New and Improved
Last update: 5 November 2016
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.
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 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
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.
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.
Essays about a variety of highly reactive and/or explosive molecules.
Don't try this at home.
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.
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 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.
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
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,
Visual Basic (6 and .NET) implementations of the original floating
point benchmark, and includes a comparison of the relative performance
of these languages.
This is a collection of postings from
and documents on this site
which relate to the paleo/primal/ancestral diet and lifestyle.
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.
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.
- Book Reviews
- Nutritional Supplements