Sunday SciFi: NPR’s looking for the Top Five SciFi books

OK, not really, since they are lumping fantasy in as well.  So you have crap written by George R.R. Martin listed along really good SciFi.  Ya, I am biased here.  I am much more of a SciFi fan than a fantasy one, and perhaps GRRM may be able to be write decent Elf porn or whatever passes for mainstream fantasy these days, but his attempts at SciFi that I have read have been utter drek.

You can enter your top five books or series under comments for this NPR story on their quest for summer reading. Fair warning, you have to register to post.

The five I entered were:

  1. Space Viking – H. Beam Piper
  2. The Probability Broach – L. Neil Smith
  3. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein
  4. To Your Scattered Bodies Go – Philip Jose Farmer
  5. The Mote in God’s Eye – Dr. Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven

This list could change on any given day by one or two entries.

Quote of the Day

We have an election coming up. We also have $5/gallon gasoline and $5/loaf bread coming up. I do not expect the real unemployment rate to fall, although there will be frantic attempts to make it look lower, largely through statistical manipulations based on the definition of unemployment: if you’re not looking for work, you aren’t unemployed even if you have no job and never again expect to find one. As more give up looking, the unemployment rate goes down. And since the unions do not intend to lower their wages and perks, and the states are out of money, there will be “furloughs” among public employees including teachers. You can manipulate those numbers so the “furloughed” are not unemployed. It promises to be an interesting summer, but it will end with $5/gallon gasoline and $5/loaf bread. Look for the price of a can of beans to get higher. Look for the price of Top Ramen to rise…

This will continue so long as the current economic and foreign policies continue.

Dr. Jerry Pournelle

 

Monday Book Pick: Go Tell The Spartans

Go Tell The Spartans by Dr. Jerry Pournelle and S.M. Stirling

Part of Pournelle’s Condominium series, and more specifically part of the Falkenberg Legion series. An excellent read in the Military SciFi genre, and a damn good primer on low intensity conflicts as well.

Monday Book Pick Archive

SciFi Geek Bonus Points: The first mention of “Major Falkenberg” and the “Falkenberg Rifles” isn’t in a book by Mr. Pournelle.  Geek points for identifying which Military Sci-Fi book does.

Good advice from Dr. Pournelle

Dr Pournelle writes the following words of wisdom.

we must expand domestic energy production, and we ought not a priori rule out any of the methods: coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and yes, wind, solar, and biofuels. However, we need to have some priorities here. The urgent need is massive amounts of energy now, both for static installations — factories, homes, street lights, and so forth — and transportation. For static installations the primary fuel now is coal, followed by oil (for heating homes). For transportation we burn oil, much of which must be imported. We don’t import coal.

The first order of business, then, is to increase domestic oil production and refining, but that’s a temporary measure, and has environmental consequences. We can tolerate some smog better than we can tolerate bankruptcy, but we’d prefer to avoid both. Over time we can phase in natural gas, which is also a good source for electric generation. Note that it takes energy to develop and produce sustainable energy sources: with cheap enough energy, the price of solar cells will fall. Solar cells produce low voltage energy, good for supplementing central power grids. Solar electric is very useful for home lighting and air conditioning and other on-site uses, and leaving out the conversion systems for putting that trickle into the grid makes the initial installation cheaper as well. If the overall cost of solar cells is low enough, there will be more such uses.

And of course when we mention electric power, the gorilla in the parlor is nuclear: we have the technology, and we ran the most expensive destructive test in history at Three Mile Island, where we learned that even when everything goes wrong the costs are economic, not a public health disaster. France and Japan have demonstrated nuclear’s long term cost effectiveness.

Our first order of business ought to be to reverse Jimmy Carter’s disastrous stoppage of spent fuel recycling, and start building nuclear power plants. Cheap electricity won’t free us from the billion a day we export to buy oil, but it will go a long way toward letting us develop the means to use natural gas and domestic oil to make us North America energy independent. Once we’re on that path we can have a good look at how biofuels fit into the pattern of sustainable energy; but that, I would say, is nowhere near the top of the priority list. In A Step Farther Out I showed that biofuels can be useful. I fear I didn’t make it clear enough that it wasn’t the top priority. Of course when I wrote that I didn’t know just how much energy trouble we would be in, although I should have: After all, those were the times when I wrote my major series “Our Looming Energy Crisis.”

Cheap energy is good for the economy. The 90’s economy was floated on cheap oil (around $20-$25 a barrel), and a new economic boom could be floated on cheap electricity. The trick is that you need much more than solar & wind can produce. For that you have to go nuclear.

If anyone is concerned about the environmental impact of increasing the number of Nuclear Power plants, get thee to a library and read Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy by Gwyneth Cravens.  This book is by an environmentalist opposed to Nuclear Energy, but  did actual, honest research on the subject and came to the conclusion that only Nuclear Power can provide the base load of clean electricity needed. Actual science trumps rhetoric.  This was my Monday Book Pick for May 11, 2009 BTW…

China is building over 200 hundred new nuclear power plants

Given the huge number of horrifically dirty coal plans the Communist Chinese government has built, this is a good step for the environment.

What we should be doing in the US.  As Dr. Pournelle pointed out:

I have to say it again: cheap energy will cause a boom. The only cheap energy I know of is nuclear. Three Hundred Billion bucks in nuclear power will do wonders for the economy. We build 100 1000 MegaWatt nuclear power plants — they will cost no more than 2 billion each and my guess is that the average cost will be closer to 1 billion each (that is the first one costs about 20 billion and the 100th costs about 800 million). The rest of the money goes to prizes and X projects to convert electricity into mobility.

It’s the Green thing to do. Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore thinks so too:

I am not alone among seasoned environmental activists in changing my mind on this subject. British atmospheric scientist James Lovelock, father of the Gaia theory, believes that nuclear energy is the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change. Stewart Brand, founder of the “Whole Earth Catalog,” says the environmental movement must embrace nuclear energy to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. On occasion, such opinions have been met with excommunication from the anti-nuclear priesthood: The late British Bishop Hugh Montefiore, founder and director of Friends of the Earth, was forced to resign from the group’s board after he wrote a pro-nuclear article in a church newsletter. … Over the past 20 years, one of the simplest tools — the machete — has been used to kill more than a million people in Africa, far more than were killed in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings combined. What are car bombs made of? Diesel oil, fertilizer and cars. If we banned everything that can be used to kill people, we would never have harnessed fire. … the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2emissions annually — the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only 20 percent of our electricity was generated from coal and 60 percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Every responsible environmentalist should support a move in that direction.

Let’s review that last line again.

Every responsible environmentalist should support a move in that direction.

If you find a so-called “environmentalist” who is against Nuclear Power, they are either ignorant on the subject matter or a watermelon.

The Wisdom of Dr. Pournelle

I’ve posted very insightful comments by Dr. Jerry Pournelle before.

Here are couple more.   First on is on the economy.

“Unemployment is over 10%. It wasn’t supposed to get that high. TARP was supposed to fix that. . . . If the health care bill passes, it will fundamentally convert these United States into a different kind of popular democracy, which generally means rule by a unionized bureaucracy organized to vote. Once that much of the economy is run by government, economic recovery as many hope for will simply be impossible. Permanent unemployment at 7% or so; median income perhaps 10% higher than it is now, but not much higher; and a long period of stagflation. Reluctance to take on new employees, and great incentive to export jobs. Is this a picture of the future? We will have to see, as Congress debates the health care and carbon tax bills. . . . With Detroit a ruin and manufacturing industries on the ropes, small business is the only possible engine of recovery from what they don’t call a Depression; so the Congress is going to add an 8% tax on employing people. We already have the longest period of increasing unemployment since the Great Depression; I presume we are going for a really big record setting period of increasing unemployment. . . . The incentives are now to the job black market — hire illegal immigrants who don’t have to have health insurance — or to export the job if that can possibly be done.”

Next up this on target observation about Health Care and politics.

“I would have thought that the Obama administration is at least as responsible for the US response to the Swine Flu problem as the Bush administration ever was for the New Orleans response to Katrina, but the media are not reporting it that way. I wonder how those who stood in long lines for hours only to find that there is no vaccine feel about the government’s coming takeover of the entire health care system? Will the new health care system work more smoothly than does, say, FEMA? Is there any reason to think so?”

Update: Let’s not forget Dr. Pournelle’s Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

Quote of the day

“…status is not the American Conservative position. Rather, conservatives believe that change for change’s sake is folly. What kind of change? At what cost? For the liberals and progressives, everything was expendable, from tradition to individualism to “outdated” conceptions of freedom. These were all tired dogmas to be burned on the alters of the new age.”

Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

Dr. Pournelle points out a sad fact about this book and the majority of those who study political science:

Goldberg’s book is an anomaly: serious students of political science shouldn’t find anything here they didn’t already know. Alas, I had to say “shouldn’t”, because a very great number of people who consider themselves serious students of political science will be shocked and astonished to discover that Fascism, Progressivism, and modern American Liberalism have many intellectual roots in common. Roosevelt’s New Deal incorporated many elements of Italian Fascism, and in fact before the mid-30’s many Western statesmen had admiring things to say about Fascism and about Il Duce Mussolini who made the trains run on time and brought prosperity — or its illusion — to Italy. Goldberg documents all this as well as the Jacobin roots of both Fascism and Progressivism. The notion that human life can be improved by central planning and tinkering with the legal and economic system is the common thread to them all.

Clean Energy and plenty of it

Here is my special Lenin’s Birthday post.

If you want clean, “Carbon Neutral” electrical energy, and plenty of it, to power enough electric & plug in hybrid vehicles to tell the House of Saud they can drink their oil, then you need to follow the advice of Dr. Pournelle.

I have to say it again: cheap energy will cause a boom. The only cheap energy I know of is nuclear. Three Hundred Billion bucks in nuclear power will do wonders for the economy. We build 100 1000 MegaWatt nuclear power plants — they will cost no more than 2 billion each and my guess is that the average cost will be closer to 1 billion each (that is the first one costs about 20 billion and the 100th costs about 800 million). The rest of the money goes to prizes and X projects to convert electricity into mobility.

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore thinks it is the ecologically sound thing to do.

I am not alone among seasoned environmental activists in changing my mind on this subject. British atmospheric scientist James Lovelock, father of the Gaia theory, believes that nuclear energy is the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change. Stewart Brand, founder of the “Whole Earth Catalog,” says the environmental movement must embrace nuclear energy to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. On occasion, such opinions have been met with excommunication from the anti-nuclear priesthood: The late British Bishop Hugh Montefiore, founder and director of Friends of the Earth, was forced to resign from the group’s board after he wrote a pro-nuclear article in a church newsletter.

Over the past 20 years, one of the simplest tools — the machete — has been used to kill more than a million people in Africa, far more than were killed in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings combined. What are car bombs made of? Diesel oil, fertilizer and cars. If we banned everything that can be used to kill people, we would never have harnessed fire.

the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2emissions annually — the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only 20 percent of our electricity was generated from coal and 60 percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Every responsible environmentalist should support a move in that direction.

Supporting the use of Nuclear Power in the United States is the Green thing to do.