The Trojan Safe

I could go off on a nice rant at Liberty Safe, but I fear many would miss the real problem and point. The real problem and point is that it is not just Liberty Safe, but a whole array of companies and products that will turn on you in a heartbeat.

For those that missed it, Liberty Safe was told by the FBI that they had a warrant in regards a Jan 6 persecution and, apparently, without verifying that warrant or what it allowed, Liberty provided the FBI a master code so they could open, search, and seize contents of the suspect. News to many was that such a thing existed; that Liberty did not have a more rigorous process in regards warrants; and, that Liberty did not hold it’s customers or their rights in high regard.

The backlash has been enormous, and Liberty is deservedly getting pounded by outraged customers and shedding business in a hurry. I say deservedly, as the owners of the company hate guns and gun owners, and have worked to undermine both since before they bought the company. Here’s a good takedown on that. No surprise they were so eager to assist the FBI.

Thing is, they are not alone. Do you know who owns the company from which you are buying products for your safety and security? Guess what, lot of situations like this.

Have a video doorbell or, like my landlord, have it and multiple cameras around the house? How secure is that service and what rights have you given to the company you bought it from? Have a fancy electronic deadbolt that opens when you cell phone gets near it and/or locks you can control from a phone app? Again, not very secure and you may well have given the company behind it rights to your data. How often do any of us read the entire legal agreement, much less understand some of the intense legalese?

How about your car? Again, your data and records of what you do when and where are not yours. Stephen Green has a pretty good takedown on that in this article. He also correctly notes how much data your phone is sending to others, and trust me it’s a huge amount that just increases every time you add an app.

If it has to do with the safety and security of your home and family, and it’s digital, you are not as secure as you think you are. Heck, while not part of your security have you checked to see how much data your smart TV is collecting on you, or how easy it is to activate cameras and microphones remotely? TVs, tablets, and more can and have been turned on their owners.

Even mechanical locks and other items can have a master code or a master key. My trust in mechanical padlocks went out the window decades ago when a cousin who worked for a power company showed me the ring of master keys for every major (and many minor) brands of padlocks they had so they could access any property at any time for repairs or maintenance.

So, that non-digital lock or locks you got for your front door — who made it? Do you know if they have a master key for it? Do you trust them to tell you if they did?

Before you buy a safe, look at who owns the company and where they stand. Check to see if they will admit to having a master code or if you can trust them to be honest with the answer. Same goes for any major purchase.

Start demanding better, and vote with your wallet for privacy and your rights. Small or large, each purchase can make a point and even now, a difference.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving once we have medical issues cleared up, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Probability Cascades

Update Below

For about the last two years, I’ve semi joked about quantum probability cascades. Fact is, I wonder if I and other lightning strike/high-energy event survivors are not real-world examples of such a phenomena.

For a deep dive on quantum logic and probability, go here. You may note the rather important contributions of John von Neumann to the mix, and yes he is the person who not only made important points about computers (and AI) but also theorized about self-replicating robots.

That gets you the proper background. Now comes my very layman take, which for the purists who get the vapors is indeed very over simplified.

The human organism is an amazingly complex system, and that applies to probabilities as well. Leaving aside the existential for now, we are a walking mass of probability. While theoretically anything is possible, in each of us there are probabilities of developing cancer or other diseases, and having various systems in the body do different things. As I understand it, lots depends on energy. For example, if you have the probability (predisposition) to one or more cancers, it’s not a great idea to work with or around compounds that can increase that risk. Adds energy in a bad way.

Where probabilities are high something will happen, it’s probably going to happen. Where the probabilities are low, it’s not likely to happen absent a change in energy. Where there is such a change, usually a sudden influx of energy, you will find quantum probabilities flipping. Theoretically, as I understand it, it’s possible for high-order probabilities to flip to low-order, and it most definitely flips low-order to high.

I began to wonder about quantum probability cascades not only because of my own case, but in reading and talking about the cases of others hit by lightning or (high energy) electric shock survivors. When you talk about adding energy to a system, you can’t get much more literal. I think it a good research project for someone to take a look at all the medical and related issues that pop up for survivors. Fact is, many of the issues literally can’t be as a direct result of the event. And for all the internal burns (hard to detect and treat) and other issues, the number and range of problems seem to extend well beyond those effects.

For me, one area that makes me wonder about a quantum effect is my digestive system. In the lower part, one minor/low-probability issue is now no longer minor. Given this last week plus, I may be developing an issue or issues on the upper end. Short version is that every time I’ve eaten for the last week plus, I’ve bloated out with massive gas (along with a very acid stomach). Of itself, right now an annoyance, but just one more thing where various issues have flipped from low-order probability to high.

There’s nothing I can do about the situation as a whole, and rather than bitch and moan I try to figure things out even if such can only be done on the theoretical level. It honestly is beyond me as there are still issues with the mind including some trapping. However, I cast this out as bread on the waters in hopes that someone with a mind that fully works and is more attuned to quantum logic and probabilities than I might find it interesting and worth pursuing. Even if it gets shot down with prejudice. Either way gets the idea considered.

UPDATE 1: In talking with Snarksalot on Twitter, I need to note that not all the “flips” are going to be bad. Some are likely to be good. The difference between “good” and “bad” and what trips them one way or another is yet another issue for discussion and investigation.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving once we have medical issues cleared up, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Good Read & More

A good read from the good CDR Salamander. Ties into something I wrote a while back, will try to link it here later. Update: Here it is.

Right now, need to do a bit of exercise, and burn off some frustration. Yet again, someone didn’t do what they were supposed to in regards the insurance paperwork for more PT. Tomorrow’s visit not looking very likely right now.

More soon.

Coulda Woulda Bonesa

When it comes to joint repair and replacement, there are two different issues that have to be addressed. One is the replacement itself, the construct that replaces the bone involved. The other is the material that normally fills and cushions the joint. I’ve actually had exposure to two different efforts to address those issues, and one of the reasons I’ve held out this long is the hope that advances in both areas would be more readily available.

Let’s start with the replacements. Currently, these are often metal and solid metal, which is very unlike the structure of normal bone. Bone itself is very porous on the inside, with the outside being solid and relatively smooth. This can and does create problems when trying to mate two very dissimilar structures. The differences in mass and other factors can create fractures and other issues.

Many years back, a company was doing work through the Center for Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space (CCACS) at the Colorado School of Mines, on a advanced bone replacement materials. The immediate goal was to get the data needed to create foaming metallic-ceramic replacements that would have the porosity of normal bone as well as the hard surfaces needed for the ball or socket. The idea was to be able to custom make these in the OR, as since the reaction was exothermic they would be sterile at manufacture. The long-range goal was to create a material that would do the same, but as bone and marrow grew into it, the material would dissolve so that at the end of a given time you would have all new and healthy bone and the replacement, having completed its duties as a scaffold, would have passed from the body.

I do wish either or both were available today! Unfortunately, I seem to recall that the research ended with the loss of Columbia and have not been able to find out much since I started trying to research it.

Now, the tissue that fills the gap in the joint is somewhat the ‘Holy Grail’ as my surgeon and I discussed yesterday. Yes, we did discuss the advanced materials and the state of current research. When I was at Purdue, I had the honor of working with the legendary Leslie A. Geddes. Short version is that he and his team not only developed early astronaut physiological monitoring systems (portions of which are still in use today), but also pioneered the implantable medical device field and regenerative medicine. There’s a reason he was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2006 and it’s well worth reading even a short biographical sketch on him.

I’ve been following regenerative medicine and wish it was just a little further along (and covered by insurance). Part of the problem for me is that the osteoarthritis has done a lot of damage, and there is very little “pad” left in the joint. The majority of the area has none, and I’m pretty much bone-on-bone movement now. There are a couple of different prospects for having the body generate new filler, but neither appear to be quite where I need them to be. Five years from now may be a different story. In fact, I tried volunteering for some studies both to buy time/get some relief and help advance that research. Still wish that would have worked out.

If anyone hears of related research efforts, let me know as I would like to know more about them.

Sex In Space!

I was going to go with a different title, but what the hey! It’ll get attention, even if most of today is going to get into reproductive biology and some other physiological issues.

There have been rumors of sex in space almost as long as we’ve been going up into space. The Shuttle and Spacelab were particularly rife with them, and I presume it remains so for ISS. Can’t speak to ISS, but on the Shuttle given all the cameras and monitoring of the crew (and experiments, microaccelerometers are snitches), it would have been difficult to pull off completely undetected. Still love the rumors about alien orgies to breed a new hybrid race or save a dying alien race. Yep, those rumors are still floating around out there.

Given that Newton will claim his own, you are going to need either a confined space or other assistance staying together. Especially since most spacecraft are full of knobs, handles, and other things that can and will bruise when you go bouncing around the place. Yes, remember the whole “equal and opposite reaction” thing applies. Hence the confined space or other assistance. I seem to recall that doing some basic experimentation on the act itself almost got done in the form of a porn producer trying to rent a civilian version of the Vomit Comet to do a film.

As I noted in yesterday’s post, humans are going to be humans and if there hasn’t already been such, there soon will be sex in space. This could be problematic for some reasons, but to get to them, let’s do a quick review.

When you enter orbit and microgravity, which is freefall, lots of things happen. First up, given that it is freefall and you have that feeling of an elevator dropping out from under you, the inner ear can do some interesting things. Usually you adapt in a day or three, but I have heard that some never do. Note to self, this is why some form of short-term flight is a good thing, help sort.

Second, the fluids normally held in your lower body by gravity are no longer constrained. Sensors in your neck detect large amounts of fluid, and the kidneys kick in to overdrive. First few days I’m told you pee a lot. This puts the body on a good footing for microgravity, not so good for going back to gravity. Probably a discussion for another day.

Third, there are changes to your muscles and to your skeleton. It’s not just that the muscles atrophy and the bones get less dense. There are other changes, some of which are discussed in this article in Nature (wish it were in a more reputable journal, but…). The results are interesting, especially in regards planetary ventures and counteracting some of the changes.

There are a host of other things that happen, though one stands out to my mind for true long-term ventures. Essentially, astronauts tastes in food change the longer they are in microgravity. Short version is that they started to crave spicy (flavorful) and even hot foods. Lots of things they normally enjoyed apparently lost their flavor. Yet another issue to be considered for long-term efforts.

Which brings us back to sex and reproductive biology. The fact is, gravity plays a role in everything, including reproductive biology and development. There have been some studies done using frogs, since the development cycle is fairly fast. The most recent one with which I am familiar was the Frog Embryology Experiment on Spacelab J. Here’s a link to a PDF of the mission brochure which gives an overview of the experiments and why they were being done.

When sperm enters an egg, that spot actually rotates down in response to gravity, and becomes a marking point (start?) of bilateral symmetry and the spine. In most cases, things proceed normally and a you get a tadpole that becomes a normal frog. Same with a child in terms of human reproduction. The question is, what happens without gravity?

My memories of the mission are sketchy (stupid lightning), but I remember that the experimental group were funky. As in bent and crooked. Once they returned to gravity, however, they quickly became normal looking and grew up into normal frogs if I remember the mission report correctly.

Which still leaves the question: what happens when they, or any other developing organism, don’t return to gravity? I’m really hoping someone has been looking into this on ISS, but given how gun-shy NASA was about any discussion of (or investigations touching on) reproduction of any type…

There are many challenges to long-term space operations, and creating a permanent human presence off Earth (something much needed as soon as possible). One of the largest remains humans (including psych and social issues) and the human body.

Thank you Glenn for the Instalanche! Hope to post more later after the server hamsters catch up with things. 🙂

UPDATE: Some suggestions for follow-on research and some related topics for future outposts is here.

Space-ing Is Hard

Over at Legal Insurrection, Leslie Eastman has a good piece up on the apparent failure of the Japanese commercial moon lander. Given the failure to re-establish communications, it appears the landing has failed. I had hoped it would succeed, for several reasons, and it is disappointing.

It is also a reminder that getting to space and doing real things there is hard. Building an economically viable launch industry is hard. Building the infrastructure needed to live and work in space is hard. Elon pointed out the difficulty of building the large-scale rotating space stations of my childhood just recently. His take is that it makes more sense to build on the moon and Mars. I agree for now, though I think using asteroids as bases (a la the Act of God/Island Worlds series) is a good way to go. There are some other concepts out there for more modest structures or constellations of structures that are very interesting.

Living and working in space is going to be hard. The physiological changes the body undergoes in microgravity can be profound. The long-term effects are not yet known, because we really are only starting to be in that environment long term. We also still don’t know what will happen to fetal development in microgravity. The Frog Embryology Experiment on Spacelab J gives only limited data, though it is worth noting that the tadpoles did take on a more normal appearance and grew into normal frogs if I remember correctly. Humans being human, it is something we do need to understand.

Space-ing is hard. If we wait for the governments to lead the way, it will not happen. To get there will take drive, ambition, and old-fashioned capitalism. There are things to do, resources to tap, and plenty of opportunity. I really hope we can keep over-regulation at bay and get going.

Ad Astra

The Fall Will Be Broadcast

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving to the SW, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

This is the third, and last planned, bit of commentary on the shooting in Texas. The first post is here, and the follow-up is here. Many of you have commented about the video in the various posts, and it is a point that needs some discussion.

The ubiquitousness of video is a remarkable thing. On one level, it represents the strides made in video and recording technology over the years. I still remember getting trained in video recording, editing, and production in 1976 at the Boy Scout World Jamboree. The cameras were large, the editing suite large, and the quality was so-so by today’s standards. Back then, it was revolutionary.

Today, the Contour camera I bought to mount to my helmet a few years back is tiny in comparison to those early cameras, and still is huge in comparison to some of the high-res cameras you can buy on the cheap. Oh, and that huge editing suite? Everything it did and more can now be done on a laptop. The reels of video tape (and later video cassettes) are now a small chip.

The doorbell camera my landlord has may not be as high-res as some, but it is surprisingly good for the size. From wherever we are, we can check to see who or what set off the camera, and if the mail has been delivered yet.

It is more unusual these days for a house not to have something like that, or even more than one, for security purposes. Businesses have cameras inside and out for security, so that when something happens there is a record of it and a means for the police to track down the perpetrators. Add to that cameras that are in place at shopping centers, set-up by LE, and a surprising amount of your life is on video. They don’t even have to hide the cameras in fake power pole transformers and such anymore.

And it’s not just the large cities. It is widespread everywhere, from urban New York to rural Iowa. Part of the idea was to let people keep an eye on things no matter where they were, and to have a record of events if needed. Part was to have a record that could be shared with LE and prosecutors at need, to help ensure justice when and if something happened.

Many are starting to re-think things. First, in many areas of the country you have a new breed of prosecutor who is soft on crime and is far more lenient on perps than on victims. Ones who have already indicated they will go after those who fight back rather than the perp. Second, you have them and others who will abuse those video records to harass or otherwise abuse the innocent. To stalk people for reasons personal and political.

As a number of people have pointed out in the comments, what would have happened if there had been no video being shot at the restaurant? Nothing that would have caught the act, the shooter’s vehicle, or other things that would have helped LE track him down. You would have just had the witness statements about the tall/short caucasian/other thin/fat etc. etc. etc. that are witness statements. Could he still have been tracked down? Yes, but it would have been a LOT harder to do. Would that effort have been made with just a dead career violent criminal who hit the FAFO jackpot? Good question.

I may have heard a rumor about a business that suffered a mysterious glitch in their very good video system a while back. One that just happened to not catch an incident that may not have happened that could have caused a good person some trouble. In fact, I may have heard of more than one. Frankly, as things head south, I expect to hear a lot more rumors and stories like that.

Also, what incentive will there be for people to cooperate with LE and prosecutors if the perps are going to be out again in a few hours at most, and anyone who stood up to them being investigated or harassed? Worse yet, identified in the news so the perp can easily learn their name and all about them for their own actions?

I think we are going to start seeing a large lack of cooperation on the part of the public, and not just in the jurisdictions that have soft-on-crime prosecutors and/or ineffective governance at all levels. What happens there will have people in good areas questioning the desirability to cooperate with their own LE and prosecutors. Do I think it will get to the point people are disabling or hiding their video systems? I think we are already there.

As for the comment about 500-yard shots not being on video, think again. Right now, from the time I leave my front door, my travels are on video with surprisingly few gaps. There are doorbell cameras, security cameras, traffic cameras, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out the Rodent Liberation Front has cameras set up as well. If you think that LE can’t trace back where a shot came from, and there won’t be video of traffic in that area, much less of people walking around, think again.

There are good odds that unless someone takes active steps there will be. Once you leave that bubble of active steps, well, someone may wonder why you were in that area and what you were carrying. Oh, and don’t forget that most large cities (and quite a few others) have systems for detecting and localizing the sounds of gunshots. Is it possible to avoid or spoof some or all of it? Yes. Easy? Depends.

Far more of our daily lives is on video that we realize. Between video, tracking of cell phone and social media usage, and other ways we can and are tracked, someone determined can learn a lot and even cause us lots of problems.

I don’t think we’ve hit peak video yet; but, I do think we’ve already entered the era of selective video. One where individuals, businesses, and other entities are not going to be as quick to share video with anyone, especially LE and prosecutors, as they were even last year. Given all that’s happened in about the last three years, I expect to see this trend grow. As such, I can’t blame anyone who elects for selective sharing.

On Reading Scientific Papers

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving to the SW, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Back many moons ago, when I taught some basic science courses for a small university (tempted to put that in quotes), I encouraged a certain amount of skepticism and critical thinking in my students via a fictional sensational news/marketing push/story. I can’t remember all of it (stupid lightning), but enough to lead into today’s post.

The push story was that anyone contracting a particular gum infection, “gumjooboo,” stood a 99 percent chance of dying from it. Thing was, there was a special toothbrush now for sale that while very expensive, was 99.9999 percent effective in preventing gumjooboo. I then walked the students through parsing and researching to show that gumjooboo only effected a small percentage of a particular tribe in one small area of the Amazon basin. This led into some discussions on probability, odds, etc. Also, a bit of discussion on interpreting scientific papers.

First, and I say this as a former (still commit a bit of it) science journalist and former member of the National Association of Science Writers, take any media story about scientific research with a tun of salt. You might be amazed at how often the media presentation is 180 degrees from what the study says or shows. Number of reasons for it, including lack of specialization, lack of experience, and even deliberate misrepresentation.

Specialized reporting is not what it used to be in the corporate media. Newspapers and television stations, much less networks, had dedicated science and medical reporters. You had people like Jon Van covering science at the Chicago Tribune. You had people like Jules Bergman at ABC covering aviation and space. These were people with years, decades, of experience. You don’t find that as much anymore in corporate media. Instead, you far too often find people right out of J-school tasked with covering various science and medical studies. Funny thing is, we saw that coming and Jon, the medical reporter at the Tribune, and I had a very interesting discussion on that subject many years back. Sadly, they were right in their predictions. New media is mixed, but there are some excellent science and medical reporters out there.

So, let’s take a quick look at how to read a scientific paper. In fact, let’s do so in part in the context of current events.

First, in what publication is it appearing? If Scientific American, make that several tuns of salt right at the start. I, personally, no longer trust anything they print. If it is a paper on astrophysics and it’s in a biology journal or the Journal of Irreproducible Results, that should be a red flag. If it’s a medical study and in a medical or biological journal, that’s a good start.

Next, you are going to have a title. The title should be even, maybe even boring, as “reputable” journals avoid sensationalism. It it is highly sensationalistic, such as saying the President’s mother is an alien or gas stoves are causing massive brain damage and asthma, good odds it is not a valid study, and that it’s not in a reputable or good publication. Though to be fair, The Enquirer seems to be gaining ground on many so-called scientific journals.

Up next is the list of authors. It should include current employers for each (J. Blowhard, National Institute of Health) and in many online papers links to previous papers, etc. It should also lead to affiliations, that is the organizations to which that researcher belongs. Now, if you find in a paper on the horrors of using gas stoves that one or more of the authors worked for a company that removed gas from buildings or was dedicated to eliminating gas as a fuel, that’s another red flag. Always check current and past employers, professional affiliations, and previous papers.

Now, sometimes it is up front and above board, and as such listed high up. Most times, however, it is buried towards the bottom of the paper. The “that” is a disclosure of who funded the research in question. Sometimes it is open, quite often it is a foundation or fund that has a noble-sounding name. Always check that out, as quite often the major source of funding for that noble-sounding trust or whatever is a major industry organization or even a company. If that organization or company is either dedicated to eliminating the horror that is gas, or promoting the competition for gas, well, yeah, that’s another red flag.

If you really want some fun that’s not a gas, go look up how much FDA nutrition research over the years was funding by trusts and funds bearing names like Kellogg, or even directly by major food companies. It’s not even that hard as it is well documented. Funding is king, and often is key to understanding and evaluating the research paper in question. Even when the U.S. government funds research, look to see if it is taxpayer funding or courtesy of a grant to the government by an industry-funded trust.

Next up should be an abstract. This is a synopsis of the paper and it’s conclusions. To be honest, it is all that is read by far too many corporate media reporters and is why such reporting is often “just a bit outside.” They can be confusing, and it can be easy to read into them what you want to read into them. Good ones are not, but you’re dealing with scientists and engineers who are talking to themselves, not authors used to talking to the public.

First up in the paper should be the background. What led to the paper? Why did they do it the way they did it? Lots of good information usually, and it is often fun to read between the lines on this. One of my favorites remains a research study on coffee filtration, which when you read a bit between the lines, boiled down to: we are coffee-heads, some of us have lipid problems, so we decided to see if filtering made a difference because we are NOT giving up our coffee. It is also good place to start spotting red-flags, as if the background is sketchy, the study is sketchy.

Next thing to look at is methodology. Most good studies are looking at a real-world situation, and therefore the methodology should mirror the real-world as much as possible. Not so easy on things like black holes, but on possible pollutants and such from gas stoves, dead easy. Therefore, if you see things where the methodology basically sealed an area such that it was guaranteed to raise concentrations (layers of plastic, foam bars, etc.) as it is almost air-tight, that’s a big red flag.

Every good paper should have a section on prior research. It’s part of the discussion of why this research was needed and what the paper contributes to the discussion. Remember, real science is about questioning, researching, debating, and testing. Science is never settled, and thinking back on watching a grad student all but dance in Spacelab Control when she was proved right on a theory and her professor wrong still makes me smile. Note, the professor wasn’t upset, he found it a good thing. That’s real science.

If a paper either doesn’t have such a section, or it is woefully incomplete, it is not a valid scientific study and paper. For example, if a study uses limited numbers, small area, and questionable methodology to reach a conclusion, and fails to discuss an easily found paper on PubMed that involved samples relating to half a million children worldwide, there is an issue there.

There should also be a conclusion, but by this point unless it says Jeffrey Epstein didn’t hang himself, you should have all the data you need. If a paper is nothing but a series of red flags, it is not a paper but propaganda. Next question is who is behind it or why. Why would anyone want to force a large segment of the population onto a underpowered and problematic grid and away from clean energy that is harder to control and/or cut-off than electricity? Good questions.

You should always have questions at the end of a paper. In good papers, most of mine are along the lines of ‘who is doing the next step research on this’ and ‘where can I find more information.’ In bad papers and propaganda, more towards the above.

When it comes to papers and the media coverage of same, trust no one. Rather, trust but verify. Especially if research is being used to push major policy decisions.

UPDATE: Got reminded that you also need to check if data is being accurately compared. Not saying there can be a tendency in bad papers/propaganda to do apple/orange comparisons (it’s another one of those red flag things), but be sure it is apple to apple, and not an attempt at a quick tap dance.

UPDATE II: In regards the whole gas debacle, check out this very good thread that takes it completely apart. It is very much worth the read. Also, if you think they really have stopped the effort to ban gas, please think again.

Nuclear 101: Weapons

UPDATED to correct typo, sure there’s at least one more in there…

While the primary focus is on nuclear weapons and war, I’m going to talk a bit about other types of special weapons as they can and do play a role in a nuclear war and nuclear strategy. So, let’s start by taking a look at the basic weapons.

First up, the original weapon that opened the nuclear age. Fission weapons derive their energy from breaking apart the atom. To be a bit more precise, a neutron is used to break apart a single atom into two smaller atoms which releases energy and more neutrons which then break apart yet more atoms in a sustained chain reaction. This releases a large amount of energy, which is then measured in kilotons (1 kiloton = 1,000 tons of TNT [note: typo corrected! Thanks for pointing it out]) or megatons (1 megaton = 1,000,000 tons of TNT). Note that pretty much all fission weapons stay in the kiloton range.

In terms of operating systems, there are two types of fission weapons: gun-type and implosion. In a gun-type fission weapon, conventional explosives drive two masses of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) into each other to produce what is called a criticality: the chain reaction necessary for the bomb to function. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a gun-type device.

The implosion device uses a core, or pit, of plutonium surrounded by conventional explosives. The sophisticated explosives create a uniform compression of the plutonium which creates the criticality which then ensures the chain reaction with some form of neutron initiator. If you want more details, you will need to look it up yourself and I note that there is a lot of information out there, a good bit of which is accurate. I will note that you can use HEU as the pit instead of plutonium. In fact, the UN reports that Iraq was doing just that back in the bad old days. It should also be noted that the world’s first nuclear explosion at Alamagordo and the Nagasaki bomb were both implosion devices.

Brief aside, gun devices are easier to build from a technological standpoint but tend to be rather large. Implosion devices are much more technologically challenging on almost every level, but allow a great deal of power in a smaller device.

The next level of weapons are fusion devices. Whereas fission splits, fusion brings deuterium and tritium together to form helium and a whole bunch of energy. Hence the name, hydrogen bomb as deuterium and tritium are isotopes of hydrogen. Edited for clarity and to fix a typo. The energy output of a fusion weapon is much (much much even) higher than a fission weapon.

In discussion on nuclear war, you are going to hear the term “thermonuclear weapons” used. What are they? Simply put, they are a combination of fission and fusion weapon. In grossly over simplistic terms, the fission weapons can be “boosted” by adding in a fusion component. The majority of nuclear weapons in use by major powers today are in fact thermonuclear devices.

Regardless of type, conventional warheads tend to be divided into two areas: Strategic and Tactical. Strategic are mated to longer-ranged delivery systems and are of larger yield. Tactical are intended for use with short-ranged systems and have a much smaller yield. Strategic are intended to take out large areas/targets and tactical are designed to take out a small/limited target and minimize damage outside a limited area. Cough, cough.

There are some specialized types of nuclear weapons. One that hit the news a few decades back was the so-called neutron bomb. This was a device designed to do minimum damage to an area (though it could be argued that it was intended to focus damage to a specific area/target) and neutralize the surrounding area via a massive dose of neutron radiation. That burst of radiation would result in the death of humans (and other animals) hit by it, but leave the infrastructure intact and non-radioactive.

Are there other types of specialized warhead? RUMINT, of course, says yes. Everything from enhanced/tuned EMP to signals to the aliens waiting just outside the solar system. May have to pull some of them into some fiction I need to write, but for purposes of our current discussion the only ones that, if they exist, would have any impact would be enhanced EMP.

No discussion of nuclear weapons would be complete without discussion of issues of criticality and fizzles. Criticality is essential to enabling the chain reaction that is a nuclear explosion. It’s when you get it without wanting to set of such a chain reaction that it becomes a not-so-minor issue.

One way to get an accidental criticality is to bring two masses of material, be it HEU or plutonium, close enough together that a reaction starts. This has happened, in more than one country, when people handling such materials either brought them too close together as part of an experiment (or manufacturing process) and got a flash criticality. This was a short-term event because the materials were immediately separated, though the flash was most often a terminal event for those present.

The other way it can happen is if a fire or other catastrophe some or all of the conventional explosives in a nuclear device. I will simply note that modern weapons make use of specialized explosives and explosives design/layout to minimize the risk of such.

Then there are fizzles. While most of the discussions of learned types focus on boosted weapons, they technically can happen to any type of nuclear explosive. In short, a fizzle is simply an incomplete reaction. In a boosted weapon, the boost doesn’t happen. In a single-type weapon, the chain reaction is not sustained to the planned extent. At worst/best (worse from the user standpoint, best case from the view of the target), the explosion is not as large as planned. RUMINT suggests that there can be odd effects from a fizzle, including some potentially nasty material for clean-up.

You can also have duds. For whatever reason, the bomb does not go off. The conventional explosives may or may not go off, but the core of the bomb does not even reach fizzle status. If nothing goes off, it does make clean-up and containment easier. If the conventional explosives do go off, it can spread radioactive materials around.

Which gives a nice segue into other types of special weapons. In the parlance in which I grew up, CBN for Chemical, Biological, Nuclear.

Chemical covers a range of nastiness from nerve agents to simple caustic compounds. They are intended to incapacitate or otherwise neutralize large groups of ground forces. For those who have not served, having to operate in MOPP gear is hot, nasty, and cumbersome to be polite I am told. I include it here because one of the best ways to deny an enemy use of nuclear weapons is to hit the appropriate storage depots with chemical (or biological) weapons. This prevents ready use and preserves them in case you want to secure them or use them for your own purposes (don’t judge). By the time someone can secure, decontaminate, verify, and then deploy — well, it’s most likely things are already over for the time being.

Biological weapons also cover a range of options. Most people think of killer plagues, and yes there has been research into such (and some countries continue on that to this day). It also includes other vectors designed to incapacitate enemy leadership. Again, there’s a range and if you are really interested, dive in and explore. I include it here primarily because it is a factor that needs to be mentioned, though one scenario may come up in later discussions.

Non-explosive nuclear are best represented by dirty bombs. That is, using conventional explosives to contaminate as large an area as possible by spreading some form of nuclear material including nuclear waste. If, like me, you’ve had the joy of going through the FEMA Weapons of Mass Destruction Course, even a very large and effective dirty bomb is only going to cover a limited area. Pick the right area though, and… While not necessarily practical, you could potentially use a non-explosive criticality to take out key enemy leadership with the right assets. This may or may not get discussed later.

Now, to the topic that generates large amounts of wailing and gnashing of teeth: testing. Yes, testing is needed.

Before computer modeling and simulations because practical, most nuclear weapons design was based on mathematical probabilities and a certain degree of trial and error. Want to know if a new design worked, and worked as planned? Build it and try it.

With the advent of truly advanced computer design and simulations, there came a group who said we no longer needed to do testing of any sort, above ground, underground, or even deep space. There’s just one problem that the smug SOBs who say that computer simulations are all we need don’t get: GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Simulations, while often quite good, are no replacement for reality. They can limit the amount of real-world testing required, but they can’t replace it any more than they can replace the need for manual checks of the weapons to detect corrosion in the pits or elsewhere, damage to components from radiation, or any of the other things that need to be checked. They can suggest a schedule of such checks, and maybe even where to spend extra time checking, but they can’t replace the checks, or the tests.

Question for the class: when was the last time we tested either a new or existing design to be sure they either worked as planned or still worked as designed and tested?

Given how much of our nuclear forces are still using designs and components from the mid-1960’s, it’s kind of an important question. Especially since we are at a point where we not only need to modernize our weapons and forces, we need to look at a variety of new warhead and delivery vehicle options to meet new and different threats.

On that note, I think I will stop for the day and on Monday pick up with delivery vehicles and systems. Today is a very quick and broad overview of the weapons, now it’s time to look at how they get from point A to point B.

Yes, I’ve very deliberately not gone into detail on any number of areas and issues. You can write massive tomes and dissertations on any facet of everything brought up today. It suffices to get get some basic information out and avoids becoming a primer if you will.

There are plenty of such out there, and some are fascinating reading. For the purposes of this series of posts, however, the high view should be sufficient.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add


Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting

A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update



Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think

Nuclear What?


Nuclear War Posts In Order:

Nuclear What?


If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Re-Imagining Space Stations, Pt. 3

A few more background thoughts for our thought experiment. To build the future, we must know the past and understand why some of it was done the way it was done.

NASA has hated the idea of building anything in orbit. One of the things I heard mentioned about any of the ideas on using the Shuttle external fuel tanks was that it was too dangerous. To say that NASA was risk averse is an understatement of several orders of magnitude. If something didn’t work/didn’t work right, you most likely never saw it again. I think the only reason the Tethered Satellite System got a second flight was because the first flight didn’t work because of an idiotic (and unnecessary) change by NASA safety to the mechanism, and the blow back to not giving it a flight would have been huge. As it is, losing the satellite on the second mission guaranteed that NASA won’t touch tethers/tethered satellite again for a century or three. That will be up to industry (and I suspect NASA may try to block such).

Doing things like space walks are inherently dangerous. You are in a vacuum, with radiation, changing lighting (plus a freeze/thaw cycle) as you get a sunrise/sunset about every 90 minutes as you orbit, and require stability to get anything done. The first time I did work for NASA, I worked for a company that helped develop the “SX” wrench, which was actually a ratchet that could be used in microgravity. Add to it the fact that the spacesuits NASA uses for “extra-vehicular activities” aka EVAs, aka space walks, have issues. If you’ve been following recent news from the ISS, the last two or three EVAs had problems with water building up in the helmets to the point it was a real issue for the astronauts in question. They are actually not doing any EVAs right now while they try to figure things out.

There’s also the little matter of not wanting anyone to go Dutchman. Without tethers or some form of thruster pack, it would not be hard for someone to take a one way impromptu tour of low-Earth orbit. Dutchman is bad, okay? We don’t want anyone to go Dutchman.

So, no surprise that for the most part NASA has gone for the big module system, with as much automation as possible. Never mind the big contracts for the defense companies that build them, or the companies that spend thousands if not millions designing suits, etc. Leaving that aside, NASA has avoided doing anything that would require large amounts of EVA. EVAs are risk, and NASA wants no risk, zero defects, etc. They’ve worked hard to keep the need for EVAs on ISS to a minimum.

But, developing new structures, systems, and related infrastructure in orbit is going to require EVAs. Lots of them, and probably long ones. That means as the thought experiment progresses, we need to be thinking about new and improved spacesuits, new or novel means of safety to augment or potentially replace current tether systems, and even means of rescuing that person who goes Dutchman because you know someone will. Sooner rather than later most likely. Space is even more unforgiving that the ocean, so keep that in mind as the thought experiment unfolds.

Now, a few thoughts on what types of structures or facilities are going to be needed. We are going to need human habitation, and as we start to build orbital facilities or put together missions to the Moon and Mars, we might find ourselves actually needing something like bunkhouses. Specialized research facilities? You bet, all types including platforms for astronomy, space exposure, and remote sensing. Slips for assembling those missions elsewhere, from LEO to the Moon or Mars? Yep.

The only limits to this thought experiment are your imagination and that at first everything will have to come up from Earth. So, keep in mind current launch capabilities and near-term capabilities. All the more reason for creating industry in orbit ASAP.

So, let’s look at getting this underway. If you want, reply in the comments. If you come up with something larger than a comment, we can look at guest posts. If you want to take just one part of something, go for it. The idea is to get lots of ideas and innovations so that we can refine, expand, tweak, and otherwise help plot the next generation of orbital facilities.

Previous Articles In This Series:

Space Memories And The Future

Re-Imagining Space Stations, Pt. 1

Re-Imagining Space Stations, Pt. 2


If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.