we?


But you are still wrong, see my post above @ 209?


My L-R has moss & lichen growing on it. ( Because the London air is so polluted, natch )


300 miles. Aw, gee. So what? The Isle of Man alone has a road network of that length. Yes, that could be done for the major trunk routes, and should be, but the whole point of a transport network is that it is a NETWORK and allows its users to get reasonably directly from EVERY point to EVERY other point. There is NO OPTION but to share the roads because there is NO ROOM for a complete alternative network.


Cambridge has it, only it started earlier, and has it worse.


Last time I was in Holland (years ago) I could safely cycle everywhere I tried. If there was a high-volume road bikes used a separate cycleway instead. Low-volume roads were shared. It worked.


The UK has several much more densely populated areas than the Netherlands; that's perhaps the least of the differences. It also has topography that constrains roads (and houses), in a way the Netherlands doesn't, and far more of the road network is mediaeval or earlier, surrounded by (often historic) buildings etc. And the policies of the past six decades have exacerbated these problems :-( Yes, OF COURSE, there are routes in the UK where there is space, but a few routes do not make a network.

Let's agree that all of the 7,600 miles of motorway and trunk A-road need separate cycleways - some already have them, but nowhere near all - and ignore the places where even those are tightly constrained by topography and/or buildings.

But there are 23,800 miles of non-trunk A-road, which often have no reasonably direct and plausible alternative, especially though villages and cities - MOST of those would need separate cycleways, as would about half the 18,800 miles of B-road. The amount of demolition needed to parallel them closely (including of historic buildings) would be huge, and those roads were often built following the easiest route or only feasible route for non-motorised vehicles (i.e. for hand and horse carts). And that is is why the current policy is to send cyclists round the mulberry bush, sometimes involving quite a lot of unnecessary climbing.


It's quite straightforward to put the cycle path over the road. Bicycle infrastructure is a lot lighter and a lot narrower. It's not any more difficult than overhead wires for trams/trolleys/streetcars. (If overhead wires are there now the cycle path can go over top as joint infrastructure.)

Yes, that's lots and lots of aluminium trusses and railings and perhaps roofs (let's put solar on the roofs, just for drill); someone has to figure out where the "off ramps" go (in existing built-up areas, perhaps to second and third floor cycle-focused businesses), and there's probably a fair bit of vexation involved in sorting out where the support pillars can go and how to get the smoothest elevation change patterns. But as an infrastructure job it's really not especially challenging, it would add a whole lot of value, and it would add a whole lot of jobs for riggers and fitters as it got built out.

Can't see why any sensible government wouldn't do such a thing if they're trying to get bicycles into a built-up downtown core.


It's not as much narrower as you think, unless (as the psychle farcility fanatics do) you want to exclude vulnerable cyclists. However, I suggest that you try to do a design for your proposal in a few real locations, remembering that it takes 30 seconds to 3 minutes' worth of effort for an ordinary cyclist (and nearly that for a pedestrian) to get up to a standard road bridge height. Doing it once per trip is no problem; doing it more than once every few hundred hards considerably increases the effort and time needed for the trip. And then consider what that would do to the light going into the houses beside the road, and the appearance of historic towns.

Nice try, but no banana.


Very nice, but what method of transport are you discussing? I'll assume it's trains, but please confirm. (And if so, you'd be right about all those issues, but for some reason I don't see brilliant public transport in America's future...)


I'd like to see an initial focus on autonomous braking and evasion. Essentially, avoiding a collision, and and avoiding a cascade effect on following traffic.

This is already on the market — has been, for a couple of years now, as options on luxury cars. It'll be ubiquitous within a couple more years.

And I realise this has nothing to with 'The Delirium Brief'! I'm ready for the always likeable Bob Howard again. Not his insufferable wife that he's endlessly apologising to, or walking on eggshells around. Please just once, I want to see Bob rake this prima donna over the coals - in high Enochian if possible. Next time she scolds him, perhaps he could pretend to play on the world's smallest violin, and go out drinking with the lads from the Artist's Rifles.

You're not gonna get that, because Bob isn't as likeable as you seem to think he is; he's an unreliable narrator, remember, and Mo was simply giving you an objective view of him, warts and all.

(In Delirium Brief you get them both, working together ... and if you think the last book was depressing by implication? This one is the darkest Laundry novel yet.)


If the historic towns are ok with downtown car traffic, they haven't got much grounds to complain in terms of appearance.

I have (BoE) designed for my proposal in a few real locations; not UK locations, admittedly, but still. It has the great advantage of not needing to follow the road contour and of course you want to put the cyclists up there and leave them up there until they hit the vicinity of their destination. Eight metres is buckets for a cycle lane each way. (metre for railing, two metres of surface, metre for half the "curbed" centre flat of the W shape or (if a 4m single lane) another railing. (the "railing" also gets the big rain gutters and the posts get the downspouts.) I am quite sure an actual engineer of the appropriate speciality could improve on this.

I very much want no engines or feet on it; other than that, if you're going up seven metres (5m clearance under the structure, 2m of structure to get to the cycle-surface, which is plausibly excessive) you do need a quarter-kilometer to get up there at 3% grade, but it doesn't have to be linear. (Local cycle bridges use switchback structures for mid-bridge access; it adds width but you don't need many. You can eat a chunk of mid-block on-street parking around major intersections to fit the switchback ramps; if you haven't got even that much space you're back to lifts where there are already crosswalks.) If you really want cyclists into the narrow bits of downtown and you haven't banned cars from your trad downtown in favour of trolleys, you put lifts in the curbed centre section just like you do for train platforms. Once you're up there it should be a lot flatter; you're setting the path height with post heights, not the road contour. Lots of dips-to-the-causeway stuff should be getting erased from the cyclist's perspective.


Here in the UK our trains are cramped, crowded, and slow — a disgrace to Europe. The new generation high speed trains will be restricted to 125mph until signaling has been improved (at which point they can hit 160mph in places, IIRC — Greg will have chapter and verse), but most of our commuter stock is limited to 100mph.

Amtrak ... oh dear, oh dear. At least they serve Dogfish Head IPAs in the buffet cars on the DC-to-Boston corridor; makes the journey seem to fly by, until the hangover bites.


you do need a quarter-kilometer to get up there at 3% grade, but it doesn't have to be linear.

Suggestion? Use a ski lift approach. That is: have a motorized cable running in a groove alongside the handrail. If there's no tension on the cable, shut down the motor; when someone grabs on and gives it a tug, start turning, and allow them to let the cable drag them up the incline. That way you could make the on/off ramps considerably steeper without barring unfit cyclists from access. You're going to need power for overhead lighting anyway, so ...


That works!

I have no idea how to compares it to lifts in terms of maintenance budget, but it does have the escalator advantage. (Works with degraded performance when powered down.)


Maybe Brexit wasn't a Russian op. Maybe it was American billionaire Bob Mercer. This could get interesting...


Er, have you ever tried that on a bicycle? And how good is your balance? I have, and it is a completely insane idea. Drag lifts (i.e. skiing) cause enough problems even to people with adequate balance, and those don't have the problem that you need to keep a front wheel straight with the other hand. I can tell you that almost no cyclist with impaired balance could do it safely, and there are a LOT of us.

220 is even less realistic. Firstly, 5 metres is dubiously adequate, because there is the need to get things like diggers and cranes in, somehow, and cars do not obstruct the first 7 metres of the frontage (more like 1.5 metres). Even the largest buses don't obstruct more than 4.57 metres, and then very transiently. The number of houses that would get no daylight is legion.

And Graydon missed my point completely - damn how long to get there, because it's the extra effort that matters. Take a typical (slowish) 10 MPH, 50 watt cyclist, with an all-up weight of 100 Kg. 7 metres vertical is 7,000 joules is the equivalent of well over 2 minutes or over 600 metres of normal riding. Even for a median cyclist (like me), it's the equivalent of well over a minute and 400 metres. That's why even fit cyclists and pedestrians much prefer to cross at grade. Unless you cover the entire street area with such a surface, it would considerably increase the time and effort for a typical cycling trip (5 km).

OK, so you mandate electric assistance for any cyclist who can't deliver less than 250 watts, plus turning the ground floor of a huge number of existing houses into dismal dungeons. Great.


Slow? No, not really. At least not in terms of maximum speed. Britain is a small country, and a maximum speed of 100mph is plenty for the distances concerned. Beyond that you get deeper and deeper into the area of diminishing returns as the proportion of total journey time spent buggering around is no longer small compared to the time spent actually on a moving train. (The utterly daft HS2 proposal is thoroughly mired in this, although its proponents are oblivious.)

Also, don't be misled by it saying "125" on the side of a train in big figures that it'll actually be doing 125mph much. Apart from the ECML there really isn't much opportunity for doing 125mph for more than the odd few miles, or even at all, depending on route. Even the Brunel route from London to Bristol, where HSTs were first introduced, doesn't have all that much 125mph running, and the so-called "Berks and Hants" (London to Taunton bypassing Bristol) has hardly any. Much of the advantage of the HST came not so much from its higher top speed, but from having roughly double the power-to-weight of a 47 on 10 and so being able to accelerate to the same speeds as existing trains more quickly.

Top speed is a bit like CPU clock speeds: people go gooey over big numbers, but they aren't in reality all that relevant; other factors - like, to continue the admittedly shit computer analogy, bus contention and bandwidth - while harder to summarise in a simple figure, are of more overall significance. Trying to decrease journey times by increasing top speed is a bit like running away from something in a dream: you push and push but despite all the effort (energy consumption by distance goes as the square of speed, power consumption as the cube) not a lot happens.

The effective way to decrease journey times is to concentrate not on the trains themselves, but on the track; to get rid of things that make the trains slow down, because it is the slowings-down that really push the total time up. Things like easing curves to remove speed restrictions, fettling up stretches of track that have low speed limits basically because nobody's been arsed to maintain them to any better standard, rebuilding junctions to avoid conflicting movements (which usually means flyovers), fixing bits where trains go the long way round because of routes not being connected for historical reasons which are no longer relevant... Lots of little stuff, basically, which doesn't get done partly because privatisation has pushed the cost and complexity through the roof, and partly because you can't paint it in garish colours and parade it in front of people, which wouldn't matter if the decisions were made rationally, but they are not.

That last also has a lot to answer for as far as "cramped and crowded" goes - buying new stock partly because that's about the only thing left they can change but mainly so they can go "LOOK NEW SHINY TRAINS >splurge<", and not caring that for all the shiny outside it's shit inside because you don't see the inside in a photo of a train. The fact that you don't see the outside when you're riding in it doesn't seem to register.


So if I can ask without you saying anything about TDB you haven't already, is this going to be a Bob narrated book, or accounts from more than one perspective? Or more 3rd person views?

It's interesting that you say Bob isn't as likeable as he appears in his own words. True for everyone I suppose. The only real thing that started to irritate me about him was a passive-aggressive defiance that came across as increasingly immature, and even dangerous. Was it his way of coping with the fact he can't really pretend to be the proud old-school geek anymore? That identity being sublimated for something far more serious and scary.

When I think about it, you even get the sense that Mhari didn't despise him in the way he seemed to think she did. Again it seemed it was her frustration at his unwillingness to 'grow up'. But we don't know the warts and all like you do. All we can go on is the reader's perspective - that he's fundamentally decent, self-deprecating, and going through literal hell on a regular basis. But the marriage just seems like little more than a coping strategy at this stage.

Thanks for the feedback though. It made me rethink some things I glossed over in my eagerness to get to the eldritch action!


A direct cable-grab setup could be challenging, but clamping the front wheel into a shoe with a thing like gets used on bus-front bike racks or just an L-shaped cable car with some wheel slots and a back wall would work fine. Board however, push button, rise.

Or, you know, lifts. I'm quite fine with lifts.

The idea is to get the cyclists off grade and keep them off grade with a network of these things throughout the area where there's road surface contention. In an ideal downtown, grade is trolleys and pedestrians (with some nice ornate fences to keep them apart) and bicycles have been elevated above the trolleys. In a less ideal downtown, as a cyclist you're not fighting cars about surviving their turning habits. As a driver you don't have to worry about cyclists. So through the constricted volume you've got this elevated cycle network, you get on it, and you stay on it until (near) your destination. Since the area requirements for bicycles are lower than for motorized transport, this ought to be a strong win in terms of people-per-hour movement.

I've got actual experience with switchback ramps; the one I'm thinking of goes up a good deal more than 7 metres. It works fine. I have not done a health survey of the people using it, but it's not obviously impractical for the not-especially-fit. Because it's mixed use (and attaches a residential neighbourhood to a park), cyclists often have to walk it (tide of kids and dogs coming the other way...) but it's not especially challenging. My general expectation is that the great majority of cyclists would trade one such up for a network without pedestrians or motor traffic.

Five metres of clearance is what the bridges-crossing-divided-highways generally have hereabouts; anything that needs to get under ought to fit. If you need to do major road work, nothing says the bike route cannot be unbolted, taken down, and stashed somewhere, just like nothing says you can't ever dig up the road. Since the idea is to have the bike equivalent of a highway network, every street doesn't have this, but you can get within a couple hundred metres on a bicycle without having to take away existing lanes from cars in an already congested urban landscape. (Maybe you have to walk the last hundred metres. Maybe a brutalist structure has opened up its second or third story and there's a cyclist-focused cafe there and your only problem is looking elegant while dismounting.)

If you're looking at a space so narrow it can't take two lanes, and you MUST run the bike infrastructure down it, you find another such street and run one lane each, each way; if that narrow street is that narrow, it's not going to cost anybody much more light than house across the street does already.


Britain is a small country, and a maximum speed of 100mph is plenty for the distances concerned.

No it's not. That's a maximum speed, but you forget acceleration/braking duration. Those new high speed trains are supposed to get up to full speed on level tracks — no gradient — 50% faster than the old ones, in under three minutes! Given the proximity of stations, they'll spend more than half their time running at speed, but a whole lot of time averaging half that. From recent experience (I've been doing this run a lot lately) Edinburgh to Leeds is 220 miles and six or so intermediate station stops; it takes 3h10m on a train that peaks at 125mph because each of those stations adds ten minutes to the journey time.

The ideal way to speed things up would of course be all-new tracks and stations with all-new rights of way that punch through suburbia or run on overpasses and don't have to slowly cut across existing switchyards while coming in and out of stations. But that's not politically feasible in the UK, as things stand. (Japan did it with the Shinkansen network, but has a very different approach to building and also used it to kick off a standard gauge network — all previous Japanese tracks were narrow gauge. And it took them sixty years to get around to building their new network after it was first mooted!)


TDB is largely Bob-narrated but switches to other viewpoints — including Mo (and Cassie).

The series plan is for "The Labyrinth Index" to be a Mhari novel. But it's not definite yet. And there's a novella to be written at some point ("A Conventional Boy") from the PoV of Derek the DM.


It occurs to me that a big problem for your proposed overhead bike network is one we get with bridges in the UK, i.e. bored kids throwing bricks at passing cars/trains for shits and giggles. Hrm.


Spot on. And it's no good without impaired balance either. Trying to stay on a bicycle while holding on to something that is pulling you along is really bloody hard. Using your other hand to hold the middle of the handlebars instead of the end helps a little bit, by eliminating the tendency to apply asymmetrical forces to the bars, but it's still dead dodgy and only increases the distance-before-catastrophic-failure by a couple of yards.

Eight-metre-wide elevated structures just will not work in the UK; much of the time even the cars don't get that much space. Half that width would be adequate to cycle on, but it's still going to transform the street beneath into a dark and gloomy tunnel that smells of wee.

[215] "And that is is why the current policy is to send cyclists round the mulberry bush, sometimes involving quite a lot of unnecessary climbing."

That doesn't just happen in old towns; the cycleways in Milton Keynes are terrible for it. You get things like a cycleway that crosses beneath the main road in an underpass, then grinds its way up a fearsome gradient to the summit of an embankment towering far above the main road, at which point you find yourself facing back in the direction you've just come from, with a choice of turning left or right onto routes which both run perpendicular to the way you're trying to go and no idea what the fuck you're supposed to do now. Oh, it's all very pretty, in a Sunday-afternoon-stroll kind of way, but if you're actually trying to get from A to B it's bloody useless.


So Puro-kaiju has been overtaken by real world events? :)



"Much of the advantage of the HST came not so much from its higher top speed, but from having roughly double the power-to-weight of a 47 on 10 and so being able to accelerate to the same speeds as existing trains more quickly."



Oh, God :-( Look, I could point out the flaws in your ideas until the cows come home - and I would sooner ride a cow that use what you propose - but you are still missing the elephant in the room. If you want cycling to be an alternative to driving, as distinct from walking, you have to maintain the OVERALL point-to-point speed of about 4x walking, as can be done on flat roads and used to be normal. The psychle farcility fetish in the UK has dropped that to about 2.5x walking, and the arithmetic mean trip distance (the median is much lower) to 5 km. That's not going to help - it would be far better to abolish cycling and improve pedestrian facilities.


The local solution for that one is to make the guard rails a floor-to-roof net; not much wind barrier, relatively hard to cut, and at too-small-for-a-quarter-brick sizes the fun seems to go out of dropping things. (design carefully and you can make it hard to reach the net, so you have to throw things at it which is even less effective.)


Except when you get gusty sharp squally winds & rain.



What do you mean "maybe"?

Follow the money to rip us all off, of course!


It's a bit hard to tell which of them is typing tongue in cheek, or when they started doing so. I'm sure Charlie is.


No It isn't. It's because you can't go round "horizontal curves" - i.e. tightish radius - quickly. Specifically at: Dunbar, Cockburnspath bank ( all of it, it's 'orribly twiddly ) & Morpeth.

Dunedin-Newcastle is a lot slower than London-Newcastle, for those reasons. S of Newcastle, a lot of "tweaking" was done, easing curves, rearranging pointwork .. a minute here, 5 minutes there, rebuilding Peterboro' station completely ( it needed it anyway) etc, etc London - Newcastle, approx 268 miles, 2h 50 ( 170 mins ) Newcastle - Edinburgh approx 125 miles, 1h 27 ( 876 mins ) Work the highly different average speeds! And those figures are for the same train, the 08.00 off the Cross


If there's a bike lane on a multi-hundred metre long bridge over a deep ravine with a (dinky) river at the bottom, and the waist-high guard rail suffices to keep you from being blown off that (it does, though there have been a couple of lamentable cases of cyclists being punted off bridges when cars hit them), I don't see an elevated cycle path as being any worse. Certainly less of a drop and I'd expect there's a much better guard rail. (Surface-to-roof cable net, say, maybe even with springs and the cables sleeved with something non-abrasive.)

When the weather gets sufficiently uproarious cycling isn't going to work; when you get 30 m/s wind speeds, it doesn't matter where you are trying to cycle (or if it's snowing or raining.) Same with a humidex of 40+. (There's a local joke that it used to be you couldn't cycle in January, and now you can't cycle in July.) I don't think that means cycling infrastructure isn't worthwhile.


Graydon clearly hasn't lived in Edinburgh...


I'm having a bit of a hard time trying to relate to that; indeed the discussion in general seems to keep glitching over unspoken assumptions which vary depending on which side of the Atlantic you are.

Is it normal for American taxis to charge you for dead mileage? British ones only charge you for your actual ride, not for running empty on the way to pick you up.

60-mile urban journeys simply can't happen over here; there aren't any cities big enough. Even London is only something like 50 miles diameter. 60 miles is also an unusually long commute; some people do it when it's motorway all the way or a train journey (average speed roughly double your example), but 30 miles would be a more common maximum, and most of that would not be urban. Similarly three hours one-way is at least double and more like three times a maximum tolerable time.

60 miles in a run-of-the-mill modern car here would cost, errr, (waves hands) about 12-13 quid. (Estimate a bit rough since my requirements for a car exclude anything modern so no direct experience.) It's a long time since I made any journey that was eligible for compensation at any kind of official mileage rate, but on the odd occasion I have done it it's been great; ker-ching!



If you mean "people in Edinburgh cycle no matter what", well, I HAVE lived in Ottawa. There's such a thing as weather where you really try to avoid going outside at all.


I think this is another instance of transatlantic glitch...

We don't, over here, get actual storms much. 30m/s winds do happen, but not very often, and the news tends to fill up with pictures of things that have blown down when they do - flat cars under horizontal trees, etc. Weather in which you actually can't cycle is pretty rare.

But weather which makes cycling an experience that you really want to avoid isn't rare. We do get a lot of weather which is basically manky and miserable and shit; wet, cold and nasty. Cycling in it even at ground level is pretty horrible; being stuck 7 metres in the air right in the middle of it would be really yuck.


You only get billed for the actual ride, but the pricing sure as death includes (some assumptions about) the dead time.


In most of the populated areas. It's not rare to be unable to cycle on the west coast, especially the north-west, and 30 m/s winds are common in the north-west of Scotland. I am intending to tour there on a recumbent trike very shortly :-)


That's a shout-out to a (not yet written) short story.


30 m/s winds -- ~110 kph, 67 mph, 58 knots, Beaufort "storm" -- aren't precisely common as sustained winds here, either, but not unusual; thunderstorms will do that sort of gust pretty regular. Depends on how slow the news is if we get pictures of cars or houses flattened by trees.

We do get both humidex over 40 C-equivalent -- there were a couple days around 46 last summer -- where it's really unwise to exercise outside. Toronto rarely gets cold; -20 C is rare. But we get lots of ice (freezing rain or sublimated) and cycling on fresh ice is a bad plan. With the post-2005 warmer winters, less ice in January, more +40-equivalent in July.

My experience with the long bridges -- I just googled "Leaside Bridge", it turns out to be 45 metres high -- is that being stuck up into the weather really doesn't matter in terms of the cycling experience. It ain't great at ground level, and it remains not-great with elevation. But it's not less safe.[2] (and being away from cars in conditions of reduced visibility is a big "safer" offset.)

Edinburgh might be a case for those Swiss cable-slung trolley things, rather than cycling infrastructure, then. :)

[1] "Leaside Bridge, Millwood Road, Toronto, ON" should get it for you in maps

[2] though I am religious about disc brakes after having caliper brakes not do anything while headed downhill into an intersection in gusty rain.


As Pigeon says, cycling in Edinburgh, and indeed a lot of Scotland and England, involves headwinds both ways, hills, slippery bits, bad corners, etc. Then there is the way the wind whips around building corners. Suffice to say, take your Heath Robinson ideas elsewhere, I'm sure there are venture funds in California that would back them.


No dead mileage, just one worker commuting 60 miles to work in the morning and 60 miles home in the evening. Not necessarily paid to the same car, mind you. Nobody is being charged for dead mileage.

Unfortunately, 60-mile-plus commutes are common here and frequently take 2-3 hours. The U.S. policy after WWII was to build single-family homes in the suburbs, which means that I can start on the west coast of Los Angeles and drive east for 80-90 miles before encountering any empty space.

The .59 cents is the average cost-per-mile over the lifetime of the car, including maintenance and major repairs, as calculated by the IRS for purposes of employees having a tax break for travel they do in their own cars for their employers benefit. The cost does not vary due to make or model of your vehicle, so it is very much an average.


take your Heath Robinson ideas elsewhere, I'm sure there are venture funds in California that would back them

Been done there.


Obviously the time is ripe to try again. After all, with the Juicero getting millions of dollars, and Musks nonsensical hyperloop stuff getting press, there is plenty of room for aerial cycleways.


I am sure that there are places where they make sense, including some in the UK. Above the North Circular springs to mind, assuming that anyone wants to cycle along that route :-) But, as a general solution in the UK, they are clearly a crazy idea.


Of course, if people who die on them decide to hang around instead of passing on, you get Ghost Riders In The Sky...

May I present my own urban transport idea to the general ridicule?

Infrastructure is minimal - a steel tube, like a scaff pole, supported on the existing lamp-posts (or replacement stronger lamp-posts if necessary), and painted to blend in. Wide gaps such as rivers can be crossed with great simplicity by a stretched cable.

On this run pods, both stabilised and powered by a pair of big flywheels, periodically recharged by the pod visiting a spin-up station; these are dotted about the network. Easily possible to store enough energy for several UK-city-sized journeys between recharges. Stored energy goes with ω2 while gyro effect goes with ω, so the "low charge" condition is reached while there is still plenty of stabilising capability left. The pod runs on three-axle bogies with double-flanged wheels, fore and aft; switches/junctions work by providing flangeway cuts where two tubes meet so the wheels can take either path, and movable guides on the front bogie to determine which path that is.

The passenger compartment is mounted above the drive unit, pivoted to rotate freely about the roll axis. It is shaped something like an open-face motorcycle helmet, with two main components: a fibreglass-moulding "base" with seats formed in it and enough flat space in front to accommodate a wheelchair, and a transparent hood that pivots up and down like a visor to let you in and out. The moulding has a waterproof surface and an absence of crevices, so the interior can be simply, automatically, and thoroughly cleaned by a steam-cleaner while the flywheels are being recharged.

The gyros have enough surplus capacity to pivot the entire thing, in a controlled manner, 180 degrees from sitting on top of the rail to hanging underneath it (hence the passenger compartment being pivoted, to remain upright). This is how you get in and out. Flat hooks extend from the bogies during this operation to allow the pod to hang from the rail. (They also have a separate, passively-powered (eg. big spring) actuator so they can be triggered instantly in an emergency.) The hooks are flat so that other pods still in motion can ride over them, so one pod stopping does not hold up those coming along behind.

Pods are summoned by a combination of call buttons on the support posts and PIRs to make sure someone is actually waiting and it's not just kids messing about. Destination is selected by means of a touch-sensitive streetmap of the city with pod lines marked out, inside the pod (possibly a projected image rather than a physical object, for improved vandal resistance). Fare collection is coin in the slot, with the coin box only accessible from outside so it's an obvious lost cause trying to break into it, and emptied automatically during recharging stops.


The wind-speed at 5 metres up is going to be considerably higher than at ground level [ Or did you not know this? ] And it will probably be gustier & more erratic. Simply NOT practical, in terms of personal risk of injury & expended effort.


You forgot the other bit of US policy ( "Roger Rabbit" again ) where perfectly usable & upgradable transit systems were methodically trashed so that GM & the construction corps could make YUGE profits. Partially happened here, but the process didn't run to completion, fortunately.

Incidentally, Charlie is (partly) wrong about UK train speeds. They are hugely variable - 100 mph average to York or Leeds or Manchester from London, 47 mph to parts of Kent. Services to S Wales & W of England could be faster, if they cut out some of the intermediate stops. We are finally getting stage 1 of our own actual really high speed network .... Note the example I quoted earlier - for the SAME TRAIN (i.e. London-Edinburgh) As far as Newcastle, with 2 intermediate stops ( so it has to slow down, stop, let passengers off/on & then accelerate again ) - 94.6 mph, but N of Newcastle, only 61.4 mph [ Just spotted typo in # 240, incidentally - it should read 87 minutes, of course! ]


No fvcking clue! IMO the worst ones are the ones who "wipe" their brakes after turning in: All that does is destabilise your car!!


The average wind speed at 5m up is higher presuming you're not in a built-up area. That doesn't mean bad-weather sorts of winds are significantly higher at 5m or that it's necessarily higher at all; that's a generalization which applies to things like wind turbines and how likely you might be to lose an ill-fitting hat. (and how much power you can get out of the wind turbine.) It's more likely there's some breeze 5m up if there's still air at grade and it's very likely the wind is measurably faster out of the chaotic flow interacting with the ground but at many wind speeds your head is going to be out of that in an open area, it doesn't take going 5m up.

Once you're in a built-up area, you're in a giant chaotic wind-funnel anyway. Experience on high -- some of them narrow, cycle/pedestrian only bridges -- says it really doesn't make a practical difference; if it's blowing at grade level, it's blowing about as much on the bridge. "Bridge ices first" is a lot more of an objection than "wind gusts", at least hereabouts.

Everything is tradeoffs; if I can trade a doubled chance of getting blown over for zero chance of being hit by a car, I would be utterly daft not to take it.


Worse: Drumpf, on achieving the Oval Office, gets not just the nuclear codes, but the Magickal Keys, and lets Bannon conduct ceremonies with them....


I am extremely concerned about autonomous vehicles except on them-only roadways, like a lane on the Interstates... or downtown.

Going through the posts, I realized the obvious way to massively cut traffic and human driving: I have read that Julius Caesar banned chariots in Rome during daylight hours. So, all metro areas should ban cars for at least 5mi from the city center, with frequent (running < 5 min*) buses.

Outside of metro areas, no, except on the Interstate, I do not want an autonomous vehicle. And I REALLY, REALLY DO NOT WANT Google (I spoke with Vint Cerf, who was here on campus for a major presentation, a couple years ago - their idea of no steering wheel or pedals. I am NOT making this up.

Sample reasons, not including other drivers: 1. No, I don't want to go the the Exxon station to refuel, I want to go down the road another 10 or 20 mi. and go to a Pilot, $0.20/gal less (and I don't want Exxon!) 2. We've been on the road for hours, and Oh, look at that coffee shop! 3. Falling asleep, after enough Scenery, vs. driving that lovely curving mountain road....

And owners of larger SUVs and monster fucking pickups should be required to have an additional set of tests to drive something that big.

  • Why would you think that was excessive? I once took a bus that I never normally took in downtown Chicago, and the posted schedule read, during rush hour (16:30-18:30), and I quote, "less than every 3 minutes"), and this was < 10 years ago.

Now, it could have been someone other than Feynmann, but I'm thinking it was.... I have a friend, and back in the eighties, we were talking about my Famous Secret Theory (FST). Now, my FST is, in fact, valid physics (and I don't have quite enough math to describe it properly...), but he was waxing philosophical about it... and didn't really understand what I was telling him. So, late one evening, he called Feymann, and tried to talk to him about it. Feymann took the time - my friend said an hour - and friend also said he learned more science in that hour than he'd known....



Trump might summon Chtulhu? I thought he'd already done that. It was part of his hundred days, right?


There is NO REASON that trains can't go faster... except that the railroads don't want to do that expensive additional maintenance to keep the trackage up to high-speed passenger standards.

In the US, except for the northeast corridor (aka the former Pennsy and NYC lines), they don't own their own tracks, they lease... and the freight companies really don't want that extra expense.

As a comparison, during the first half of the 20th Century, the Pennsy and the NYC lines from the east to Chicago ran parallel, within a mile or two of each other, and the engineers would race the other train.

From wikipedia on the run of the Pennsy E-6 (steam) carrying the film of the Lindburgh arrival to NYC:

The train made it to the electric changeover at Manhattan Transfer with an average speed of 74 mph (119 km/h), a record never beaten by steam on that journey, with a reported maximum speed of 115 mph (185 km/h).

But then, this was the creme de la creme of the passenger era.



Feymann took the time - my friend said an hour - and friend also said he learned more science in that hour than he'd known.... Yeah. Never met the guy but my impression from stories both published and not was that he was seriously devoted to reducing the amount of ignorance and flawed thinking in the world. Need many more like him.


Take your bets NOW On how long before DT is either Impeached or simply removed for incapacity See: HERE

Like you really, really couldn't make this shit up, could you?


There is NO REASON that trains can't go faster...

I thought they needed to upgrade the lines to use in-cab signaling about 74mph? And signals/barriers at level crossings?


Take your bets NOW On how long before DT is either Impeached or simply removed for incapacity...

We've had ample reasons since day one. The question is only when the cost of booting out an obviously corrupt and incompetent president is seen as less than the cost of breaking party unity. The far right is all about in-group cohesion and Us fighting against Them, so it's very hard to police the group against bad actors who are identified as insiders.

Although after Donald tweeted about telling secrets to the Russians I can't help imagining the ghost of Saint Reagan materializing in the Oval Office and starting in, "See here, young man, I know I explained this to you..."



Also, it's beginning to look as though POTUS Pence would be better for the rest of the planet, as in instant-sunshine bursts not happening. It would be really bad for the people of the USSA, of course, especially if you are female, brown or want a clean environment. But that's fixable, down the line. Having bright lights all over the place would be worse.


Does that mean we can purchase the English paperback and have it delivered to the U.S.? I already have the previous books in the series in paperback & "OCD" makes it very difficult for me to switch to hardback books for the rest of the series.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 7, 2017 3:47 PM.

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