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Stellar evolution in the #MeToo era


Stellar evolution:

  1. protostar
  2. main sequence
  3. red giant
  4. white dwarf

I’m wondering if it would be fair to say that cosmologist Lawrence Krauss is transitioning from red giant to white dwarf.

Human energy output these days can be measured by Twitter. Let’s have a look at Professor Krauss’s feed:

May 10, 2014: I will echo Michelle Obama: Bring back our girls! And add: bring back our girls everywhere from the shackles of religious tyranny.

Aug 30, 2014: To Progressive Atheists in Melbourne and Radical Women. Thanks for inviting me to be a part of your protest event.

October 2, 2014: Texas continues its attack on Women.. especially poor women. Will it never end?

Nov 1, 2016: Here goes fuel for the hate mongers. I am pleased to support Hillary Clinton for President. She is very capable & will be a fine President. [i.e., the state government employee supports the candidate who promises to expand government]

Nov 1, 2016: Women’s rights, and climate change. Two reasons Trump needs to lose, and hopefully Democrats gain senate majority.

April 14, 2017: Trump proves that beyond grabbing them, he doesn’t care about women’s health and welfare. No big surprise.

May 28, 2017: Even without the pussy grabbing one look at this and you know this is the kind of creep you would want your daughter to stay away from.

June 1, 2017: All bad. Not content to attack the environment, the administration joins religious fanatics to attack women’s rights

As he was a media darling during the above output, I think it is fair to say that this was the professor’s red giant phase. What about after a star exhausts its nuclear fuel and can no longer support itself against the weight of its outer shell? Then it will collapse catastrophically, a victim of its own brilliance.

“He Became A Celebrity For Putting Science Before God. Now Lawrence Krauss Faces Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct.” suggests that is it now white dwarf stage:

Lawrence Krauss is a famous atheist and liberal crusader — and, in certain whisper networks, a well-known problem. With women coming forward alleging sexual harassment, will his “skeptic” fanbase believe the evidence?

“I didn’t care if he flirted with me, I just wanted to be around somebody important, and I also wanted to get a job in this field,” [Melody] Hensley told BuzzFeed News. “I thought I could handle myself.”

he asked her to come up to his room while he wrapped up some work …

When he pulled out a condom, Hensley said, she got out from under him, said “I have to go,” and rushed out of the room.

Krauss offers the scientific method — constantly questioning, testing hypotheses, demanding evidence — as the basis of morality and the answer to societal injustices. Last year, at a Q&A event to promote his latest book, the conversation came around to the dearth of women and minorities in science. “Science itself overcomes misogyny and prejudice and bias,” Krauss said. “It’s built in.”

How does the scientific method work when it comes to evaluating private sexual activity?

Krauss’s reputation took a hit in April 2011, after he publicly defended Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy financier who was convicted of soliciting prostitution from an underage girl and spent 13 months in a Florida jail.

Epstein was one of the Origins Project’s major donors. But Krauss told the Daily Beast his support of the financier was based purely on the facts: “As a scientist I always judge things on empirical evidence and he always has women ages 19 to 23 around him, but I’ve never seen anything else, so as a scientist, my presumption is that whatever the problems were I would believe him over other people.”

Some scientists do not respect Hawaiian culture:

In April 2016, an Origins staffer angrily posted on Facebook about how Krauss “suggested that I should dress up like a hula girl while advertising for an event.”

Skeptics have become skeptical of skepticism:

“I’ve just become so disappointed and disillusioned with a group of people who I thought at one point were exemplars of clear thinking, of openness to new evidence, and maybe most importantly, being curious,” philosopher Phil Torres told BuzzFeed News. “This movement has tragically failed to live up to its own very high moral and epistemic standards.”

Certainly this is an astrophysics lesson for our time!

Who was a fan of the Transparent TV show?


I’m heading out to Seattle today. A recent news story out of the city concerns the Amazon series Transparent. Example: “Jeffrey Tambor ‘Profoundly Disappointed’ with Amazon Following Transparent Firing” (Variety) The subtitle of the article:

“I can only surmise that the investigation against me was deeply flawed and biased toward the toxic politicized atmosphere that afflicted our set,” the actor said.

Only 2.5 years ago, the actor had a different perspective. “Jill Soloway Reveals Why Feminism Is the Secret to ‘Transparent’s’ Success” (The Wrap):

Rather than give explicit direction and forcing her cast to meet her expectations, Soloway said that she prefers a “feminist” approach, standing back and letting the actors “play.”

“I bring to work a feminist and feminine style of leadership,” Soloway said. “I’m here to pump air into the balloon and let this thing rise … everybody knows that the most important thing is that we have fun.”

The result, says the cast, is that there is no fear of making mistakes on set. They are free to try anything without worrying about being shot down. “You cannot make a mistake on this set. Nothing is ever wrong,” said Light.

The attitude starts at the top, but it continues all the way down, said Tambor. The entire cast and crew is committed to Soloway’s way of thinking.

“I’m telling you, people are dedicated. People are really getting this on every single level,” Tambor said. “And there is no reason it has to be otherwise. Except fear, male superiority, and horse shit.”

So the story-behind-the-story is arguably interesting as a demonstration of how human attitudes can evolve in a short period of time. But what about the story? What was interesting about this show that people wanting to keep watching? Also, if a show is about one transgendered person, how does it work to substitute a different actor or character in season 5?

[Separately, the dust-up proves that saying “I am not a predator.” is roughly as effective as a defense as saying “I am not a child molester” in family court!]

Media discussion of Trump and women proves that Americans ignore the Bible?


The U.S. is supposedly populated by folks who adhere to “Judeo-Christian” values.

Gossip is prohibited by Leviticus, a book purportedly followed by both Jews and Christians (see Lashon hara for a summary of what Leviticus says about gossip).

Yet U.S. media is filled with gossip about President Trump and women who might have had sex with him (example from the New York Times).

I don’t remember this kind of article back in the 1970s, except perhaps in some supermarket tabloids. Can we infer from this that Americans have given up any goal of following the rules set forth in the Hebrew Bible?

Maybe one could argue that this is somehow actual “news” and not merely gossip? Good Housekeeping says “Only 48% of married women want regular sex after four years.” Thus roughly half of married Americans, unless they have decided to give up on sex altogether, would be candidates for an article on the subject of “Married Person X is having sex with Person Y and Person Y is not the spouse of Person X.” How can something be considered “news” when it is this common?

A journalist who describes himself as a “conservative Christian” recently posted one of these articles about Trump to Facebook: “Understanding Conservative Christian Silence on Donald Trump’s Porngate” (National Review). I responded with “Which part of the New Testament requires a Christian to keep track of others’ sexual activities? The Hebrew Bible specifically prohibits gossiping about other people. (See “Gossip, Rumors and Lashon Hara” for example.) As with most of my questions on Facebook, nobody answered! What is the answer? Are Christians allowed to gossip freely?

Or do we just add this to the list of stuff in the Bible that Americans don’t care about, e.g., Leviticus on male homosexuality, which has turned into “Gus Kenworthy’s kiss with boyfriend a ‘moment to celebrate'” (CNN). (But if being gay at the Olympics is actually a “moment to celebrate,” why aren’t Blades of Glory-style male-male teams permitted for skating and ice dancing? Why force athletes to promote a heteronormative message?) “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is in the Ten Commandments (Exodus), but in America today the married person who says “I really am enjoying having sex with my neighbor’s spouse” can be rewarded with 50 percent of the partner’s assets and 80 percent of the partner’s income going forward (varies a lot by state, though!).

If adultery is profitable, male homosexuality is celebrated, and we can be proud of our commitment to gossiping and keeping track of another adult’s sex life, what does it mean when someone in the 21st century U.S. calls himself or herself “Christian” or “Jewish”?

NTSB report available on the Grand Canyon helicopter crash


This has been a sad month for the helicopter community. A grand canyon tour EC130 crashed and burned on February 10. The NTSB has issued a report (Las Vegas TV station article with background and full text) suggesting that there was a loss of yaw control as the aircraft slowed down for landing. The NTSB says that there were two left turns before the helicopter crashed. The crash might have been survivable for everyone if the helicopter had the latest “bladder tanks” that won’t burst after an impact (the Robinson R44 got these in 2011 and, to Robinson’s credit, they were sold to owners at zero markup for several years; we retrofitted the East Coast Aero Club R44s shortly after the kits became available).

A standard U.S. helicopter, viewed from above, has blades that spin left. The helicopter will thus want to spin right due to Newton’s Third Law. The pilot uses tail rotor thrust to prevent this spinning (press on left pedal when power is being applied). This is straightforward when the wind is calm, but if a left crosswind is blowing disturbed air back into the tail rotor, it can be challenging to keep the nose pointed stably.

The French-made EC130, however, has blades that spin clockwise (viewed from above). Therefore the natural spinning direction is to the left. To reduce noise and also to enhance safety for anyone standard near the helicopter, the EC130 uses a shrouded fan (fenestron) rather than a conventional tail rotor. These have developed a reputation, perhaps unjustified, for being less effective at yaw control (see Airbus/Eurocopter’s letter on this issue from 2005).

The NTSB-reported wind of 360@12G19 does not sound too scary, but the landing zone is surrounded by terrain that can cause the wind to become chaotic.

The pilot of the accident helicopter, Scott Booth, remains hospitalized with severe burns. A friend and former ECAC instructor is a pilot at the same company. He told me about this GoFundMe page, in case any readers are interested.

The Chinese artisans behind the Obama portrait


There has been some media discussion about whether the latest Presidential portrait, of Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley, was actually painted by Chinese artists in China. A 2012 article on Mr. Wiley, “Outsource to China,” (New York), says “These days in Beijing he employs anywhere from four to ten workers…”

This was predicted by a 2009 New Yorker article describing an entire city in China given over to artistic oil painting.

Separately, the New York interview with Mr. Wiley is kind of interesting.

Wiley grew up in South Central Los Angeles, the fifth of six children raised by a single mother on welfare putting herself through grad school in linguistics.

Mom was getting cash from the taxpayer (and maybe from some of the fathers of these six children under California family law?), but she was “putting herself through school”? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that U.S. and California taxpayers were putting her through school? Or possibly one of the men with whom she had sex?

Mr. Wiley displays his knowledge of history:

“Women have always been decorative,” Wiley says, gesturing at the portraits around him. ‘They’ve never been actors or possessed real agency.”

Would it be accurate to say that Catherine the Great did not possess “real agency”?

The Millionaires Who Miss Obama go on their ski vacation


It is February school vacation week here in Massachusetts. Those who are most concerned about climate change are flying 4,000 miles round-trip to ski rather than driving 45 minutes west to Mt. Wachusett. Here’s a group Facebook chat::

Friend 1: Met two families from [Happy Valley] on this flight to Utah and two from Wellesley.

Me: Did you ask them about their carbon offset purchases?

Friend 1: One of them is a perpetual complainer about racism (Indian herself) and male patriarchy.

Me: Who paid for her plane ticket?

Friend 1: Her husband is a CFO of [medium-sized company]. She is a wantrepreneur/housewife.

[Wikipedia shows that Indian Americans such as the “complainer about racism” have the highest median household income among all Americans; $101,390 per year compared to $59,698 for the average white household.]

Where to stay when the whole family is displaced to the mountains?

Friend 1: [wife] found a great market inefficiency. Those who buy time shares eventually can’t make it to their condos and put them online so you can grab it at a fraction of their cost we have a townhouse right on the mountain – next to a lift ski-in and ski-out essentially right next to Four Seasons.

Friend 2: That is what I am doing [at a New England mountain]. Taking advantage of moron who got time share. $250 for two nights and 2.5 days of lift tickets and I am getting a ride there.

Friend 1: [wife] negotiates hard with these dudes since she knows their cost structure. so we got this 4 bedroom townhouse in Utah for 4 grand for 9 days. We take two bedrooms and our friends from SF take the other two. so it’s 2k for 9 days. Waldorf Astoria right next to it is $700 per night for 1 bedroom.

Readers: How has the skiing been this year?

James Damore, the backstory


One of the best days of my winter was meeting a Ph.D. in Systems Biology from Harvard. Were my dreams coming true? Yes! She had, in fact, overlapped with the Google Heretic, James Damore.

Americans like a world in which bad stuff never happens by chance. If we hear about someone who got lung cancer we want to know “Did he smoke?” Journalists thus dug around at the time that Google was casting out its heretic until they found some people willing to declare that Damore had been unlikable back in grad school. I grilled his former colleague for details. “He’s the last person I would have expected to end up identified as anti-woman,” she said. “We all thought that he was a nice guy.” Had he been interested in differences between the human sexes when at Harvard? “No, not at all. He never mentioned anything on the subject,” she explained.

I wonder if this is more evidence for the research psychologists’ findings that personality is mostly situational. We think that people have stable and certain personalities, but that is mostly because we typically see these folks in the same environment day after day. The “hard worker” who inherits $10 million, for example, may turn out not to have a work-oriented personality at all!

Thus Damore was fine at Harvard, but once he got to Google and received daily homilies from the priests of gender diversity, he hit the academic journals for papers on differences between the (human) sexes and wrote the memo that got him fired.

[Separately, here’s a Facebook posting of mine from the first week of the Harvard class:

Had a James Damore (TM) School of Sexual Dimorphism lesson today. Asked if the room was too warm, all of those born with XY chromosomes shouted “YES” and those with XX then drowned them out with “NO.”

Only two friends were brave enough to click “Like”. Compare to 30-40 who will “Like” a photo of a todder and/or retriever.]

In some ways the most interesting part of my conversation with the Google Heretic’s comrade in Systems Biology was that she with her Ph.D. summarized his 10-page memo, stuffed with academic journal citations, in the same inaccurate way as American journalists: “women are not as good at programming as men.” (I think an accurate short summary would be “on average, women are not as interested in the stare-at-a-screen-all-day-for-30-years programming job as men.” [don’t forget “get pushed out of the industry at age 50-55” in the job description too!]) This should be a good lesson to any future James Damore: Americans are not going to understand what you write, nor will they try to understand, but instead will map it to the simplest concept with which they’re already familiar. Even the best-educated Americans will then tend to adopt the mob view of the uneducated journalists. (Debra Soh, an academic in this area, wasn’t swayed by the consensus view and wrote “No, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science,” but she is Canadian.)


Who has seen the Black Panther movie?


My virtue-signalling Facebook friends (i.e., my Facebook friends) are posting pictures of themselves preparing to see Black Panther. What’s unusual about these photos is that they feature both the white social justice warrior and a person of color (unlike any other photos that they’ve posted for the preceding year or two!). Thus this is a photographic version of “some of my best friends are black”: “some of my best friends are black and we like to go see black-themed movies together”. (Not to be confused with my own standard virtuous statement: “Some of my best friends are extremely rich black people.”)

Here’s a post from a virtuous friend:

Taking the kids to see Black Panther this morning… so we gave [Marlee] (our 6yo) a 10 min primer on pre-revolutionary slavery, emancipation, the civil war, the civil rights movement, and the launch of the BP comic.

From a private Facebook message exchange:

Did you see [our mutual SJW friend] doubling up on black achievements? Celebrating black panther. Two things every good liberal must do: (1) go see Hamilton and post 3 times about how amazing it was; (2) then do the same for Black Panther (the movie).

Since I refuse to spend more than $15 to see Hamilton I need to wait for the movie version (or a high school version?) and I haven’t seen Black Panther yet so perhaps readers can help with reviews of both!

Also, what do folks who were members of the Black Panther Party back in the 1960s and 1970s say about this movie and all of the white think-gooders (they can’t be do-gooders because they never do anything other than post on Facebook!) going to see it?

[One interesting data point is that there is a substantial discrepancy in critic score versus audience score for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes. The identified-by-name virtue-signalling critics give the movie 97 percent while the anonymous audience, without the opportunity to signal virtue, rates the movie at 77 percent.]

Cannibal Queen by Stephen Coonts


I  have finished The Cannibal Queen, a book indirectly suggested by a reader in a comment on A 48-state tour of the U.S. by light aircraft. Stephen Coonts, a former Navy A-6 Intruder pilot, does a much more ambitious 48-state tour. He flies an open-cockpit Stearman biplane. There is no attitude indicator if he gets into a cloud. There is no GPS or moving map or even a VOR or ADF. It is all sectional charts, looking down at landmarks, and calling ATC for help if lost.

Coonts pretty much admits that he wrote the book because he got a contract to write the book (and because he wanted to deduct the cost of the Stearman and the trip?). The writing seems a little forced and it isn’t clear what the story is.

Coonts describes the U.S. in 1991 as beginning to collapse under the weight of government regulation, e.g., with fuel providers at small airports being forced out of business by EPA requirements to dig up fuel tanks. He writes that a specific individual “is the FBO” at an airport and decries the corporatization of FBOs (airport gas stations) that was then in progress. Coonts doesn’t think that a pilot should be greeted by a young front desk worker with no experience behind the stick or yoke. Today, of course, the FBOs have been rolled up and are mostly owned by foreigners (see BBA Aviation and Jet Aviation, leaders by gallons pumped and headquartered in the UK and Switzerland respectively).

Much of what Coonts writes would offend young Americans today. He assumes that a woman’s appearance and age, rather than her professional achievements and commitment to social justice, will have a big effect on the extent to which men will want to have sex with her. (Coonts describes himself as part of the no-fault divorce generation, and an ex-wife appears in the book?) Disney World 10 years before 9/11: “Here’s the casbah in Tangiers without the dirt and squalor and Moslem fanatics ready to slit your throat!” Coonts ridicules a “a professor of political science at some little college here in New England” for starting a sentence with “As an intellectual…” He doesn’t anticipate that this style of discourse would take over first the liberal arts college and then the nation as a whole:

I like going to classes because I can learn a lot. About the students, I mean. Here the great arias of self-involvement—far more operatic than Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”—wind their way through the boxy little classrooms as professors eagerly facilitate our growth as social beings and master complainers. I learn how to speak effectively within my new milieu. I master an Oberlin technique called “As a.” “As a woman, I think …” “As a woman of color, I would speculate …” “As a woman of no color, I would conjecture …” “As a hermaphrodite.” “As a bee liberator.” “As a beagle in a former life.” Only what will I say? Whom will I speak for? I raise my hand. “As an immigrant …” Pause. All eyes on me. This isn’t Stuyvesant; here immigrants are a rare, succulent breed, even if the ones present usually have parents who own half of Lahore. “As an immigrant from the former Soviet Union …” So far, so good! Where can I take this? “As an immigrant from a developing country crushed by American imperialism …” As I speak, people, by which I mean girls, are looking at me and nodding. I have shed every last vestige of the Hebrew school nudnik and the Stuyvesant clown. The things I say in class are no longer meant to be funny or satiric or ironic; they’re meant to celebrate my own importance, forged in the crucible of our collective importance. There is no room for funny at Oberlin. Everything we do must move the human race forward.

— from Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure: A Memoir

Beginning pilots who suffer from motion sickness will be pleased to know that Coonts got through his primary training in the U.S. Navy only with the aid of Dramamine.

Tailwheel pilots will be comforted to learn that this former military aviator is never able to land the Stearman consistently. After landing weapons-heavy A-6 planes on aircraft carriers, Coonts is terrified when the wind kicks up to 20 knots and/or is not directly down the runway. One practical tip that Coonts supplies is to give up on wheel landings. He says that it is better to groundloop after a slow three-pointer than to crash after a fast wheel landing: “Scrub off every knot you can before you put her on the ground, then if things go to hell, all you’ll have to worry about is a scraped wingtip and damaged pride.”

What about those awesome Blue Angels pilots in air shows? Coonts describes the one “ex-Angel” he knew as being ineffective in combat. According to Coonts, there was no real role for fighters in Vietnam due to the fact that that the North Vietnamese didn’t present a realistic challenge. So that the fighter pilots wouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines, the U.S. turned fighter planes into bombers with a feeble capacity. The ex-Angel was shot down and killed on the last day of combat in Vietnam. He made multiple passes over the same target to drop 1 out of 6 total bombs at a time. This gave the enemy time to hone its anti-aircraft aiming skills.

The book highlights some big changes in American society since 1991. The author is from northeastern West Virginia and stops there to visit his parents during the trip. This is now the heart of the taxpayer-funded opioid “epidemic,” but there is no suggestion in the book that, just a few years later, a huge percentage of folks in that region will be on SSDI and OxyContin. Coonts visits the Confederate Air Force, a bunch of World War II veterans keeping World War II planes flying. Today the veterans are dead and the group has renamed itself the Commemorative Air Force. Coonts doesn’t foresee the inability of Americans to tolerate anything named “Confederate” nor that the occasional disputes about black Americans’ position in U.S. society would become far more frequent, public, rancorous, and litigated. Coonts also misses the impending gender war. He writes about women as though they are adults, capable of deciding whether to have sex with men (even in a Boulder, Colorado college fraternity party context!), capable of working in any career, etc.

Coonts accurately predicts the statistical decline of American entrepreneurism. He attributes a shift toward big enterprises to the development of a “license Raj” government that would make operating a small business impractical (see Economist and also “Why young people don’t like the Republican tax plan: they are planning to be W-2 wage slaves”).

The author’s political views seem inconsistent. He sees the federal government as essentially incompetent and insanely wasteful (“Uncle Sugar”), partly based on his experience in Vietnam and partly based on observing regulatory trends. But then he admires Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American arguably most responsible for turning the U.S. into a government-directed economy (see some of my postings on The Forgotten Man, e.g., U.S. economy may not be tough enough to survive incompetent government (July 2008, just a few months before the U.S. did collapse!)). He proposes that FDR’s image be chiseled into Mt. Rushmore.

So… if you’re passionate about aviation and wandering around the huge continent that we stole from the Indians, the book is worth the investment.

More:  read The Cannibal Queen.

Meet for coffee on Saturday morning in Seattle? Or Sunday at the Flying Heritage museum?


The dreary world of the software expert witness sometimes intersects with a fun city to visit. This weekend it will be Seattle! Who would like to meet for coffee on Saturday morning, February 24, at or near the Fairmont Olympic hotel?

Alternatively, what about an excursion to the Flying Heritage museum up at Paine Field? I’m planning to go up there on Sunday morning to see what all of my Windows license fees have paid for!

Comment here and/or email me if interested in getting together.

[Decided: Fairmont Olympic lobby at 8:30 am for coffee on Saturday!]

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