January 28th, 2013

#3758: A bunch of gun control links

Important liberals are exempt from gun laws. David Brock has a retinue of bodyguards who apparently illegally carry guns.

The same way a newsreader was given a pass for illegally posessing a high-capacity magazine, this guy gets a pass? So much for rule of law.

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San Diego's chief of police says that government can disarm Americans "within a generation". Molon labe, bitch.

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I'd like for ABC to present its statistics on how many law-abiding gun owners own illegal guns. Clearly this is an issue which has not been addressed by current law: if there are law-abiding people out there buying stolen guns, I think we should know about this menace to society.

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AoSHQ gun thread linked because of the part about a Vermont gun range which has banned police officers of a certain city from using its facilities.

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England has banned firearms, so people are being killed with swords. England has also emplaced "knife control" and "dangerous knives" are illegal. A sword is, essentially, a large knife.

It's not coincidental that the dead lad has an arabic name.

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From gun control to carbon control:

Borepatch has posted an excellent image demonstrating the reality of "climate change". 0.8°F over the course of the 20th century--except that (of course) this is a flawed data set and most of that warming is actually due to error (eg urban heat island effect) and normalizing of data (eg adjustering and fiddleating). But even if you accept that number as valid, even if you do, that chart makes it plain that carbon concentration in the atmosphere is not driving the warming that we've seen.

Yet our government persists in acting as if it is. Obama's EPA has bankrupted a coal plant; expect more examples to follow.

Then bitch and moan about how much electricity costs while continuing to pull the lever for Democrats in the voting booth. Suck it.

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Lucky for Senator Menendez that he's a liberal Democrat. Because if he were anything else, the FBI would already have clapped him in irons for "crossing international borders with intent to sexually abuse minors".

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And on to the economy, which is still shitty:

DOOM! Oh, how I have missed Monty's DOOM! posts.

Why employment is dead in the water. Government regulations, Obamacare, high taxation, record levels of government debt. Do I need to go on?

He says, "Employment is dead in the water because opportunities for organic expansion are few and the cost basis of doing business in the U.S. keeps rising," but that's just a fancy way of saying what I just said without mentioning any specifics.

Employment is, in fact, right about where it was in 1977. GDP has rised precipitously, but since government spending is one of the major components of GDP--and government is running historically high annual deficits right now--guess what that means? It means that GDP is artificially inflated by government spending and if you close that valve, we see an immediate 12% drop in GDP.

The concluding paragraph begins:
Employment is dead in the water because opportunities for organic expansion are few and the cost basis of doing business in the U.S. keep rising. That vise forces businesses large and small to reduce labor costs while boosting productivity.
And "boosting productivity" basically amounts to making your present workers work harder, because that's your only real option, and getting rid of people who simply cannot or will not give 150% or 200% for the same pay out of fear of losing their jobs.

Employment is dead because the government has made it financially impossible to employ people.

Which is why you end up being a stockboy even when you have an engineering degree, like me. Or--right now--an unemployed stockboy.

And Karl Denninger discusses this matter, too--I've linked it because of this bit, emphasis removed:
To make matters worse the government has dramatically raised the costs of hiring people. Obamacare, for example, has turned the employment world on its ear, especially when it comes to the lower end of the scale. How many 27-year-olds are about to get a nasty surprise when they are expelled from their parents' health insurance and find that (1) their own policy costs $5,000 a year, (2) their boss has cut them to 28 hours a week (from 40) because at 30 they must provide that insurance, a gross pay reduction of 30%, (3) at $15/hour (a pretty good starting wage) they're now grossing $21,000 a year and (4) they don't qualify for any sort of "assistance" as they make too much money, but roughly 1/4 of their gross, before taxes, must either be paid for that "insurance" or they get fined for not having it!
It's this kind of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" law which has led us to the troubles we now have, both economically and societally.

Before Bill Clinton reluctantly signed the welfare reform bill in 1995, you had a basic choice: you could work, or you could be on welfare. If you earned just about any money at all, you lost your benefits...and the threshold was so perilously low that no one could possibly survive on that amount of earned income. The welfare benefits were enough, barely, but they cut out long before earnings would offset them.

Welfare had been designed to keep people dependent on govenment, and the Democrat party fought bitterly to maintain that. Bill Clinton was forced to defend himself at the 1996 convention--"We'll fix welfare reform in the next four years"--but in fact he left it alone and didn't even try, because he didn't have the votes and was shrewd enough to know which side of his bread was buttered.

Obamacare is more of the same. Sold to the public as a way of reducing the cost of "health care", instead it's designed to increase it, and to make people dependent on government. And it's full of the same old legal tricks that ensure the poor are unable to do anything to get ahead. "Keep those people poor," because the middle class does not reliably vote Democrat.

Of course if you are a rich Democrat, none of this effects you because you have plenty of money to spend on health insurance. If you're a government employee, you're covered by government health insurance; if you're a politician you've got even better insurance than that (and it will never, never, ever be taxed even if it's a "gold-plated iridium Cadillac" insurance plan under Obamacare).

But the poor? They just continue to get their faces stomped.

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Well, maybe not all of them. See, Britain taxes its middle class and rich people at confiscatory rates so the "poor" can live well without having to work. No, in this case it's the middle class that get their faces stomped.

...for as long as that lasts. Eventually they'll get sick of supporting layabouts.

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Dinner last night was roast beef.

Now, it's been more than two years since I had home-cooked roast beef, the way Mom used to do it; and in fact I had to look up a recipe on the Intartubs. Around Thursday I hauled one of the two rump roasts I got in May as part of my big beef buy and let it defrost in the refrigerator; late Sunday afternoon I took it out of its package, rubbed on olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and then put it into the oven.

It got 35 minutes at 375°, then two hours (one on each side) at 225°, and it came out perfectly. The fact that it came from a cow that died happy only made it better; this is nice, tender, juicy beef.

I also made carrots, potatoes (from a box), and gravy. The gravy was perfect; I didn't have to add salt or pepper to it and it was so damned delicious there wasn't any left after Mrs. Fungus and I had finished dinner.

I made the gravy using Mom's recipe, right down to using some of the turkey stock I made in November, instead of water. Heh.

Why, it's almost as if I know how to cook or something!

And in the intervening seven months, I've used 35 out of the 41 lbs of beef, and barely touched most of the steaks. I still have plenty of porterhouse and sirloin and ribeye.

I don't know what I'll do for ground beef. If I keep using it at the rate I have been, I'll be out of ground beef before the end of February. I can't justify buying a whole quarter beef again, not when I still have a freeser that's about half-full of steaks.

Oh well.

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Besides that, Mrs. Fungus and I went on a Babylon 5 binge last night.

I don't know how many episodes we watched. The conservative estimate is ten; we finished season 3 and started season 4, mainly because we're heading into the climax of the series and she wanted to see what happened next.

Everything happening in the series about that time is f-ing epic, and it's a wonder to behold when you're watching it on a 47" screen that's so sharp and clear you can see the defects in the source material. (The CGI looked fine on an all-analog CRT; it is less so when viewed with digital systems)

...we were up until 5:30 in the morning, and after that we slept like logs all day, until 4:45. But we had fun, so that's okay.

#3759: More starship stuff

Gonna quote the bit that kneecaps my SF universe the worst, then go from there:
One issue your ships face is that fusion drives are very low thrust because they are necessarily very low mass flow-rate. This is due to the fact that it becomes exponentially more difficult to fuse larger masses of fuel. Assuming the above spaceship is trying to accelerate at 500 m/s^2 (around 50 g) that works out to a mass flow rate of 1000 tons/second!

rho = m*a/v = (16,000,000 tons * 500 m/s^2) / 8,000,000 m/s = 1000 tons/s

And that's for a fairly extravagant fusion drive (exhaust velocity of 8,000 km/s). Even with a pure photon drive (v = c) the mass flow rate is ~30 tons/s. Even if the back of your ship is festooned with 1000 engines each with their own fusion chamber you'd still have to be fusing a ton per second in each. And that's not the half of it; the thrust power of the propulsion system is 64 Exawatts (6.4E20 W). If the ship is made of titanium and the propulsion system 99% efficient then it will be completely vaporized 1/45 of a second after it turns on its engines, purely due to their waste heat. Not to mention the Kzinti Lesson (this propulsion system is a planet-killer).
I'm going to go with the density of 0.2 tons per cubic meter, because I'm not using materials which are currently available to build starships and it lets me fudge the numbers in my favor, even if it's only by a very, very, very little bit.

Clearly, the propulsion model for starships in my universe simply does not work, and I'm glad to have had this discussion now rather than after [Release Candidate One] is published.

...but for one thing: I do have inertial damping technology.
In order of least change to most change, the possible solutions seem to be:

1) The inertial dampener lowers the effective mass of the ship so that the engines actually have very low thrust; they're actually pushing what is effectively a 100 ton mass at 50 g. This raises the question of where the exhaust stream goes back to massing what it should be and the edge effects relating to that. Best just not to mention them.

2) Enormously lower the acceleration rate of your ships. If you stick to fusion you'll be down to hundredths of a m/s^2 before the propulsion system stops melting nearby moons, sadly.

3) #2 and pick a higher-thrust propulsion system. I favor Gas Core Nuclear Thermal Rockets (GCNTR) and accelerations around 1/10 g for ships in the 2-10 km range. Also a mass ratio of about 3 works well (gives a delta-v around 70-80 km/s) for most month-scale interplanetary trajectories. Such a ship can maneuver swiftly enough for space combat to be interesting on a human-scale attention span, too. Very space-Jutland. The advantage of this is that you can drop the inertial dampening, which tends to be a bucket full of unintended consequences anyway.

4) Make up a completely science-fictional drive system that gives you the performance you want. This is where Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle went with The Mote in God's Eye, positing a perfectly efficient force field that sucks up the energy of the fusion reaction and re-radiates it as photons in the desired drive direction. Note that in this case you'll still have the problem of the drive plume being able to burn off the atmospheres of Earthlike planets. Admittedly that might be a fun premise to play around with :-D
Inertial damping in my world ends up completely eliminating inertia of objects. That is to say, when you throw a ball while in such a field--even if you throw it as hard as you can--the instant your hand stops pushing it, the ball stops moving. Gravity takes over and the ball falls to the deck, and when it collides with the deck it stops moving instantly regardless of how bouncy it is.

Firearms don't work in inertial fields, either. The instant the bullet leaves the barrel and the expansion of gas stops moving it, the slug stops dead and falls to the deck. This is one reason the military arms troops with laser weapons; slugthrowers are useless aboard ships.

Further, I don't rely on pure fusion thrust to move the ship. The ship also carries reaction mass (as mentioned in the last post) which is heated by fusion and expelled from the main engines. This mitigates--but does not eliminate--the problems presented above. The damned ship can't carry enough reaction mass to toss out 1,000 tons per second; not for very long, anyway.

Later in the history of my universe, a totally inertial space drive is developed based on the principles of the inertial damper. That one converts power supplied by fusion into kinetic energy almost directly, with a very high efficiency (say, 80% or so) and therefore can provide stupid-high accelerations.

...some of the issues can be handled with minor changes. Going about 30 AU takes five days at eight gravities, and there's no real need for passenger vessels to be capable of 50 g. 10 g (100 m/s/s, since a Standard Gravity is 10 m/s/s in my world--and yes, Earth has a surface gravity of 0.98 Standard) would be plenty of boost. Still problematic, but less so than the 50 g maximum, and perhaps within the Margin of Handwave.

But not all of it. Because for the example given, that's still 200 tons per second; and even if most of it is reaction mass it still is too much. *sigh*

Even so, that's peak thrust. What if you keep it down to 1g? Suddenly it's 20 tons per second, and your trip time takes...two weeks. And 50,000 tons of reaction mass lasts 40 minutes at that rate.

...I'm beginning to wonder how Larry Niven got away with all his stories about Bussard ramjets.

Well: for one thing, 8,000 km/second is a glacial exhaust velocity for a fusion drive. 12% of C seems to be the commonly-accepted number (Google-fu to the rescue) and that's 36 million m/s, 36,000 km/s.

With that kind of exhaust velocity, you're talking about 5 tons of reaction mass per second, and that gives you 10,000 seconds of thrust from 50,000 tons of reaction mass. (3 hours and 45 minutes at one g. Better. Not good, but better.)

Of course that's for a proton-proton fusion reactor. I might as well wish for magic.

...all of which, of course, ignores the fact that I do have inertial damping technology in this universe, so I don't need to worry as much about this as I let on here. Maneuvering thrusters could consist of guys pissing off the corners of the ship with inertial damping! But with inertial damping, of course, suddenly your top speed is limited to your specific impulse, and 36,000 km/s is nothing.

So let's talk about the physics of the inertial damper for a moment, and see where that gets us.

Think, for a moment, of an inductor in an electrical circuit. When you apply a voltage across the inductor, it has a certain impedance; for a few moments no current flows. Forcing electrons through the coil forces it to build a magnetic field which gradually decreses the impedance, until the thing reaches a steady state where it appears to have no resistance to the voltage. When you remove the voltage, then, the current wants to keep flowing; and in the case of a really big coil that current will flow regardless.

This is analogous to moving a mass: you have to push on it to get it moving, and you have to push on it to make it stop.

So, in a way, pushing that mass is like applying a voltage to an inductor: the longer you apply the force, the faster the mass moves, but only up to the velocity at which the force is applied.

In a purely inertialess field, your exhaust velocity is your top speed.

But inertial damping doesn't have to work that way. In fact--as was suggested above--you could damp only parts of the ship, and use the undamped portion as a kind of flywheel.

...I think I've found the solution to my problem. This is how I can use reasonable fusion drives and still get 50 g of acceleration from them: instead of accelerating sixteen million tons, I'm accelerating--say--fifty tons, and the rest is inertially damped so it doesn't matter. It means I can't play tennis or golf or baseball aboard the ship while I am maneuvering in real space, but my stories already feature that, anyway.

*whew* I feel better now. I don't have to frantically rewrite anything.