No votes were forthcoming on the Winter Wargaming topic, so I’ve unilaterally decided it’ll be Rule the Waves 2. I think I’ll probably post it over at Many Words Main, so as to avoid leaving it so barren.
Science and Technology
- Dysfunctional corporate culture a contributing factor in the self-driving Uber pedestrian death case – Shower thought: I bet there’s money to be made in being ‘startup X, except with morals’. The product isn’t (say) ride-sharing, but rather a warm fuzzy feeling in the hearts of riders.
- “We made a profit last quarter if you ignore all the things we lost money on,” Uber says
- Galileo, the EU GNSS system, had a long outage this summer – And this guy, a GNSS monitoring hobbyist, now knows why. In short: since Galileo is supposed to be very high-accuracy, it needs to do frequent ephemeris and clock updates, and if you fall behind on those, you can find yourself in a case where the issue might be either an ephemeris or a clock problem, and you can’t tell which. A full reboot takes a long time.
- Computer people: why is AI so focused on race and gender?
- People people: stereotypes are usually accurate
- AIs which do unguided, random exploring can solve certain problems better – They don’t get trapped in local maxima, because they don’t have a conception of ‘maxima’ until the researchers decide to stop the random learning.
- Wafer contamination at a Samsung fab loses it half a billion dollars – America got the happypunk dystopia, with friendly-faced private panopticons; East Asia got a more classic cyberpunk dystopia, with huge megacorporations with fingers in every pie. As such, Samsung is expected to shrug, clean out the bad wafers, and start again, and the only effect on the world market is a pause in the drop in DRAM prices.
- Is Google’s quantum supremacy claim, which we reported last wekk, actually valid? – The thrust of this ZDNet article seems to be, “Mathematically, it might not be!” Which, to me, sounds like the answer is, “Today, practically, yes.”
- Intel vulnerable to yet more timing-based data-leakage flaws – And this one has been around for a year. The consensus, as far as I’m aware, is not only that Intel is vulnerable to these kinds of issues (widely reported), but also that AMD, owing to some architectural decisions they made, is less so (not widely reported). As a longtime Team Whatever Color AMD Is Now booster, I’m maybe not the most trustworthy source, though.
With the Armored Brigade review now posted, I can ask a question I’ve been waiting to ask: for Winter Wargaming this year, what’s the commentariat’s feeling on Armored Brigade vs. Rule the Waves 2?
- Russian schoolchildren taught how to assemble AKs in class – I guess it’s a sort of shop class, and also makes it really easy to change the placard from ‘Primary School 3357’ to ‘Small Arms Factory 3357’ in case of war.
- Correction alert: last week’s Challenger 2 photo did actually have a Brimstone launcher on the turret – A two-missile box on top of the turret. We aren’t sure if it has any capacity for reloads, but it’s quite a large missile and not likely to be easily manhandled within the confines of a tank. We did a little further digging, and could find no information whatsoever on ground-launch range, and only turned up the very vaguest information on penetration, but it’s definitely better than the gun.
- What happens if China gets old before it gets rich? – CDR Salamander ponders.
- USAF ponders arsenal plane options – A B-52 for the modern age?
- A puff piece on the Navy’s next-generation jammer – Still, it points out how it’s better than the old one, which is better than nothing.
- A bog-standard concerned-about-A2AD-missiles article with an interesting metaphor at its heart – Namely, that such weapons systems take us back to the Age of Sail relationship between ship and fort.
- Navy cuts next batch of Virginias from 11 to 9
- Laser-guided Carl Gustaf munition gets a test – Coool.
- Small fleets of aircraft have a big impact on USAF budgets – There are high fixed costs to operating a type of aircraft, of course, and the Air Force operates a lot of types.
- How can we build force structures to be resilient in the face of battlefield surprise?
- LockMart cuts F-35 prices
- Deploy the Ford, shock test a later ship – No reason to delay it any further, and shock testing the first ship in the class has been the exception rather than the norm ever since the requirement went into place.
Science and Technology
- New York City homeless services are too expensive, so NYC rents apartments for its homeless population in different cities – … without telling the different cities.
- Whatever happened to Internet atheism? – Not the quiet sort where atheists use the Internet like the rest of us, but the loud, argumentative sort prone to blaming organized religion for all the evils of the age. Scott Alexander at SSC speculates that, ironically, it was a competitor to become the civic religion of left-leaning culture, and lost to the social justice movement.
- Why is California on fire? – Well, power lines, primarily. Witness these aerial photographs from similar altitudes, one over our native Western Pennsylvania and one in California. Here, we clearcut around power lines. There, they do not. (Granted, in California there’s typically a lot of dry brush on the ground, and here there isn’t, but still.)
- Taran Tactical range burns down – Speaking of.
- Whose fault is Eastern European nationalism? – I don’t think I quite agree with the premise of this article, but I share it nevertheless.
- What happened to Toys R Us? – The ‘leveraged buyout’ answer is accurate but, evidently, incomplete.
Busy morning at the office. Commentary status: limited.
This week, the ‘approximately Fishbreath’s birthday’ edition.
- Given that it’s me, my birthday presents were primarily books.
- Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, courtesy Parvusimperator: widely regarded as the best of the bunch when it comes to golf books, or at the very least, the one everyone who plays that game should read.
- Castles of Steel, courtesy my in-laws: I’ve read this before via the War College Library, but I’m delighted to have my own copy and to read it again, just as soon as I finish Dreadnought.
- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, also courtesy my in-laws: I enjoyed the TV series and like the worldbuilding that seems to have gone into it. The book should be a delight.
- The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, courtesy my wife: making bread is a hobby of mine, but I’m not very good at it right now. This will help with that.
Science and Technology
- Remember the SuperMicro story, about spy chips placed on server motherboards? – As much as that particular story has fallen apart, my opinion of the plausibility of the general concept has done nothing but rise.
- Remember that story about galaxies without dark matter? – I think we might have shared that one, and possibly a refutation based on distance measurements. Now, new Hubble data drives a refutation of the refutation, which suggests that NGC 1052-DF4 is as far away as originally thought, and therefore actually deficient in dark matter.
- On netcode design for fighting games – An interesting read, which goes into some depth on the subject.
- Annoyed software engineer hacks ransomware gang after falling victim to ransomware attack, posts decryption keys on Pastebin
- Doctorin’ is hard – The modern scientific system is biased toward discovery over reproduction, so it’s easy to get a novel treatment into broad usage, but hard to pull it back if later studies can’t confirm that it does anything.
- Elon Musk sends Tweet via Starlink broadband – SpaceX is targeting mid-2020 for initial customer service in the US, which realistically means sometime in 2021, by SpaceX’s usual deadline inflation.
- NordVPN compromised – They lost control of their private keys, the fools.
- The curious case of Joseph Roh – Who got off with a super-light sentence for running an 80%-lower-finishing operation because his lawyers convincingly argued that an AR-15 lower isn’t a firearm by the ATF’s own definition.
After the raging kegger we threw to celebrate the 50th WWRW, we needed a week off.
Actually, it was a busy week at work and I just forgot. Enjoy this special double edition.
Quiz of the Week
- Check out these goofy anti-flash goggles – A view of a B-52 flying a nuclear alert mission. This week on the Many Words Discord (see sidebar at right): a discussion of antiflash paint on bombers, and why it may have gone away.
- Bell is trying to cast
Raise Dead True Resurrection on the Comanche – It’s the purest helicopter of the new scout helicopter competitors, so I like it, even if it does have wings. Also this week on the Many Words Discord: a discussion of tandem vs. side-by-side seating for military aircraft. Ars Technica reports they’re calling it ‘Invictus’ this time..
- Let’s play parade analysis – By which I mean, let’s let someone else play parade analysis. What’s the news from China’s National Day parade?
- Boeing’s why-you-should-buy-Chinook-Block-II website – The nice thing about helicopters is that you can slap new engines and a new gearbox in, and even without doing any work on the hull you’ve suddenly created a new, more compelling product.
- Iran says it foiled an assassination attempt on the commander of the Quds Force
- A video on the BAE Amphibious Combat Vehicle – A much less cool vehicle than the previous attempt to replace the AAV. 2700hp in the water by using open-circuit seawater cooling!
- Speaking of the Marines, they’re working on ways to fight China – We shared a story a few weeks ago on the planning document for same.
- Zerohedge: NoKor tests sub-launched ballistic missile? – The question mark is mine, because I don’t know if I fully trust Zerohedge’s reporting, and don’t have the time to run the story down myself.
- CDR Salamander is not happy about the Navy permitting fatigues in DC – Honestly, I’m against letting anyone with a staff job wear anything besides a proper uniform.
- Lynx 41 disqualified from the Bradley replacement game – Why? Because of bureaucracy and bad requirements, that’s why.
- … and the program is at risk of three failures in a row
- Iraq is in flames – Self-inflicted this time, though.
- Germany proposes ‘European’ aircraft carrier – Me: “Maybe Graf Zeppelin?” Parvusimperator: “What’s the German for ‘dock queen rustbucket’?”
- Defence Technology Review has some good articles this week, in particular on speculative amphibious assault ship designs
- Norway’s F-35 drogue chutes aren’t working right
- The AS21 rollout in photos – As AFVs go, I think it’s quite handsome.
- Big Army looking to replace the Longbow radar?
- Rheinmetall brought a 130mm gun to AUSA
- Puma Czechs out – I had to use Parvusimperator’s punny headline. The Germans decided not to submit the Puma to Czechia’s IFV program, but they have three other bids.
- Baby flattop all grown up – USS America has 13 F-35s on deck.
Science and Technology
- The scientist behind the Navy’s UFO patents has filed one for a compact fusion reactor – A two-meter box capable of generating between a gigawatt and a terawatt of thermal energy. Naive back-of-the-napkin math suggests 2600 gallons per second of cooling water at one gigawatt, and five Rhines or two-thirds of a Mississippi at one terawatt.
- Science takes another crack at a reactionless thruster – This one uses relativistic mass change to get more impulse from a forward-moving particle than a backward-moving one. Nobody’s built one yet—rather, it’s a ‘the concept seems plausible’ thing, by a NASA engineer, who admits it’s a long shot.
- Update your Linux boxes – An exploit in sudo! It’s less serious than I thought, though, and basically only affects users/groups with a RunAs (ALL,!root) configuration).
- Teslas run Linux, Linux writes a lot of logs, flash memory in Tesla ECUs is not rated for a lot of writes, flash memory problems are bricking Teslas – ‘About four years’ seems to be the lifespan. Ol’ Musky says on Twitter that it’s better now.
It’s the 50th anniversary edition of Wednesday What We’re Reading, in which we… don’t really do anything out of the ordinary.
- Lightweight stainless/aluminum ammunition coming? – See also discussion on Discord of how much extra volume you get in a cartridge of the same size.
- Thrym invents beer gut replacement for operators – It’s an electronics case which fits, at least optionally, to the front of a plate carrier, so you can open it up and look down at your phone, or what-have-you.
- The US still needs carriers – Roughly a year in to What We’re Reading, and it’s as true as it ever has been.
- F-35 testing delays continue beyond its combat debut – Thinking face emoji.
- The Columbia boomers are on track for their scheduled delivery… – … but 2028 is a long way off, and more problems like the one with missile tube welds recently could push that date.
- The Navy Reserve is broken – Not as an organization, but in terms of actually paying its reservists.
- China builds an amphibious assault ship/baby carrier in a year or so, probably – Pictures of its keel under construction appeared late this past spring. It’s unclear how much work was done before then, at least in sources I can get at.
- Branch of service which operates boats beats branch of service which operates airplanes to airplane readiness goals
- Good Loren Thompson alert: five reasons the Digital Century series is doomed to failure – The most compelling reason is that, by and large, the original analog-era Century Series failed.
- Winchester selected to operate Lake City ammo plant – Is it a tell for the next-gen squad weapon? After all, Winchester is working with one of the competitors.
- Useless Camo Pattern retired today
- Armata program continues to deflate – Down to 130 tanks, and much of the fancy technology from the original demonstrator vehicles is gone.
- First photo of the new Chinese rifle – Not a bullpup, American-esque barrel lengths.
Science and Technology
Alphabetic shorthand report: still slower than ordinary English handwriting, because thinking about letters takes a long time.
I have a short day and a full day’s amount of work to do in it, so less commentary than usual today.
Science and Technology
- Newly discovered neutron star almost big enough to be a black hole
- The definitive piece on the 737 Max crashes – The author is an aviation writer, so he actually knows what he’s talking about, doesn’t gloss over important technical details or describe MCAS as an ‘anti-stall system’, and is willing to blame multiple factors, rather than picking one.
- Stochastic computer built, can factor numbers – Stochastic computing is a weird voodoo math approach to computation that performs logical operations on bitstreams with 1s at a defined frequency. The hallmark of it is that the longer you observe the output, the more accurate your estimate of the result becomes.
- A price-competitive carbon-capturing natural gas plant – Also generates no NOx, because combustion happens in a mix of CO2 and O2. Excess CO2 is stored at high pressure for industrial use.
- The history of Patreon – Evidently, the guy who started it was a creative guy himself? I didn’t know that.
- Kerbal Space Program YouTuber and all-around science man Scott Manley with a SpaceX update – In keeping with the SpaceX ‘design as you build’ philosophy, the new Starship prototype is down to two fins and dedicated hull-mounted landing gear, unfortunately making it look less like a Buck Rogers rocket.
- Why does the floppy disk read cache expire after 2 seconds? – Because two Microsoft engineers couldn’t swap floppies faster than that.
Guns and Competition Shooting
Cor, it’s Wednesday already?
I spent my morning coffee time working on learning one of the simple alphabetic shorthands, so this one’s a bit later than they’ve been.
- FNH offers a rangefinder/ballistic calculator combo for military customers only – Otherwise it would be under ‘guns’.
- Patria’s Ne(w)mo(rtar) fires some demo rounds at Fort Benning – Also, they move it around on a Cars (Pixar)-themed truck, evidently.
- SPEAR mini-cruise-missile is getting an EW variant
- Jordan unveils underwater museum of military hardware – Put another way, “We wanted to dump some old tanks in the ocean without making the environmentalists mad. Well, madder than usual.”
- Ace Combat comes closer to reality as Raytheon reveals Peregrine missile – The agility of an AIM-9X, the range of an AMRAAM, all in a 6-foot, 150-pound package, allowing fighters to ‘double or triple’ their munitions load. Notwithstanding that the physics seem a bit suspect (but I guess rocket motors have been improving), and a 150-pound missile clearly can’t have all that much explosive payload, three times 22 AMRAAMs on an F-15X is definitely Ace Combat territory.
- Germany’s military is a joke
- HK contracted to
polish a turd upgrade the SA80
- SAS gamer with Benelli M4 notches five ISIS fighters in seven seconds – COD numbers.
- Speaking of gamers, the Marine Corps has map tablets with a chat function
- Want to arm your JLTV? Oshkosh Defense presents some options
Science and Technology
18 years on, the world is very different than it was on September 10, 2001. I don’t have a memorial to link; contemplate quietly in your own way.
Other Science and Technology Stories
- Are insect populations actually declining? – A followup to a previously-shared story. In Puerto Rico, the answer appears to be ‘no, and if they were, it wouldn’t be because of temperature change, because there hasn’t actually been any’.
- Bad ideas in computing: PingFS – It stores your files in the contents of ping packets to a remote server of your choice. It doesn’t work on LANs because the latency is too low.
- Aluminum hydride, known primarily as a rocket fuel additive, makes a superb fuel cell fuel – At the top end, the aluminum hydride fuel cell system has better energy density than JP8 and a power unit, both by mass and volume. Being a solid powder, it also doesn’t take any compressive storage. Also, it contains 148 grams of hydrogen per liter of volume, twice the density of liquid hydrogen, to say nothing of compressed hydrogen gas. The only obstacle to widespread adoption is scale of production. A Bay Area company called Ardica Technologies is working on that, but they’re at kilogram-scale right now, and DoD is putting out feelers for more than 40,000 metric tons per year.
- One mechanism by which the Chinese economy might collapse – “It is needed to build more steel mills so as to build more shipyards, ports, railways and bridges so that more ships can be built to carry more iron ore to more ports and thence along more rails and bridges to more steel mills so as to build more shipyards, ports, railways …”
- UK Parliament denies Boris Johnson’s second bid for an election – How it sounds to an outsider: “The Brexit fight is absolutely crucial to Britain’s survival as a democracy, which is why we mustn’t under any circumstances permit the people to weigh in.” I’m nearing the end of Massey’s Dreadnought, which covers a tumultuous time in British history during which political figures used snap election after snap election as referenda on the issues of the moment. Apparently that changed not merely this century, but also this decade.
We’re both back from vacation, and here’s some of what we read along the way. Mostly what I read; parvusimperator unplugs more fully than I do.
- My wife and I visited Portland (the slightly less socialist Maine version), with a brief pilgrimage up to Bath to see the Maine Maritime Museum (and thence, the only non-NO PHOTOGRAPHY view of Bath Iron Works). Strong thumbs up from me. Maine was delightfully low-key. When we vacationed to New Orleans, we didn’t want to miss anything, because it’s all steeped in a New Orleans-specific flavor that you can’t find anywhere else. The parts of Maine we visited were simply coastal New England in pure form. We saw lighthouses, ate a bunch of lobster, and enjoyed the pleasant seaside weather. We didn’t see all there was to see, but we don’t feel like we missed out, either.
- Nonfiction: I’m nearly done with Massey’s Dreadnought, which is good, but also not quite what I expected (an in-depth technical look at the battleship race). Rather, it’s almost a collection of biographies of interesting figures from the late 1800s through the start of the Great War.
- Nonfiction: Next on the list is When Tigers Ruled the Sky, a brilliantly-titled volume on the Flying Tigers.
- Fiction: Phobos, the debut novel from author Ty Drago (what a name!). A tense, tightly-paced moderately-hard-sci-fi thriller, framed like a classic mystery. There’s even a scene when the main character brings all the suspects together in one room and sums up the facts to date.
- On Northrop, the B-21, and lessons from the B-2 – The nice thing about the B-2 is that it was far enough ahead of its time that ‘build it again, except cheaper’ is a reasonable plan.
- Selling Vipers to Taiwan – It makes China mad, but… shrug.
- The Navy’s new carrier radar – Made from a bunch of AESAs which can be swapped individually. Easier on the maintenance, no doubt. The definitive version has three sets of arrays for permanent 360° coverage, but the article has a picture of a version on a spinning mount, which presumably cuts costs dramatically.
- Two more National Security Cutters enter service – Looking at the silhouette, I’m pretty sure the cutter calling at Portland, Maine during my stay was a member of the same class.
- Beltway insiders heed the Soapbox’s call for more drydocks – We get hits from DC at about five times the rate you would expect based on DC’s population, so clearly, the only possible explanation is that important people read this update.
- Big Army to spend many years and much money on a next-gen squad weapons program, before cancelling it as soon as it gets close to bearing fruit – Consider my prediction made.
Science and Technology
- Kerbal Space Program 2! – I’m a big Kerbal Space Program the Original booster, so I’m glad to see this. I have a big KSP mission planned; maybe I’ll take screenshots and write that up.
- K-pop tempts North Koreans into defection – Capitalist art is a great tool for breaking down poor authoritarian regimes, because man, are we ever decadent.
- Speaking of, abstract art was a CIA weapon – Unfortunately, it was a weapon designed to show Communists, “Look how free-thinking we are!” It failed on that front. If I had to choose my 20th century politics purely on the artistic merits of Socialist realism vs. American abstract… ism?, well, hand me a red banner and strike up the Internationale.
- Getting a Coast Guard rescue the hard way: ditching a plane in the ocean – That’s historically been the problem with piston engines over water.
- US militias from 1776 to the Civil War – A forgotten history.
- The Soapbox’s favorite NFL commentator/troll is gearing up for the 2019 season – He goes by UrinatingTree on Youtube. Apropos of nothing, except that a slightly ruder version of Mr. Tree’s name brings it to mind, here’s Blues Saraceno’s Hanging Tree, which came to my attention from the Rebel Galaxy Outlaw soundtrack. (Review coming sometime? Yes, I think so.)
- On working homelessness – Not as common a condition as some would have you believe if you look at homelessness as ‘living on the streets’. Somewhat more common if you look at it as ‘would be living on the streets but for the charity of family’. Not that family charity is a bad thing, but The New Republic (yes, a dirty pinko rag generally) paints some interesting pictures here.
- Why hasn’t Brexit happened yet? – Because the British civil service, and European bureaucrats generally, look at Yes, Minister and see an instruction manual rather than a farce.