Monday, August 31, 2015

Shute, Nevil. Trustee from the Toolroom. New York: Vintage Books, [1960] 2010. ISBN 978-0-345-02663-7. Keith Stewart is an unexceptional man. “[Y]ou may see a little man get in at West Ealing, dressed in a shabby raincoat over a blue suit. He is one of hundreds of thousands like him in industrial England, pale-faced, running to fat a little, rather hard up. His hands show evidence of manual work, his eyes and forehead evidence of intellect.” He earns his living by making mechanical models and writing articles about them which are published, with directions, in the London weekly Miniature Mechanic. His...

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Derbyshire, John. From the Dissident Right. Litchfield, CT: VDare.com, 2013. ISBN 978-1-304-00154-2. This is a collection of columns dating from 2001–2013, mostly from VDare.com, but also from Taki's Magazine (including the famous “The Talk: Nonblack Version”, which precipitated the author's departure from National Review). Subtitled “Essays on the National Question”, the articles mostly discuss the composition of the population and culture of the United States, and how mass immigration (both legal and illegal) from cultures very different from that of the largely homogeneous majority culture of the U.S. prior to the Immigration and Nationality Acy of 1965, from regions of...

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Stephenson, Neal. Seveneves. New York: William Morrow, 2015. ISBN 978-0-06-219037-6. Fiction writers are often advised to try to immediately grab the attention of readers and involve them in the story. “If you haven't hooked them by the end of the first chapter, you've probably lost 'em.” Here, the author doesn't dawdle. The first line is “The Moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.” All right, now that's an interesting premise! This massive novel (880 pages in the hardcover print edition) is divided into three parts. In the first, after the explosion of the Moon, scientist and media...

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

I had about half an hour last night between when the clouds cleared and then rolled back in to observe and photograph Perseids, and here's what I got. All of these photos were taken with a Nikon D600 DSLR camera with a vintage Nikon 24 mm f/2.8 manual focus lens. All pictures were taken with the lens set to its maximum aperture of f/2.8, ISO sensitivity of 1600, and an exposure time of 30 seconds. I used an electrical cable release to operate the shutter, which was set to mirror lock-up mode to avoid vibration. I doubt it would...

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Millar, Mark, Dave Johnson, and Kilian Plunkett. Superman: Red Son. New York: DC Comics, [2003] 2014. ISBN 978-1-4012-4711-9. On June 30th, 1908, a small asteroid or comet struck the Earth's atmosphere and exploded above the Tunguska river in Siberia. The impact is estimated to have released energy equivalent to 10 to 15 megatons of TNT; it is the largest impact event in recorded history. Had the impactor been so aligned as to hit the Earth three hours later, it would have exploded above the city of Saint Petersburg, completely destroying it. In a fictional universe, an alien spaceship crashes in...

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Easton, Richard D. and Eric F. Frazier. GPS Declassified. Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books, 2013. ISBN 978-1-61234-408-9. At the dawn of the space age, as the United States planned to launch its Vanguard satellites during the International Geophysical Year (1957–1958), the need to track the orbit of the satellites became apparent. Optical and radar tracking were considered (and eventually used for various applications), but for the first very small satellites would have been difficult. The Naval Research Laboratory proposed a system, Minitrack, which would use the radio beacon of the satellite, received by multiple ground stations on the Earth, which by...

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Thor, Brad. Code of Conduct. New York: Atria Books, 2015. ISBN 978-1-4767-1715-9. This is the fifteenth in the author's Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne (October 2010). In this novel, the author “goes big”, with a thriller whose global implications are soundly grounded in genuine documents of the anti-human “progressive” fringe and endorsed, at least implicitly, by programmes of the United Nations. A short video, recorded at a humanitarian medical clinic in the Congo, shows a massacre of patients and staff which seems to make no sense at all. The operator of the clinic retains the Carlton...

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Powell, James, George Maise, and Charles Pellegrino. StarTram. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2013. ISBN 978-1-4935-7757-6. Magnetic levitation allows suspending a vehicle above a guideway by the force of magnetic repulsion. A train using magnetic levitation avoids the vibration, noise, and rolling resistance of wheels on rails, and its speed is limited only by air resistance and the amount of acceleration passengers consider tolerable. The Shanghai Maglev Train, in service since 2004, is the fastest train in commercial passenger service today, and travels at 431 kilometres per hour in regular operation. Suppose you were able to somehow get rid of the air resistance...

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Take that, alarm clock!...

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Look toward the west a little after sunset today to see a spectacle in the sky: a close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. Brilliant Venus is at the bottom and bright, but less dazzling, Jupiter is above. This picture was taken with a 50 mm normal lens and approximates the visual appearance. Tonight the planets are separated by only 0.3°, less than the width of the full Moon. To illustrate this, the following is a composite of an image of the conjunction and tonight's near-full Moon, which was rising as the planets were setting. I photographed both at the same...

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Frank, Pat [Harry Hart Frank]. Alas, Babylon. New York: Harper Perennial, [1959] 2005. ISBN 978-0-06-074187-7. This novel, originally published in 1959, was one the first realistic fictional depictions of an all-out nuclear war and its aftermath. While there are some well-crafted thriller scenes about the origins and catastrophic events of a one day spasm war between the Soviet Union and the United States (the precise origins of which are not described in detail; the reader is led to conclude that it was an accident waiting to happen, much like the outbreak of World War I), the story is mostly set...

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Scalzi, John. Redshirts. New York: Tor, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7653-3479-4. Ensign Andrew Dahl thought himself extremely fortunate when, just out of the Academy, he was assigned to Universal Union flagship Intrepid in the xenobiology lab. Intrepid has a reputation for undertaking the most demanding missions of exploration, diplomacy, and, when necessary, enforcement of order among the multitude of planets in the Union, and it was the ideal place for an ambitious junior officer to begin his career. But almost immediately after reporting aboard, Dahl began to discover there was something distinctly off about life aboard the ship. Whenever one of the...

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. A Short History of Man. Auburn, AL: Mises Institute, 2015. ISBN 978-1-61016-591-4. The author is one of the most brilliant and original thinkers and eloquent contemporary expositors of libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism, and Austrian economics. Educated in Germany, Hoppe came to the United States to study with Murray Rothbard and in 1986 joined Rothbard on the faculty of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he taught until his retirement in 2008. Hoppe's 2001 book, Democracy: The God That Failed (June 2002), made the argument that democratic election of temporary politicians in the modern all-encompassing state will inevitably result in profligate...

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ford, Kenneth W. Building the H Bomb. Singapore: World Scientific, 2015. ISBN 978-981-461-879-3. In the fall of 1948, the author entered the graduate program in physics at Princeton University, hoping to obtain a Ph.D. and pursue a career in academia. In his first year, he took a course in classical mechanics taught by John Archibald Wheeler and realised that, despite the dry material of the course, he was in the presence of an extraordinary teacher and thinker, and decided he wanted Wheeler as his thesis advisor. In April of 1950, after Wheeler returned from an extended visit to Europe, the...

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thor, Brad. Act of War. New York: Pocket Books, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4767-1713-5. This is the fourteenth in the author's Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne (October 2010). In this novel the author returns to the techno-thriller genre and places his characters, this time backed by a newly-elected U.S. president who is actually interested in defending the country, in the position of figuring out a complicated yet potentially devastating attack mounted by a nation state adversary following the doctrine of unrestricted warfare, and covering its actions by operating through non-state parties apparently unrelated to the aggressor. The trail...

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