Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What’s up with North Korean rockets?



It seems that every few months there will be a news headline along the lines of “North Korean rocket test fails.” So why are the North Koreans so bad with rockets?

Are they technologically inept?  Rockets are complicated – it is rocket science after all – and even outside of North Korea for every hundred or so rockets we launch a few go boom.  But we’ve gotten a lot better.  Back in the fifties, we were blowing up rockets left and right.  You’d think that at some point the Soviets or Chinese would have given the North Koreans tips on how not to blow up their rockets.  Or is the North Korean technology on the level we had in the 1950’s, so are they just doing as well as we did back then?

Is it inept/deranged leadership?  As I pointed out, rockets are complicated.  You need to test their components, separately and combined, dozens even hundreds of times to make sure they all work.  And when parts unexpectedly fail, or when some unforeseen design problem raises its head, that causes delays.  But when someone comes to the head of the rocket team saying, “Next Thursday is the anniversary of our leader losing his virginity.  Launch a rocket by then, or face a firing squad,” they probably launch a rocket, even if not all the bugs are worked out of it.

Is it sabotage?  Now before you all jump to the CIA conspiracy, it would probably be South Korean Intelligence.  Probably with some help from the CIA.  Or it could be internal.  If the deranged leader keeps talking about how strong they are with their rockets, and the rockets keep blowing up, that would show weakness.  Possibly sowing the seeds for a coup. 

And a coup might be a smart idea.  If the new leader announced that the old was taken out by some foreign power, one, how would the North Korean people know otherwise, and two, the rest of the world would assume the CIA did it.  Hell, Trump would probably take credit for it in a tweet in the hope to shore up his poll numbers from a sector of his base even while the rest of the government was saying, “We had nothing to do with it.” And during the resulting brouhaha here in America, North Korea would attack South Korea.  With rockets that worked.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

“The Future is Coming” is free!



I am a big supporter of science.  Science is the foundation of our society and it will allow our species to go beyond anything we can imagine.  So I was happy when I heard about the March for Science which will take place this Saturday.  The marches in DC and in cities around the world are to put a spotlight on the importance of science in our lives. 

While I’m not going to any march (I’m not fond of crowds) I did want to do something.  So from now through Sunday my Kindle ebook “The Future is Coming” will be free to download.  “The Future is Coming” contains ten essays dealing with issues that are science fiction, but will quickly become just … science.  No matter how some try to ignore it, the future is coming and we need to start thinking about it.




Here’s an excerpt from the essay “Cloning Humans.”

Someday – almost certainly sooner than anyone suspects – a human will be cloned. There will be protests, boycotts, marches, condemnations, congressional hearings, etc., all for this one minor event. I say minor event, and here is why.

The short term issues

The biggest problem human clones will face comes from people watching too many bad science fiction movies. In those movies, 99.9% of what they show of cloning is utter crap. In reality, clones will not be mindless automatons who will blindly follow the orders of some megalomaniac out for galactic domination. Nor will you run the risk of walking into an alley where someone will jump you, and ten minutes later a clone will walk out of the alley to steal your identity. And clones will not “remember” the lives of their donors and do … whatever. A clone will just be another human. That’s it. If they can escape the mental scaring caused by “parents” or guardians bent on making them into exact duplicates of the people who donated some DNA, they will be no more screwed up than the rest of us.

Cloning will – especially at first – be extremely expensive. That combined with the fact that we already have over seven billion humans made the old fashion way begs the question, what need is there to create clones? Seriously, what will be the point? Yes, grieving families will want to replace loved ones, and companies will take their money to give them a clone who will have the same DNA as the person they lost. But the clone – because they will have lived a different life – will not be the same person. And yes, some historical figures will be cloned as well as the best and brightest of various fields, but when the Einstein clone takes up poetry instead of physics, what will be the point of continuing?

There will be clones, but they will make up a miniscule fraction of the population. But a ton of legal and ethical questions will surround them. Will the donor of the DNA have all the rights and responsibilities of a parent? What recompense will people have if they are cloned against their wishes? Will the donor be able to abort the clone, and if so, how far into the cloning process will they be able to do that? If the donor is Canadian but the cloning is done in the United States, will the clone be Canadian, American, or have dual citizenship? Will a clone be able to become President? It’s probably a safe bet that few – if any – of these questions will be answered by the time human clones walk among us.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Is it time for a new Constitution?



Before I really start, to counter anyone saying that I’m anti-American because I ask if we should change our Constitution, we’ve done it before.  Our Revolutionary War ended in 1783 securing our independence, and our current Constitution took effect in 1789.   Was this a lawless land in between?  No.  We had the Articles of Confederation.  They were the first draft of government and they were revised and replaced by a second draft.  All I’m asking is it time for a third?

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Several years ago as a bit of a project for a scifi story I was working on, I started updating the Constitution.  By updating I mean taking various amendments on who can vote and Presidential succession and just working them into the main body of the Constitution.  Other changes were completely scrapping the Electoral College and clarifying some things like in the First Amendment.  (Some people argue that a comma was added or dropped – I forget which right now – which gives a different reading, usually more favorable to whatever position they already have.)

It was a fun way to kill an afternoon, but in the last few years I’ve started thinking about it more and more.  Largely because in the last few years I’ve seen more and more people who love the Constitution but seem to hate the government based on that Constitution.  They’ll say that the current government has overstepped its bound and conducts un-Constitutional actions, even if the Supreme Court – which the Constitution says are the ones who determine what is and isn’t Constitutional – says otherwise.  

Is our current government perfect?  Fuck no.  Could it be better?  One would hope.  How sad would it be if this were the pinnacle of political achievement?  At what point are fixes no longer possible from within the system, and we need to start over?  Before anyone dismisses me as a raving fanatic, the Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence “…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government ….” Of course in the next sentence they also said, “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes ….”