New and Improved

Last update: 5 November 2016

Update Log (covers finer-grained changes)

Project Pluto

In the late 1950s and early '60s Project Pluto aimed at developing a nuclear powered cruise missile which could fly three times the speed of sound at low altitude with unlimited range and deliver nuclear devastation to multiple targets with pinpoint accuracy. It was one of the most bizarre concepts of the age of unlimited nuclear optimism, and got as far as ground testing a full scale flight weight propulsion system.

GAU-8 Avenger

If there is a pyramid of badassery when it comes to guns, the GAU-8 Avenger, carried by the A-10 Thunderbolt II (“Warthog”) close air support aircraft, is near the pinnacle. Explore the details of this bad boy.

Rocket Science

Rocket engineering is complicated and demanding, but rocket science is pretty straightforward. Explore the rocket equation, which governs the operation of all rockets, and understand why it's so difficult to get to orbit from the surface of the Earth and why multistage rockets make sense.

The Army's Flying Saucer

In the late 1950s, the U.S. Army investigated a flying saucer as an airborne replacement for the ubiquitous Jeep. This is the story of the Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar, one of the most curious projects of the “anything goes” era of aviation.

Slide Rule

Before computers and calculators, there were slide rules. It is difficult for people today to appreciate just how magic it was to be able to carry a small tool, made of bamboo and plastic, that could perform many of the computations of engineering and science which used to be so tedious in mere seconds, as long as you were happy with its limited precision. This document explores this vintage computing tool, using it to solve a variety of problems ranging from loading a turnip truck to interstellar flight.

Frisky Molecules

Essays about a variety of highly reactive and/or explosive molecules. Don't try this at home.

Clash of Ideologies: Communism, Islam, and the West

Western politicians say, “We're not at war with Islam.” But Islam is more than a just a religion. Its scriptures specify a political system, civil and criminal law, economics and trade, laws of war, and other matters which other major religions leave to civil authority, and some of these policy prescriptions conflict with Western values. This essay explores whether the West should treat these aspects of Islam as an ideology, like communism, fundamentally incompatible with its values, and how best to confront it.

Islam and Political Freedom

Is Islam compatible with political freedom? This document combines data from the Pew Research Center and Freedom House to investigate how empirical evidence addresses this question.

Kerbal Space Program Screenshot Gallery

Kerbal Space Program is a computer game in which the player builds spacecraft, aircraft, and spaceplanes and sends them on various missions. Not only is the game a great deal of fun, playing it helps develop an intuitive sense for rocket design and engineering and orbital mechanics, even among people who already understand these topics at the mathematical level. The graphics in the game are superb. This document is a collection of screen captures from missions I've flown.

Uranium Enrichment

To understand the news about negotiations with aspiring nuclear powers, it's important to grasp the technical fundamentals of both paths to nuclear weapons. This document describes the science and engineering behind enriching natural uranium for use in civil nuclear power reactors or weapons. A companion document discusses plutonium production.

Plutonium Production

To understand the news about negotiations with aspiring nuclear powers, it's important to comprehend the technical fundamentals of both paths to nuclear weapons. Here are the physics, chemistry, and engineering behind the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons applications, described for non-specialists. A companion document discusses uranium enrichment.

Legitimacy

In an op-ed (never published) from July 1988 I ask whether the government of the United States is losing its legitimacy: whether citizens continue to believe it has the “consent of the governed”.

Relativistic Nutrition

The books gotta balance! The mass of the inputs and outputs of the human body, averaged over time, are equal. So where does the energy the body consumes come from?

ANTarctica—Fourmilab South Pole Expedition 2013

We decided to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary by going South for the winter in January 2013. This being Fourmilab, no half measures would suffice short of going all the way—to the South Pole. We'd already been to the North Pole so, hey, we could become officially bipolar! This photo essay chronicles the expedition.

Reversing Myopia

Having been nearsighted and requiring strong optical correction all my life, I became accustomed ever since childhood to each eye exam calling for ever stronger glasses. I'd heard that the rate of change could be expected to decrease with age, but never that the trend could be reversed. Then, in 2000, I got separate reading and driving glasses, and found myself wearing the reading glasses almost all the time. Eight years later, it was obvious to me that the correction of both were too strong, and when I had my next eye exam in 2010, it showed the correction for both eyes was a full dioptre less. This document recounts my anecdotal experience and what it may mean for other nearsighted people.

Floating Point Benchmarks

There are many disadvantages to being a balding geezer. In compensation, if you've managed to survive the second half of the twentieth century and been involved in computing, there's bearing personal witness to what happens when a technological transition goes into full-tilt exponential blow-off mode. I'm talking about Moore's Law—computing power available at constant cost doubling every 18 months or so. When Moore's Law is directly wired to your career and bank account, it's nice to have a little thermometer you can use to see how it's going as the years roll by. This page links to two benchmarks I've used to evaluate computer performance ever since 1980. They focus on things which matter dearly to me—floating point computation speed, evaluation of trigonometric functions, and matrix algebra. If you're interested in text searching or database retrieval speed, you should run screaming from these benchmarks. Hey, they work for me.

New September 2012 update adds Haskell to the C, FORTRAN, QBasic, Ada, Common Lisp, Java, JavaScript, Pascal, Perl, Python, Ruby, Smalltalk, and Visual Basic (6 and .NET) implementations of the original floating point benchmark, and includes a comparison of the relative performance of these languages.

Paleo Postings

This is a collection of postings from Fourmilog and documents on this site which relate to the paleo/primal/ancestral diet and lifestyle.

Enemies

Most libertarians and conservatives have great respect for the rule of law and civil discourse. They're inclined to assume their opponents are well-intentioned adversaries with a different vision of how to better the general welfare. This is an error: they are not “liberals” or “progressives”, but rather enemies of liberty and progress. This document explores why champions of liberty must defeat them and how that might be accomplished.

FourmiPharm: Dietary Supplements to Combat Aging

Humans are omnivores and can eat a wide variety of food. However, modern diets which include refined and processed foods and too few fresh fruits and vegetables may result in shortages of “micro-nutrients” which can increase the probability of contracting a variety of diseases, reduce longevity, and impair mental and physical performance. This document presents the dietary supplements I have selected to avoid such problems. Every individual is different, and no single supplement plan is appropriate for everybody, so think of this list as a starting point for your own research into the topic.