Tuesday’s Forum

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Researchers “Translate” Bat Talk. Turns Out, They Argue—A Lot

    According to Ramin Skibba at Nature, neuroecologist Yossi Yovel and his colleagues recorded a group of 22 Egyptian fruit bats, Rousettus aegyptiacus, for 75 days. Using a modified machine learning algorithm originally designed for recognizing human voices, they fed 15,000 calls into the software. They then analyzed the corresponding video to see if they could match the calls to certain activities.

    They found that the bat noises are not just random, as previously thought, reports Skibba. They were able to classify 60 percent of the calls into four categories. One of the call types indicates the bats are arguing about food. Another indicates a dispute about their positions within the sleeping cluster. A third call is reserved for males making unwanted mating advances and the fourth happens when a bat argues with another bat sitting too close. In fact, the bats make slightly different versions of the calls when speaking to different individuals within the group, similar to a human using a different tone of voice when talking to different people. Skibba points out that besides humans, only dolphins and a handful of other species are known to address individuals rather than making broad communication sounds. The research appears in the journal Scientific Reports.

  2. Scott says:

    Vietnam vet gets pepper-sprayed in face by fed officer during Portland protests: ‘He did not like what I was saying’

    Mike Hastie faced a line of federal officers late Saturday in downtown Portland and spoke his mind.

    The Vietnam War vet, who is 75, addressed what he called “the untouchable” subject.

    “I said what you are never supposed to say,” he recalled Monday. He told the officers: “I am going to give you the most truthful statement I have ever said in my life: There was not one day in the Vietnam War that the United States government did not commit an atrocity against the Vietnamese people.”

    Hastie, who lives in Northwest Portland, said he wanted the officers — most in their 20s and 30s he guessed — to know the country had made a tragic mistake in Vietnam and that their own leaders are capable of lies. He said he was holding one Nikon camera and had another slung around his shoulder.

    The officers stared at Hastie as he spoke. One officer wearing camouflage approached him from the side. A now-viral video captured by Andrew Kimmel, a TV and web producer, shows that officer shooting pepper spray directly into Hastie’s face.

    A couple of random thoughts:

    This was from the Stars and Stripes.

    Why is this not considered assault?

    Nothing is ever over.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    We truly live in the golden age of American beer and while I recognize that Boston Brewery with their Sam Adams Ale was an early pioneer, I’ve never been a huge fan. Given their volume and national presence I’ve always thought their insistence on being categorized as being a craft brewer was just marketing at this point. But this article by the always interesting James Fallows has me vowing to find a Sam Adams I like and hoist a toast to Jim Koch, the founder and CEO. It seems he and the other members of the Massachusetts craft beer community have been fighting the beer distributed duopoly there for years. He’s the leader of the organizer and I gather Sam Adams has the deepest pockets. They finally reached an agreement that let all craft brewers in the state out from under the yoke, except for Boston Brewery. The only way they could reach a deal was to define Sam Adams and Boston Brewery above the cutoff point for craft beer sales volume. Despite years of effort to set ol’ Sam free, Koch signed on.

    Just speculation, but I suspect the distributors offered the deal assuming Koch would refuse to sign on and it would collapse, thus driving a wedge between him and the other brewers, weakening their influence. If that’s the case, double good on him for playing the long game.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    David Anderson:

    The Marlins, who probably have a significant competitive advantage in that they are used to playing to empty stadiums already, have a problem.

    The players are in line to make tens of millions of dollars for each team that completes a 60 game season. The coaches are in line to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. Everyone is in a “bubble” with extraordinarily frequent testing and plentiful support to make staying in a moving bubble as painless as possible. Less than a week into the season, Major League Baseball games are already getting cancelled due to local clustering of new COVID infections among a group that has both extremely strong motivation and the resources to minimize exposure.

    How exactly are schools and universities supposed to open in a few weeks with far fewer resources available to prevent community spread?

  5. Jen says:

    Stuff like this really, really ticks me off. I hope they catch every single instance of fraud in the PPP.

  6. Jen says:

    I just can’t with this president anymore.

    Trump’s New Favorite COVID Doctor Believes in Alien DNA, Demon Sperm and Hydroxychloroquine

    A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Dr. Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video.

    Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including ones about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams.

    This sort of thing makes me want to crawl under my bed and refuse to come out until there’s new leadership in this country. Where do these nuts come from??

  7. sam says:
  8. CSK says:

    A guy from Andover, Mass–my father’s birthplace–was the first in the nation to be caught pulling a stunt like this. He faked his own death to avoid prosecution, although not very well. If you Google “David Staveley” and “Andover” you can read the whole sordid saga.

  9. Kathy says:


    I think when Thomas Hobbes described the natural state of humanity as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” some people thought “Four out of five ain’t bad.”

  10. EddieInCA says:



  11. EddieInCA says:

    Jonhathan Capehart is reporting in the Washington Post that two new polls just completed have Jamie Harrison down 2 and 4 points respectively against Lindsey Graham in South Carolina.

    I can’t find the polls yet, but, if true, this expands the map even further. It’s too much to dream that SC can go Blue in the general, but if Harrison can activate the AA vote in SC, it’s possible for him to upset Graham. Additionally, Harrison outraised Graham $14.6M to $8.8M.

    Grab some popcorn.

  12. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I immediately thought back to Thomas Nagel’s famous essay “What Is It Like To Be a Bat?” I always thought Nagel’s choice of a bat for his example was based on its being such a strange, mysterious, and unrelatable creature, with a sensory apparatus very different from our own (for those with echolocation), yet still a mammal with a brain and presumably at least some rudimentary level of consciousness.

  13. Kylopod says:

    David Perdue ran an ad against his opponent Jon Ossoff that made featured Ossoff with a graphically enlarged nose. It featured the caption “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia” and is accompanied by a picture of Schumer. Perdue has since deleted the ad and claimed it was simply an error.

    (I confess I didn’t even know Ossoff was Jewish until this controversy. Perdue, presumably, was attempting to correct that misperception.)

    Then there’s this from neighboring SC. I smell a pattern…..

  14. CSK says:

    Apparently this loon believes that endometriosis is caused by having sex in one’s dreams with demons.

  15. CSK says:

    This is so, so typically Trump. Recall that yesterday he announced that he wouldn’t be throwing out the ball at the Yankees-Red Sox game on August 15? It turns out, according to the NYT, that the Yankees never invited him to do so. He was so enraged over the publicity Dr. Fauci got that he demanded his aides call the Yankees and set up his own photo op for him.

    Then he remembered that he doesn’t like to be photographed “pitching” because the body armor he has to wear makes him look fat.

  16. Jen says:


    Narrator’s voice: “It wasn’t the body armor.”

  17. Mike in Arlington says:

    @CSK: I’m 100% sure Trump believes that it’s the body armor that makes him look fat.

  18. Kathy says:

    Well, this is interesting. The ITER fusion reactor is beginning to be assembled in France.

    I gather the intent is to operate a self-sustaining fusion reaction that produces more energy than it needs to sustain operations for a lengthy period.

    That would not just be a world’s first, but a huge step towards commercial fusion energy plants.

    Fusion power essentially means unlimited energy production. To get an idea, you know that a megaton is equivalent to the explosive energy of a million tons of TNT. Ok. Well, using TNT, you’d need a million tons to achieve one megaton, right? Good. using a uranium or plutonium fission bomb, you’d need only a few dozen kilograms of fissile material to achieve the same end. Using hydrogen* fusion, you only need a few grams.

    This won’t make electricity too cheap to meter, alas, and may not even drive energy prices down much, seeing as how the investments would be huge. But we’d have a reliable, unlimited power source without any CO2 emissions.

    *Hydrogen includes isotopes like Deuterium and Tritium.

  19. CSK says:

    @Jen: @Mike in Arlington:
    You’re both right.

  20. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Has Trump lying about his invitation to throw out the first pitch, because he was jealous of Fauci, been covered?

  21. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Yes, he was jealous of Fauci and the favorable coverage Fauci got.

  22. Hmmmm …. I believe this is the same Stella Immanuel who has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.

  23. CSK says:

    Last night Trump retweeted something from WarRoomPandemic that criticized Dr. Fauci for “misleading the American public on many issues, but in particular, on dismissing #hydrochloroquine and calling Remdesivir the new Gold Standard.”

    Okay, Don, if that’s the case, why don’t you fire Fauci?

  24. CSK says:

    @Chuck Anziulewicz:
    She believes in succubi and incubi.

  25. Kathy says:

    @Chuck Anziulewicz:

    [..] and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious.

    That’s kind of true, but only in a metaphorical sense. I mean, somehow science has a tendency to disprove bronze-age mythology enshrined as holy writ, and iron-age bad science long accepted as a complement.

  26. de stijl says:


    If it legal for police to fire pepper grenades at protestors, why is it illegal for folks to use leaf blowers to blow it back at them?

    Btw, the leaf blower gambit is pure goddamn genius!

  27. Gustopher says:

    I have a flashlight that was given to me by a previous job. It’s like any other flashlight except it’s a wee bit brighter — 3000 lumens of brightness, enough to light up a small city block. It was a top of the line ridiculous flashlight.

    And big. About the size of a small club. It definitely has a “first you blind someone, and then you beat them” quality to it.

    Alas, that was ten tears ago, and now it’s really obsolete. There are pocket flashlights that powerful now. And other, brighter flashlights that can shine at 16,000 lumens and light things up that are 400 meters away.

    Do I need a new flashlight? Do I need to light up four football fields?

    Before you say “no, that’s stupidly bright”, consider that it can probably blind a bear in broad daylight from a safe distance. Sure, I live in a city and basically never venture into the wilderness, but this happened.


    So, it could be practical.

  28. CSK says:

    You might need it to fend off the e’er-increasing hordes of urban coyotes.

  29. Kathy says:


    I don’t know the intensity in lumens, but I have a LED flashlight that does a fair job of illuminating my bedroom when the power goes out. Enough to read by (not that this is a concern in the age of multiple devices), and enough to move about without bumping into anything.

    Not at all bad for four AA bateries.

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..You might need it to fend off the e’er-increasing hordes of urban coyotes.

    Gahan Wilson

  31. CSK says:
  32. CSK says:

    Donny Junior got his Twitter account restricted for 12 hours for promoting false information about hydroxychloroquine.

  33. sam says:


    Some people have zero empathy:

    Hello neighbors

    In the early hours of the morning a coyote or large dog got into our backyard and killed 4 of our bantam chickens, 2 others are missing. My neighbor indicated that he saw one of the missing birds walking east on 70th St. Please keep your eyes and ears open and contact me with any updates you may have.

    [A reply]: Check with Col. Sanders

  34. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: Stephen Jay Gould talked about non-overlapping majesteriums. (I don’t remember if the idea originated with him.) He felt that science could no more be opposed to religion than it could be opposed to baseball – they describe such different things that one cannot be used to judge the other. Confusion comes about when individuals, speaking for god(s), make measurable statements about the world, and those statements turn out to be false.

    In 1818, Miller started the Adventist movement by declaring the world would end in 1843. When that passed he changed it to March, 1844 and when that passed he took one more whack at Oct 22, 1844. I guess you could say that everyone who woke up on Oct 23 was employing the scientific method of observation when they noted that, well, the world was still hanging around, but it’s not really accurate to say “Science opposed the Millerites”. These humans made statements that turned out to be provably wrong. If they believe their version of religion is inseparable from these beliefs, then that particular religion is “disproved”. But, as Jesuit scientist priests and thousands of others have pointed out, when a human tells god how things must be, god doesn’t really care. Things are the way god made them, and Miller, or Falwell or Mohammed doesn’t really have anything to do with it.

    (Note, while not inclined to religion myself, I have nothing against it as a concept.)

  35. MarkedMan says:


    he saw one of the missing birds walking east on 70th St

    Well, we don’t yet have an answer to the ultimate question, but at least now we can answer “Which road did the chicken cross?”

  36. Kathy says:

    Boeing just can’t catch a break. First the troubles with the 737 MAX (of their own doing, really), and now more delays for their new flagship product, the 777X (formally 777-8 and 777-9).

    For one thing, it will face a great deal more scrutiny for certification, given the MAX disasters. For another, the early adopters are making ti very clear they intend to delay reception of their orders, as demand for air travel will take time to reach 2019 levels. In fact, the 777X may simply be too big for current levels of demand.

    The MAX will return to service next year, most likely, as demand begins to pick up (I wonder if Boeing has invested/donated money to vaccine efforts…). I hope Boeing realizes they’ve hit the end of the line for the 737, after 50 years and many iterations, and further progress will have to come from a new design.

    Airbus is nearly in the same boat. Their narrow body, the A320 family, has suffered fewer modifications and is younger, dating to the 1980s, but three’s little more performance or economy that can be squeezed from it past the neo iteration.

    Both manufacturers have a chance to incorporate new features, like composite bodies and longer wings, to both improve fuel efficiency and allow for more passengers in greater comfort (cabin altitude can be set lower with a composite body; see the 787 and A350). This comes at a difficult time, but unless they begin now, the delay will hurt them, and airlines and passengers, down the road.

  37. Kylopod says:


    Stephen Jay Gould talked about non-overlapping majesteriums. (I don’t remember if the idea originated with him.) He felt that science could no more be opposed to religion than it could be opposed to baseball – they describe such different things that one cannot be used to judge the other. Confusion comes about when individuals, speaking for god(s), make measurable statements about the world, and those statements turn out to be false.

    Gould may or may not have coined the term (I haven’t checked), but the idea is literally ancient. In fact it’s largely the historical norm from religious thinkers themselves–stuff like Copernicus and Darwin were far more the exceptions than the rule, and even the conflict there has often been exaggerated. In Darwin’s time, his theory was embraced by evangelicals, and the Catholic Church never really had a problem with it. Some of the earliest defenders of Darwin’s theory were believing Christians, and that remains true in the present day. The 20th-century creationist movement was something of a revisionist endeavor, and even it became more radical over time (most of the early-20th-c. creationists–including William Jennings Bryan–accepted an old earth).

  38. JohnMcC says:
  39. de stijl says:


    One of the ways I paid for school was working at university security.

    We had big ass Maglites. Four cell. Heavy.

    I really wanted crazy ass David on radio duty cuz idiot would probably whale on somebody for sassing him. A four cell Maglite is a serious melee weapon wielded properly.

    I was the mom. Telling folks to behave nicely. This is an idiot made-up job. Checking doors. Making sure drunk kids get home safely. Don’t be an idiot.

  40. Kingdaddy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: We’re surprised that Middle Eastern bats argue a lot?

  41. Michael Cain says:

    @Kathy: ITER is supposed to let them test all the things that are currently unknown about designing and operating a real commercial fusion power plant. The follow-on DEMO — well, DEMOs — are supposed to be the first reactors producing commercial power, coming online sometime in the 2040s. That may be optimistic. Following ITER’s tradition, in the past seven years the proposed date for the first DEMO operation has slipped by more than ten years.

    Biden’s current proposal calls for complete zero-carbon electricity generation in the US by 2035, so presumably done without any fusion power. The Green New Deal resolution as passed by the House doesn’t include either of the words “fusion” or “nuclear”. The original draft of the GND actually stated explicitly that no new nuclear power should be built and the existing plants retired as soon as possible.

  42. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


  43. Kathy says:


    He felt that science could no more be opposed to religion than it could be opposed to baseball – they describe such different things that one cannot be used to judge the other.

    Oh, I agree. When I have anti-religion arguments with a religious person, my go-to weapon is philosophy, not science.


    Confusion comes about when individuals, speaking for god(s), make measurable statements about the world, and those statements turn out to be false.

    That’s where science comes in.

    A lot of modern religious beliefs revolves around the mythology of the various holy books, along with the belief on their inerrancy, and the claim that it need be read and understood literally in every respect.

    Science shows much, if not all, that is claimed in these myths is false. The Earth if billions, not thousands of years old; humans evolved from preceding anthropoids, they did not appear ex-nihilo; whales are not fish and they don’t swallow people; the Earth is not flat; Pi is not equal to 3, etc.

    What’s really funny with American fundamentalists, is they take as their official version of the Bible one of the many translations from the long-gone originals, which wasn’t even translated from an original but rather from some translation, which probably came from other translation, etc. So even if the original Bible written millennia ago were 100% inerrant, the translations and re-translations, and re-re-translations cannot be.

  44. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kingdaddy: I helped with a bat count at an Indiana bat maternity colony once. They argue a lot too. Whad’ya expect from a bunch of Hoosiers?

  45. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: @Michael Cain: Fusion is just 10 years away!

  46. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Cain: Re: Fusion. In engineering, there is a world of difference between a product and a laboratory breadboard. One of those is making sure that a failure is not catastrophic. One of the things I haven’t seen much about is what happens when the containment fails. Does it destroy the vessel? The reactor? The world?

  47. de stijl says:



    If someone quotes the bible and uses King James language I know up-front they are a whack job.

    I should not delve into this. I was born with a brain that rejects supernatural faith and beliefs. Faked for a few years because it was the right choice then to avoid confrontation. Still knew what was right.

    Got myself out of that situation ASAP.

  48. de stijl says:


    Cold fusion. Cold fusion is always ten years away.

    I also want my Jetsons flying car, damnit! There was an implied promise.

  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: I prefer my fusion cold too, but it’s at least 20 years away.

  50. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    Fusion is 10 years away

    Along with self driving cars and the aforementioned flying car. We’ll have them all and never need to top the tank again!

  51. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I once ran across a newspaper supplement from the early 1960s that predicted that self-driving cars would be on the roads by…1970. The illustration that accompanied it showed a highway teeming with saucer-shaped vehicles with glass domes, and the male commuters within were sitting back in easy chairs reading newspapers and drinking coffee.

  52. de stijl says:


    Fusion is a dish best served cold.

  53. de stijl says:


    Was he smoking a pipe? He should be smoking a pipe. It’s de riguer for the era.

  54. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:


    Thank you.

    I should not delve into this. I was born with a brain that rejects supernatural faith and beliefs.

    Lucky you. I had to teach my brain to act rationally in that regard. Fortunately I had an innate interest in science.

  55. de stijl says:

    I find a lot of near post-war iconography celebrating suburbs and the commute. Dads driving off to the city to earn the daily bread.

    Whereas, a lot of the TV shows then were about folks living in NYC. Makes sense – that was where it was made.

    There was Leave It To Beaver and The Dick VanDyke Show. Competing visions.

    Then the rural. Green Acres had the best intro song ever.

  56. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: I’ve been fascinated for a long time by the way sci-fi and futurism often overestimate the development of the really “big” stuff–space travel, A.I., flying cars, and so forth–while overlooking the obsolescence of everyday things. Remember the 2015 in Back to the Future II where everyone’s still using Fax machines? I came across two early ’90s novel about advanced VR games–far advanced over anything we have even now–in which the gamers still use telephone modems. About a decade ago I watched the ’80s show Max Headroom which I had last seen as a child. It’s implied to take place sometime in the early 2000s. There are ways in which the show was wildly ahead of its time, in its vision of corporate control, the integration of computer technology, the loss of privacy, and a number of other general matters. Yet the characters still use floppy disks. I don’t mean those 3.5-inch disks with the hard shell on the outside that a lot of software today still uses as the model for a “save” icon. I mean the original, half-a-foot, floppy-floppy ones.

  57. de stijl says:


    I have bought a shit ton of clever cool gear that is actually semi-impractical.

    I once bought a set of Soviet surplus night vision goggles. Gen 1. You needed an external UV light source to see anything.

    You had to close all of the blinds for them to work at all properly.

    Who doesn’t want a bad-ass portable light source? That shit is cool.

  58. Kathy says:


    It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

    Asimov* had books on film in his science fiction. Not books made into movies, but text scrolling on film on a viewer. This as late as the 1980s. His Foundation novels have no robots, though they take place thousands of years in the future. He regarded the robot stories as separate from the Foundation stories. In his robot stories he has no computers, because computers are a separate plot device from robots.

    Star Trek did better in some respects. Touch interfaces, cell phone like communicators (and hands free from TNG onwards!), tablets (which have fallen out of favor now). voice recognition for computers along with verbal commands. This should mean tricorders, warp drive, and transporters are around the corner!

    One thing I dislike, though, is when an author, or a writing team, devolves their imaginary technology to make it fit with current developments. This is rare, but it happened in Niven and Barnes’ Dream Park series. In the first two books, the characters, scenery, and effects the layers experience inside the D&D type game is holographic mixed with material props and even actors. This is so realistic, that the players have to use holographic knives to attack in-game enemies, lest some prove to be human actors rather than holographic creatures.

    In the third book, the players wear VR/augmented reality headsets that project creatures, effects, etc on the material realm.

    That’s more plausible, to be sure, but when reading it feels like the literary universe went backwards technologically.

  59. CSK says:

    Yeah, it’s fascinating, isn’t it? I’ve said before that we can never, ever predict the future with any degree of certainty, particularly when it comes to inventions. We literally cannot imagine the things that will exist ten or twenty years from now.

  60. Pete S says:

    @de stijl: @Sleeping Dog:

    I hate myself for saying this, but I for one hope the flying cars never come. Everywhere I look I see people who lack the ability to drive in 2 dimensions. I don’t think adding a 3rd dimension is going to improve their skills at all….

  61. Sleeping Dog says:


    sitting back in easy chairs reading newspapers and drinking coffee

    Wasn’t there a guy in a Tesla doing that till he hit the side of a turning semi?

    And of course the clothing of the future is always that form fitting spandex type stuff. Oh no, you don’t look mahvalous.

  62. CSK says:

    Star Trek OS based its technology on things we already had: communicators were fancy walkie-talkies, phasers were stun guns, which had been around since 1940, and computers certainly existed, except they were room-sized, so it was more relatable.

  63. Michael Cain says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I learned it as “commercial fusion power will always be 30 years away.” Commercial means that not only does it work, but that the costs of building and operating the thing can be covered by selling the excess electricity at competitive prices.

    @MarkedMan: Tokamaks have a variety of interesting failure modes, ranging from “that one’s okay, as long as it doesn’t happen too often” up through “oops, ruined a billion-dollar device.” None of them are in the same league with the worst failure modes of the currently deployed fission power plants.

  64. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Jump suits.

    Future people wear jump suits and have anachronistic 70s feathery hairstyles.

    Everyone looks like Farrah Fawcett and Jan-Michael Vincent.

  65. de stijl says:


    When you said OS, my brain just pegged. Holy crap! There is a Star Trek operating system?!

    I figured it out eventually.

  66. DrDaveT says:


    vowing to find a Sam Adams I like and hoist a toast to Jim Koch

    My personal favorite is the Wee Heavy, but it’s hard to find. The OctoberFest isn’t bad.

  67. DrDaveT says:


    I gather the intent is to operate a self-sustaining fusion reaction that produces more energy than it needs to sustain operations for a lengthy period.

    Not exactly.

    I’ve been following the ITER project since it was the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor*, and am familiar with its goals — and how those goals have changed over the 3 decades that it has been “in the works”. The original goal was a prototype commercial reactor that would demonstrate exportable fusion-generated power. When it became clear that a commercially-usable design wasn’t going to happen, the goal shifted to sustainable net positive power generation over substantial (e.g. hours) time frames. Later, they backed down to self-sustaining fusion reactions over significant (e.g. minutes) time frames that produce more energy than was required to get them started. Last I heard, they’ve given up on that, too, and are hoping for ignition — a self-sustaining plasma — over a span of seconds to minutes.

    The closer ITER gets, the farther away fusion power seems to be.

    *Pro tip: if you don’t want the environmentalists to freak out, don’t include the word “thermonuclear” in the name of your project. Officially, the name “ITER” is now derived from the Latin /iter/, “the way forward”.

  68. flat earth luddite says:

    Thanks, I really needed this laugh today. What a silly person… unless I’ve already been infected with reptilian alien DNA.

  69. Kathy says:


    Last I heard, they’ve given up on that, too, and are hoping for ignition — a self-sustaining plasma — over a span of seconds to minutes.


    What a letdown.

    Though that makes more sense with what I know about developments in fusion, it hardly seems to be worth a 20 billion Euro investment over 5 years.

  70. DrDaveT says:


    One of the things I haven’t seen much about is what happens when the containment fails. Does it destroy the vessel? The reactor? The world?

    The lining of the vessel.

    The first thing that happens when the magnetic containment fails is that the power goes off, because the plasma is no longer being compressed to the necessary degree to sustain fusion. The hot plasma then cooks the hell out of parts of the facility that weren’t supposed to get that hot, but that’s it. No radiation, no chain reactions, no escaping clouds of toxic gas.

  71. Kathy says:


    I’m concerned about long-term irradiation of the reactor’s components, as well as unforeseen fusion byproducts. But, sure, if the plasma is small enough, and it can be while generating a lot of power, it should not make for spectacular explosions.

    On other things regarding the future:

    1) Self driving cars. If/when they become available for general use, and if I still commute, I plan to sleep on the way to work. That would be the best use of that time, better even than listening to audio books. Then I’d be rested enough to read more at home 🙂

    2) Flying cars will only move traffic jams to the air. We can see what’s happened with air traffic in and around airports.

    3) Neither flying cars nor self-driving cars will solve traffic problems. They may ameliorate them, as they won’t get distracted at stop lights, nor try to cut everyone off, perhaps there will be fewer accidents, etc. But simply having too many cars on the road/sky makes for occasional jams when one vehicle slows down where it shouldn’t (with or without good reason).

    4) What I really want is teleportation. That means extra sleeping time, and better yet, extra time at home in the evening. Unfortunately I estimate the odds of actual teleportation ever being developed as between infinitesimal and zero.

  72. Michael Cain says:

    Re self-driving cars… Let me get me old technology forecasting hat out. (I used to do this professionally.) The software will be no, no, no, then abruptly it will be good enough for the killer app: keeping the aging Boomers in their homes for another ten years.

  73. Monala says:

    Herman Cain remains hospitalized one month after his Covid diagnosis. The Covid diagnosis came two weeks after he attended Trump’s Tulsa rally, mask-less and surrounded by people.


  74. DrDaveT says:


    I’m concerned about long-term irradiation of the reactor’s components, as well as unforeseen fusion byproducts.

    I don’t think you need worry. The only radiation produced by fusion is neutron flux. It’s brutal on the components that can’t be put behind lead walls, but produces no lingering effects after the power is turned off. As for unforeseen fusion byproducts… I know they are hoping to make deuterium and tritium by lining the chamber with lithium and beryllium, but any heavier novel isotopes will be extremely short-lived, and very low on the periodic table.

  75. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: The 3,000 lumens flashlight is also my home defense weapon. At reasonable range (it’s a small house) it will completely wipe out someone’s night vision, and even in the day they will have trouble focusing for a bit. I don’t want to kill someone, just momentarily incapacitate them and cause them to flee.

    Car headlights are about 700 lumens low beams to 1200 for high beams, for comparison. Maybe 16,000 lumens is more than I need…

    Also, things about 1,500 lumens are cheap enough that I don’t know why protesters aren’t using them against the cops regularly. Probably because they don’t want to get shot with baton rounds, but armor up first…

  76. de stijl says:


    Flying fucking cars! I imagine hives descending on the downtown at 7:45. Above 10k is for passing only. Below 5k is for HOV only.

    Once I lived downtown and worked in the burbs. Fairly close in – 11 miles.

    The cool bit was everyone was counter to me. At 8 everyone was driving in while I was going out. At 5 everyone dispersed out while I was going in.

    That was the greatest commute ever. Never got stuck or jammed. Reverse commute is great. There were a handful of times I had to drive at speed limit, remarkable because it was so rare.

  77. Gustopher says:


    As for unforeseen fusion byproducts… I know they are hoping to make deuterium and tritium by lining the chamber with lithium and beryllium, but any heavier novel isotopes will be extremely short-lived, and very low on the periodic table

    You can never really plan for the unforseen fusion byproducts…

    Remember Space: 1999? People were storing nuclear waste on the dark side of the moon in such quantities that it caused a magnetic explosion that didn’t fit the scientific models at all, and propelled the moon out of our solar system in such a way that it regularly interacted with other planets, slowing down long enough for an adventure and then, I guess, speeding back up to relativistic speeds for the long interstellar journey.

    No one could have foreseen that.

    Even if you were modeling for a large explosion on the dark side of the moon, you would expect it to break the moon up and scatter it across the Earth’s surface killing everyone on both the moon and the Earth.

  78. de stijl says:


    That is clever.

    As far as I know possession and use of a flashlight is unregulated. It is rude to shine it in someone’s face, yes, but smoke grenades and pepper grenades are way ruder.

    Whoever thought up the leaf blower thing is a certified genius.

    I like your thought process. Do I need a 3000 lumen flashlight? Maybe. You never know.

    I have so much over-engineered camping gear. And I mostly car camp or canoe camp. 3-4 times a year. Winter camping every other year at Boundary Waters. I love winter camping.

    Definitely not glamping. Regular camping with high-tech shit. Love it.

  79. Monala says:

    From the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money today:

    [Quoting Paul Krugman]Rational policy in a pandemic, however, is all about taking responsibility. The main reason you shouldn’t go to a bar and should wear a mask isn’t self-protection, although that’s part of it; the point is that congregating in noisy, crowded spaces or exhaling droplets into shared air puts others at risk. And that’s the kind of thing America’s right just hates, hates to hear.

    Indeed, it sometimes seems as if right-wingers actually make a point of behaving irresponsibly. Remember how Senator Rand Paul, who was worried that he might have Covid-19 (he did), wandered around the Senate and even used the gym while waiting for his test results?

    Anger at any suggestion of social responsibility also helps explain the looming fiscal catastrophe. It’s striking how emotional many Republicans get in their opposition to the temporary rise in unemployment benefits; for example, Senator Lindsey Graham declared that these benefits would be extended “over our dead bodies.” Why such hatred?

    It’s not because the benefits are making workers unwilling to take jobs. There’s no evidence that this is happening — it’s just something Republicans want to believe. And in any case, economic arguments can’t explain the rage.

    Again, it’s the principle. Aiding the unemployed, even if their joblessness isn’t their own fault, is a tacit admission that lucky Americans should help their less-fortunate fellow citizens. And that’s an admission the right doesn’t want to make.[end quote]

    But if Trump had never been elected, it’s not as if there’s much reason to think that the nation would have responded that differently. All of the basic fundamentals would still be there except that there would be a Democrat in the White House. But even with the clear and massive difference that federal leadership would have made, you still have 35% of the country all in for fascism. Hillary would be portrayed on Fox and any Republican media site as the monster killing Americans, no matter how responsible her actions were. There would be no relief package because Republicans would be smelling electoral victory. Not wearing a mask would be even more of a political statement than it is now. And as many people have noted, the same people who demand their rights to carry a high-powered gun anywhere they go because of FREEDOM can’t even be bothered to wear a mask. This is why I’ve been resistant to the entire narrative of the national failure on COVID being about Trump. It’s a whole lot of the narrative, absolutely. But not all of it. The problems are just so much deeper in this broken nation.

    The thing we have to understand in the end about Trump is that he is the platonic ideal of what Republican voters want. That’s why they spent the previous eight years searching around for someone truly crazy they could vote for instead of John McCain and Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. This is how you explain Sarah Palin and Herman Cain and Ben Carson’s presidential run blips. And also Donald Trump. Trump wasn’t really more crazy of a candidate as those others, it’s just that he won and then “won” the presidency. And here we are.

    When Trump leaves…. nothing fundamental changes. Sure, our lives will be somewhat better simply because of a different person (an actual semi-functional human being!) in charge of executive power. …

    But even with the best case scenario, 35% of the nation hates caring about any other person but themselves so much that they will respond to massacres of first graders by pushing for more pro-gun regulations. They will cough in your face during a pandemic for a laugh. They will chuckle at immigrants dying in the desert. They will cheer for one of their own running over and murdering Black Lives Matter protesters.

    This is simply the reality of what we face. Trump is the symptom of this malignancy, but he is not the tumor. Until we face what it is going to take to cut this out, we are going to be caught unawares when Republicans nominate and perhaps win with a fascist who is actually competent and intelligent in 2024.

  80. CSK says:

    Yes!!!! If I were give a superpower, it would be teleportation. Lunch in Edinburgh. Dinner in Paris. A side trip to the Prado between the two. All with a snap of my fingers.

  81. de stijl says:

    By far the best commute is walking. Once as a wee pup I lived in a highrise downtown and work was seven blocks away. All on the skyway.

    It’s like living in a really big mall.

    In late January I realized I hadn’t actually been outdoors in at least three weeks. New plan: walk outside when it is warmer than 25F.

    That was a good building. The ex-governor lived there. My gf lived there. The divorced dad of a really good HS buddy lived there. Yo, Mr. Chiodo! Robert and Carol Bly lived there (apparently, he is a massive dick). Chief lived on 25, Chance on 12, Pete on the same damn floor. We went to Kieran’s, Nye’s, The Local.

    Why did I ever move?

  82. de stijl says:


    Global teleportation would be too easy.

    Local only. Hub and spoke. Like trains or buses but instantaneous.

    Get up. Coffee. Shower. Get dressed. Walk to the station. Swoosh to work.

  83. CSK says:

    @de stijl:
    Nope. It’s global for me or nothing. I want to be able to teleport 5 miles away…or 5000 miles away.

    Interesting about Robert Bly. Some famous writers are like that.

  84. Kathy says:


    Living wherever you want, away from crowds, with the best teleporter lock money can buy 🙂

  85. de stijl says:


    Global should then cost a lot. We could be in New Zealand in 18 hours or so, but it be be spendy.

    Disassembling your body and reconstructing it a new place takes a lot of resources.

    Would we have our memories?

  86. Jax says:

    Wyoming has decided the full fall sports schedule and schools will reopen fully at the end of August. I give it 3-6 weeks and everything is shut down again.

  87. de stijl says:

    You wake up at Sea-Tac. SFO, LAX.

    You wake up at O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI.

    Pacific, Central, Mountain. Gain an hour lose an hour.

    This is your life. And it is ending one minute at a time.

    You wake up at Air Harbor International.

    If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?

  88. CSK says:

    @de stijl:
    Eighteen hours to NZ, even in conditions of absolute luxury, requires forethought. And packing. And making arrangements. I want to travel on the spur of the moment. I spent a fair part of my life schlepping back and forth across the Atlantic, and that was when flying was fun. I don’t want to do that now that flying is like a sentence to Riker’s Island.

  89. de stijl says:


    We’re still in Stage 1.

    I appreciate it when folks decide to deny the odds and just go for it. This time it is just stupid.

    Unfortunately for us a virus does not care about our hopes and desires. It is. It needs new hosts; new cells. Replicate.

  90. Michael Cain says:


    The only radiation produced by fusion is neutron flux. It’s brutal on the components that can’t be put behind lead walls, but produces no lingering effects after the power is turned off.

    Neutron embrittlement is a thing. I thought one of the goals for ITER was to produce sufficient neutron flux to determine experimentally that the materials making up the interior lining of the tokamak, the plumbing carrying cooling water — basically, all the bits that would be needed in a power reactor — respond to the flux the way the models/simulations predict.

    Neutron activation is also a thing. After years in the flux, there will be tons of steel alloy materials that will be mildly radioactive, with half lives from seconds to years.

  91. de stijl says:


    A buddy of mine worked sales. He flew daily. He was gone Monday thru Friday. On Sunday afternoon he took a taxi to the airport every god damn week.

    I am not judging him, but I just could not do that.

    That much time away is not a thing I can truly fathom. I know I could not do it and stay sane.

    I have done expat work. But you still have a place. Corporate apartments are really depressing, but it is a place.

    Btw, NZ is really cool. Go. Really great folks.

  92. gVOR08 says:


    (Note, while not inclined to religion myself, I have nothing against it as a concept.)

    That’s how I’ve felt for years. Live and let live. But lately I’m thinking on what a huge part religion, or at least large parts of organized religion, has played in screwing up politics in this country.

  93. An Interested Party says:

    @Kathy: I just love how Star Trek came up with transporters not as some wonderful future piece of technology, but rather, because Roddenberry didn’t have the budget or the time to show people moving from ships to planets in any other way…I guess necessity really is the mother of invention…

  94. de stijl says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Why was Scotty always at the transporter terminal? Trying to get a lock?

    Wouldn’t the chief engineer be minding the engines?

    Transporter duty would be second or third tier. You push one button when screen says green.

    I hope there was a pop-up that said are you sure you want to transport the XO Spock into the molten center mass of planet KD2-93.3?

    Click OK to confirm.

    God no. Back. Back. There we go. Surface not center. Hit enter.

    This site contains cookies to improve your user experience. Please click OK to continue.

    God fucking damnit!

  95. Jax says:

    You guys are all dreaming of teleportation, and I’m stuck with this shit. FML. I really just….you know, I think I’d be ok with moving. I’ve had enough of stupid people.


  96. Mister Bluster says:

    “Wyoming is only one of a handful of states across the country without a bestiality statute on the books. Also, to satisfy the elements of a cruelty to animals charge, it’s our understanding that we would need to prove that the suspect’s actions in this case actually injured the animals.”


    Pistol Lingle called himself a Southern Illinois dirt farmer. He also drove night shift for the Sleepytown Yellow Cab Company when I was there in 1970.
    He claimed that any farm boy that said they never fucked a farm animal was lying.

  97. Jax says:

    @Mister Bluster: Have you watched Yellowstone?

    A bunch of locals have decided said horse rapist really ought to experience the “trailer treatment”.

  98. Mister Bluster says:
  99. Mister Bluster says:

    My TV at home doesn’t get any channels.

  100. Kathy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Also how they became plot devices, sending people to parallel universes, making duplicates, merging two people together, and I think there was more.

    Larry Niven has teleportation stories, and uses it as a device in several novels. One thing he thought up was a filter that only lets certain things be teleported. In World Out of Time, there’s a small teleportation unit with a filter used instead of toilet paper.