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Wolford, we have a problem…

I once heard it opined (forget where) that the Apollo Program cost over it’s lifetime pretty much the same as US Citizens spent over the same time period on lipstick and potato crisps put together.

An odd statistic from the House of Odd Statistics.

So, just to odd it up a bit more where do bras come into this?

Why didn’t the Voyager mission visit Pluto?

Heart of Pluto

Given the stunning success of NASA’s New Horizon’s flyby of Pluto, I’ve been struggling to understand why neither Voyager 1 or 2 attempted a similar flyby of Pluto to that undertaken for Neptune.

Having looked into the Voyager mission from its conception in July 1965, Pluto was not initially considered by Gary Flandro’s Grand Tour Opportunity outline, but as more detailed mission planning got underway it was included in James Long’s 1966 trajectory design.

The primary problem of a Pluto flyby was not distance (as between February 1979 and February 1999 Pluto was within the orbit of Neptune), so much as the difficulty of getting the probe into a 25 degree tilt from the plane of the ecliptic to reach Pluto.

Voyager 1 was initially on track to undertake the Pluto flyby, but the decision to undertake a close flyby of Titan meant that this had to be abandoned. Given the lack of success of Voyager at Titan (due to the depth of cloud cover), this seems to me a terrible shame.

When questioned in regard to Voyager 1, Ed Stone (JPL Director & Voyager scientist), came out with the rather glib answer “Well, Titan was 3 hours away, and Pluto was 3 years away – and I had to make payroll.“. I never could stand Ed Stone, the guy might be a great scientist, but he’s also a complete twat.

Voyager 2 was scheduled to flyby Neptune and Triton in August 1989 and although this was a very closely timed visit, it seems to me that a different approach could have allowed the necessary gravitational sling shot to send the craft on to Pluto, even if it meant a more limited encounter with Neptune / Triton.

The justification from NASA I am struggling to understand:

Voyager 2, theoretically, could have been aimed for Pluto, but the aim point would have been inside the planet of Neptune – not very practical. So Pluto was the only outer planet the Voyagers didn’t visit.

NASA JPL Voyager FAQ’s

Is “not very practical” code for something? In light of the subsequent discoveries at Pluto by New Horizons, having the Voyager 2 probe visit in late 1991 would have provide a fantastic contrast, with tools that were unavailable this time around (primarily plasma analysis).

A Voyager 2 encounter would have allowed us a much better view of Pluto during it’s late summer when the atmosphere was thicker as well as being able to take more detailed photographs of the dark side of Pluto which we have only captured in low resolution with New Horizons.

In short, I cannot understand why after visiting Neptune, Voyager 2 wasn’t swung around and up to reach Pluto. The only conclusion that I can come to is that it was a lack of foresight and relative importance.

I mean it’s not like Voyager 2 had anywhere else to go after the Neptune / Triton encounter and it seems to me that any impact on the Voyager Interstellar Mission would have been slight, perhaps delaying that by a year or two.

The simplest answer seems to be that by leaving Pluto out, NASA thought they could get funding for another mission, which if true is a bit crap.

Voyager and Pioneer probe orbital paths

Bacon, Hobbes and a Coke Anyone? : Addendum

Paul added the following comment to his original posting, and requested that it be posted. Happy to oblige. Minor editing to original (typo fixed, unnecessary break in exposition removed); Categories added. –Julie

[Original: Comment to “Bacon, Hobbes and a Coke Anyone?” by Paul Marks
November 2, 2015 at 7:51 pm]

Bentham gets worse over time. He starts off horrified by the violence the American War of Independence and (more) the French Revolution – he then draws the wrong conclusion that talk of “rights” and “natural law” is the cause of this violence (and can not even seem to tell the difference between the private property based American Revolution and the collectivist, Rousseau style, French Revolution) .

Bentham then decided to throw the baby out with the bath water – by rejecting any of natural rights (“nonsense on stilts”) or natural law, just accepting the Hobbesian Positivist definition of law as just the will of the ruler of rulers (despotism – tyranny).

But Bentham remains, sort of, free market for awhile – in that he wants the state to have absolute power (no natural rights or natural law either) but NOT use it much. But then he comes up with more and more statist ideas – ending in the 13 Departments of state that he hoped would control just about everything in a despotism that would have made the Ottoman Empire blush.

But Bentham is not an isolated example – this follower of Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes is the master of the Bowood Circle and the “Westminster Review” crowd. People such as James Mill and his son John Stewart Mill.

The new “liberalism” of endless attacks on the Crown (part of what Bentham claimed to be defending against the French Revolution), endless attacks against the Church of England (the Anglican Church) “Tory” people (many of whom were actually Old Whigs such as Edmund Burke) and so on.

Notice the TRICK (and it is a trick) – freedom has gone from wanting the state to be limited, to wanting “freedom from tradition” and “freedom from God” (“free” thinking as automatic atheism) and the desire for a NEW STATE.

A professional civil service (not people appointed by minister) controlled by “scientific” experts – as with Francis Bacon’s “The New Atlantis”.

An elected government with the vote for everyone – but the elections to be essentially FAKE, as the professional “experts” (people like James Mill and J.S. Mill) would really control everything regardless of who won the election – via a professional Civil Service and “education”.

And the land owners?

The people who the Old Whigs had rightly understood to be the foundation of liberty against the danger of an all mighty state.

The Westminster Review crowd Bentham’s bastard “liberal” children HATED the land owners as the “landed interest” – they wanted “free trade in land”, presented as the end of entails and so on, but really a Trojan Horse for land nationalisation.

For the domination of the STATE over land – as with the Ottoman Empire (and justified by the economics of David Ricardo – refuted by Frank Fetter).

This is the “little” secret behind the “liberalism” of Bentham and the Mills.

It is a “democratic” door way into the all mighty state of the Ottoman Empire – but without Islam.

Instead of Allah it is the state (the “scientific” “liberal” state) that would be worshipped – as long as it was controlled by “enlightened” experts (themselves) serving “the greatest good of the greatest number”.

Yes the above is unfair to the Mills – they (especially J.S. Mill) did have a real believe in freedom of speech and so on.

But they have no philosophy to back it up their belief in freedom of speech – the attempt to of J.S. Mill to reconcile his (sincere) belief in Freedom of Speech with his support for the unlimited New State (with an end to the “landed interest” and so on) is a terrible failure.

It is not “just” a lack of faith in God – it is the lack of any faith in any higher law (one can believe in natural justice without believing in God). Legal Positivism – the idea that the state has no foundational limits and that “law” is just the will of the ruler or rulers.

That is at the heart of the new “liberalism” – and it is what Mill (and modern “liberals”) get from Bentham, and he got from Thomas Bacon and Francis Bacon.

And Bentham (where ever you are) please note – this Legal Positivism is at the heart of the French Revolution you said you opposed.

Rousseau is not so different from Hobbes as people imagine – indeed they share fundamental principles.

The King (or rather despot) of Hobbes is like the “Lawgiver” or “the people” of Rousseau – there are no limits on their power.

The land of the Church (or individuals) can be looted by such a state and given to anyone they feel like giving it to.

Edmund Burke was correct – the “freedom” of the French Revolution was just old slavery in disguise.

The French Revolutionary regime was much the same as the despotism of the Ottoman Empire.

And so is an aspect (a side) of the new “liberalism” today.

And note this:

Religion is not actually the key point here.

For example Martin Luther was sincerely religious – but he embraced determinist philosophy and collectivist politics.

The Anglican position is (or was) fundamentally different – due to the influence of Richard Hooker and others.

And Ayn Rand was a passionate atheist (a mocker of silly religious people – people like me).

Yet Rand was also a passionate defender of humans as beings (agents – not the flesh robots of Martin Luther and Thomas Hobbes) and of natural justice.

Somehow this has something to do with Christmas…

A puzzle…

12 men but no women have stood on the Moon.

Why did Neil and Buzz sort of wear bras on their away-days?

Well, not quite. There are bonus points for telling the full story and why?

And for real bonus points can you name some stuff they left there?

Some observations of foreign types in crowds

There was some strange behaviour outside my hotel this evening, instead of the usual languid European-style pavement restaurant with a few, mainly elderly residents enjoying their café under an iridescent evening sun as a few blonde haired goddesses drift by aimlessly on bicycles, there was a massed throng of unruly teens and drunken men filling the square in front of my hotel.

I presumed that it was some form of political protest as they were uniformly dressed alike, but apparently not, it was in fact an opportunity to get utterly paralytic on Heineken served in plastic cups while watching a giant TV screen erected at the end of the not-so-very-grand place. I initially presumed they were there to watch the local version of “America’s Next One Hit Wonder” or whatever it is called in The Land of Clogs.


Sa i chên e-raug

Serial (and valued) commentator John Galt put up something in “Klingon” so I must riposte with something else in translation…

Sa i chên e-raug

Am eriol, a buin rath

Dorthannen, gernin vronwe


Si im bell

Da menn ah i innas dín cuinad lim

Lui evyr, sa ledhiant ellint

Annal i vîl lín an aglar

Avo leithio in elei lín i lui gwennin

Boe maethal assan cuinathar

Sa i chên e-raug

Sa i ’lass e-maeth

Am eriol nan berthad

E-goth vín

Ah i guidir vedui istannen

Aphada i ben farnen dín ne dû

Ah e díra ven guin

Hên e-raug

Nîf na nîf, ennas min brass

Im bell, boe medin

Re ú-fael

Dam me buin rath

’Ni ben farnen i bôl cuinad lim


Eriol am nan gaw

Im beren, gerin i aglar


Si ú-dherithon

Dam menn ah i innas dín cuinad lim


I chên e-raug

Now, I suspect there is an easy way here. Do it hard. You know it makes sense. This is but prep for a cipher I worked out a few years back that ultimately goes back to my first attempt to code a version of “Penetrator” for the Speccy. “Penetrator” was itself a clone of “Scramble” and that shows my age. It’ll be written in my fave lingo, QBasic (64 bit version!) Yikes!

I mean politics! What is the freaking point when you get shafted every which way (without an orang-utan) when you can have cool stuff?

Mercury rising in Uranus…

I haven’t done one of these for ages…

When I was a kid I had to do a an English comprehension thing on an article about astrology. I recall it well. Basically it was saying astrology was right because a recent British survey had found a significant statistical anomaly. There was a large peak of rrade union leaders who were Aries (an aggressive, confrontational sign) and a large number of nurses were Pisces (a caring, compassionate sign). These were both well above the expected statistical norm.

Explain what that means and if you think it meaningless why is it?

I knew why.

PS. As far as I recall no mention was made of the Sun sign of then current head of the RCN.

The Dead Budgie Sketch

I’ve just been down the road for a Coke and a packet of crisps. In the queue I glanced over the newspaper front pages. Paul has been proven 100% correct (see this and any number of other posts or comments by Paul here or Samizdata or elsewhere in which Paul regarded this budget as a test of the government’s political sanity). Gideon is being hauled over the coals in almost all the press over the epic 50% to 45% “giveaway” that isn’t. Now I have a feory. I don’t think Gideon is that smart. Anyone who has even vaguely followed British politics over roughly my lifetime (and probably before) must realise a terrible truth about how people perceive tax. And it is this simple. If you say “tax” to almost anyone their first reaction is to think income tax. It’s the headline grabber. It’s silly but that’s it. And a tax (by which I mean income tax – of course – people tend to ignore all the other forms) cut for the rich provokes ire. Gideon should have known this. Even if he isn’t the sharpest pencil in the tin you at least expect someone who rose to his exalted status to display low animal cunning. I think they politely call that “political ability”.

If I were chancellor I’d be sore tempted to scrap the fiction of NI in order to simplify the system and reduce bureaucracy. Let’s say I did that and left everything else the same but raised income tax to compensate in what would analytically be a neutral budget there would still be weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments throughout the land because the “headline rate” (why do you think it gets called that) of “tax” as perceived by way too many people would of course have gone up quite a lot.

Or it’s like the VAT hike from 17.5% to 20%. That really hit everyone but there was only mild grumbling. I don’t recall even the greatest champions of progressive taxation bitchin’ and pukin’ over what was essentially an increase in a flat tax in the sense that the duke and the dustman pay the same rate. I hazard a guess that if shops and restaurants displayed prices ex-VAT (as they do with sales taxes in the USA) people would have noticed more. I only really think of it when buying computer kit because my usual supplier quotes prices ex-VAT them dealing with trade and all.

Anyway, it’s all OK because the Duchess of Cambridge borrowed a frock from her mother. Now I leave as an exercise for the reader to work out how many daughters for how many years will have to borrow dresses from their mother (rather than buy a new one from say Monsoon) to pay for such fluorescent idiocy as HS2. Of course if you work in clothing retail you’re going to have to retrain (boom, boom!) as an engine driver but I’m sure Gideon has a magic money tree (a Fiscus fantasia I am led to believe) down Threadneedle Street to pay for that.

PS I have done my back of an envelope calculation earlier on HS2 here.

Obama’s Other First.

Everyone knows Barack Obama is the first black president of the USA*. But what is his other first as president?

Hint: It really doesn’t matter to his presidency. Just a curious thing.

*Well, actually mixed race but whatever.

Guess the Country

I’m in a good mood after Murdoch’s missus lamped that UK Uncut nutcase (no wonder Rupe was so quiet… “Yes, dear… anything you say…”), so let’s play a little game…

The [country’s] economy is facing a complete breakdown, yet no political party is even putting forward economists or coherent economic visions to their shop front.

Many of them support unsustainable subsidies and populist policies of expanding employment in state sectors.

The [country’s] state continues to brush all of the ills under the carpet with cheap talks … and feeble public gestures.

Naah, it’s… well, actually, I’ll leave it for a bit and see if anyone (who hasn’t read the article in question and doesn’t Google it, although I’m not sure how I’ll tell) gets it.

Update: Yes! I finally got the Cats server to co-operate, so I can post the answer. It’s from this Commentator piece about… Egypt. But since nobody who hadn’t obviously read it already figured it out, the glittering prize of exclusive hand-crafted Counting Cats brand kudos goes to Lynne for taking my point that it could really describe just about anywhere.

A Name…


That is very far from good. And it is not the answer.

Picture the event. It’s 2012 and Stepping Hill Hospital and my wife has a C-section and I have to go off and register the birth. It’s a girl.

What do I call her?

I have posted about 1000 posts here. My wife and I don’t actually want children but but last night we both knew exactly what we would call the daughter we won’t have. I reckon you, dear reader, know me well enough to guess her name.

And it isn’t “River” or “Kylie” though both have tempted me, So has “Katherine”. My wife’s middle name is “Kate”.

Now you know the odd thing. I reckon you’ll get it. I reckon you have read enough of me to know who she won’t be.

It’s a rather unusual name but not a chav one. And this is a huge clue. It is not the obvious one.

Things Nick Finds

I haven’t done one of these for ages…

Anyway last week saw Nick spring-clean the house. I say clean but it was more a root and branch re-organisation from the ground up. Anyway I re-found something I’d found earlier and forgotten about.

It was in the broom cupboard lurking behind enough plastic shopping bags to mke sails for a fleet of tea-clippers. I wish I could remember where I found it. I know it wasn’t in the attic. I distinctly recall searching that shortly after moving in and rather than a lost Vermeer or the impedimenta for carrying out demonology or something (it’s a very old house c. 1600) I found an oversized magazine rack and a rather shabby looking NHS commode. Who knows maybe that is what you need for dabbling in the occult?

Anyway, it was a biscuit tin. I may not recall where I originally found it but I do recall finding it. I recall that because I picked it up and nearly did myself some form of injustice. It was much heavier than biscuit tins ought to be. This is what it contained (and still does)…


And the obverse…


The box was full of these – all identical. That’s why it was so heavy.

I’d like to know if any of you can shed any light on these items. I’ll tell you a bit more. They are not attracted by a permanent magnet and feel too heavy to be aluminium. The knife is particularly odd. I’ve tried it and it feels wrong for eating with. It is also surprisingly sharp and pointed. It is single bladed. The only marks on them are on the top, “US” and on the reverse of the fork and spoon, “SKOCO” and on the knife, “OK”.

Right I’ve figured they are US Military but I am curious as to age (they look generally in very good condition) and quite how they wound-up in this ol’ place in Cheshire, England.


Why are all the natural numbers interesting?

Tom Cruise…

… is a twat.

Tom Cruise can command millions for his questionable acting skills in a movie.

He has frequently acted as a romantic lead.

I was talking recently to my sister-in-law (now don’t get me wrong here – I’m not carrying a clipboard and going round Manchester asking random women about the fanciability of Tom Cruise) but she reflexively said she thought Tom Cruise was not attractive. My wife thinks he’s a munter, my mother does. Every women I have ever met thinks he’s a mediocre actor who utterly lacks any sexual appeal or charisma.

But he is a Hollywood leading man.


It makes no sense to me or anyone I know but he is.

Have you seen “Days of Thunder”. Fuck me rigid with an Abyssinian hittin’ stick because I sat through that! And don’t even get this aviation enthusiast started on “Top Gun” which Quentin Tarantino described with laser-guided precision as “One man’s struggle against his own homosexuality”. It is a profoundly gay movie and don’t get me started on it in terms of fighter planes or we shall be here all day. MiG-28! For fuck’s sake!


Hollywood does have leading men that are attractive.

I said I’ve never met a woman (or man) who thought Cruise was fanciable but by the same token everyone seems to think George or Brad have something going for them (and they do – good looks and charm go a long way). Everyone I have ever known has thought that and everyone of them also thought Johnny Depp was utterly gorgeous (and he is). They all though thought Cruise was a sleazy short-arse (he is a very limited actor – unlike Depp – and the only roles he does well are sleaze balls) and that didn’t light their fires at all. So why is he such a hugely successful actor? And more to the point why is he therefore considered leading man material?

Cruise can’t really act, has no sexual attractiveness and is a sofa jumping nut-job so why is he famous? Why?

And I’m not even mentioning Scientology? (Hells’ teeth the Chrome spell checker gets “Scientology”!”. Except I don’t.

Now I am an agnostic but for some reason I believe transubstantiation to be vastly more plausible than Xenu. In short I believe that the idea that God became man is not risible – I don’t believe it – but it is not just raving mad. Scientology is. It involves interstellar DC-8s dropping people in a volcano. That is bollocks on stilts.

So, apparently, did Nicole Kidman who divorced the short-arsed fudge-packing twatter. Gawd alone knows who got Katie Holmes up the duff but Cruise was probably felching that fucktard Matt Damon at the time.

Whilst being arse-fucked by Robin Williams. “Good Will Hunting”? More like “Good Will Cunting” if you ask me.

But then apparently a lot of British women find Robbie Williams sexy despite him being an utterly talentless warbler who combines off-key caterwauling with being a profound wanker and also being clearly gayer than an entire fucking tree full of monkeys.

It’s tough being a bloke. I can tell you.

And before anyone starts I am not at all homophobic. This was composed largely under the influence of Belinda Carlisle.

I just think Cruise is a complete and utter twat.

Sorry for posting an obvious truism.

The IAF like girls.

84% of the children of Israeli air force fighter pilots are girls.

The Science of Discworld – Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen

Explanations please!