Thursday, February 25, 2016

IEEE Conference on Big Data From Health to Brains to Stars

IEEE Conference on Big Data From Health to Brains to Stars

IEEE is the world’s largest professional society in engineering, with more than 400,000 members all over the world. Most of its societies, like the Computational Intelligence Society (CIS), have a significant surplus of cash from their conferences, journals, and magazines. Last year, to “give back” some of this money to the community, CIS held a competition to fund ideas for summer schools or conferences. That is how they funded a “summer school” (a large workshop) last week on Big Data in Computational Intelligence: From  Basic Principles to Large-Scale Applications. The conference was mainly made up of seven 1.5-hour talks spaced over two days, illustrating the key role that big data and computational intelligence tools can play on areas from health care and environment to brains and stars. I gave the first of these, bringing together the big picture both on risks and opportunities and on the underlying mathematics. The organizer, Nian Zhang of the University of the District of Columbia, plans to post the talks on the web, and had important assistance from others in the community. The talks and speakers, coming from great distances, are described at:

Here I will not post my own slides (even though they were quite colorful and took a lot of work).

In fact – I apologize to you. UNLIKE most of my blog posts, this is NOT written to be understandable to anyone except me. These are just my notes to myself after the conference, and preparing for a seminar I will give in Memphis. I usually do not post my personal journal entries, but ... just once, it should do no harm, I hope.


The UDC conference last weekend and the coming Memphis challenge have both been very stimulating to my thoughts – enough to remind me what I have been missing since retirement, and to remind me it would have been better if I had always taken the time to write down the insights I get before I forget them. Robert Kozma’s talk at UDC was “from brain to stars,” and indeed the new thoughts out of my usual daily routine mainly come in those two areas.

But: a lot of it builds on previous hard thinking here at home (easier than at NSF as schedules and culture get more and more hectic), and on the challenge ahead. Bit by bit, I feel called to broaden my attitude on about three things (as noted on page 87 of X2015, which I wrote in “like the old days” yesterday, sitting in a comfortable wooden chair with cushions tilted back, in this study, with new age music – Mannheim Steamroller and Kitaro – playing in the background, through this computer): on brains/minds, to get past “point prototypes” and the early syncretism model, to a full-fledged appreciation of Jungian things from math to noosphere; from Z to richer structure of time tracks (evaluating data of course); and – more today in particular, related to seminar to be given at Memphis – richer understanding of emergent behavior of nonlinear dynamical systems.

To some extent, my core job at Memphis is just to present what I have already done. The challenge is to make it comprehensible. Yesterday and in bed this morning, I tried to do more, to deepen the understanding... but because of limited time, I need to just record the basics of the new stuff and the new questions (incomplete as it is) this morning, and then freeze it, and move on to preparing talk (and reading Yury’s thesis).

Luda this morning reminded me that I need to be very careful with HOW I define my terms for Memphis. For example, I can take time with definitions, so long as I use the right language. Functions, distributions and measures are OK, but I need to be careful not to use the word “field” in a way which conjures up terror. But there is the advantage that I can say “look at this small special case” and not worry about people noticing I have included the whole universe and a highly multidimensional continuum of its relatives.  Are PDE dynamical systems? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Dynamical systems are allowed objects, and I guess even definable. In fact, I do need to review a lot of ODE (and/or Prigogine space) objects to put it into context anyway, from Mehta to Boltzmann like.

But in the green notebook yesterday... there were ideas I also need to get down on computer, for two reasons: (1) to consolidate the logic a bit; and (2) to make it readable by me, with the major issue of eyestrain now permanent after cataract surgery. (A big ugly red hemmorage removed any doubt that I must be careful now as long as I live!)

My initial goal (when I sent abstract for seminar to Robert) was to explain the new generalized Boltzmann distribution (in a couple of forms) given in my “extended Glauber-Sudarshan” paper in arxiv. presented in 2014 in Scully’s workshop.
In practice, the consequences are almost the same as those reported in my much older cond-mat paper: for continuous states S(t) a probability Pr(S(t)) which is just f(E, C1, ... Cm)dS(t), where f is some function of energy and of the m conserved quantities of the theory. (m=0 is an allowed possibility, but the approach breaks down when there is no conserved energy.) This differs from the old idea that “the universe must go to a disorderly heat bath” (which Harold Szu reiterated at UDC, referring to a debate between Boltzmann and Poincare) because in the PDE case the derivative terms in the energy function do insert some connection/correlation between neighboring points, at infinitesimal separation. Still, that seems to suggest, on the surface, that the emerging order (pdf not well-approximated by the independence assumption across points in space) is mainly at a small scale.

Yet... I feel called to try to stretch further and be more open. So when I read Modesitt’s new novel, The Solar Express, I did take notice of his discussion of systems where there may be more pattern/regularity/order at LARGER distances than at smaller ones. (And of course for years and years I have remembered a paper by Wheeler, where he talks about neutrino temperature and tweaks things to account for the glaring fact that there are these objects called planets and stars, rather fundamental to what we see.) How does that work? Can that kind of patterning be understood/explained within the confines of first-order Hamiltonian systems, using the energy term f and not the invariant measure dS as a source of rich emergent behavior? Precisely how do open systems change things – remembering that there is such a thing as classical chaos in conservative systems (was that chaotic three-arm broom balancer due to Poincare?...)... and that the universe as a whole is presumed to be a closed system? (e.g. If chaos can occur in Hamiltonian systems, why not fractal patterns?)

First observation: I have ALREADY looked into emergent order, without naming it as such! The Boltzmann distribution is a function of conserved charges Ck, as well as E. It is precisely one of those conserved charges, the topological charge(s), which leads to that very important example of patterning or order, the topological soliton – i.e. the true elementary particles, the very foundation of everything we see on earth! Even more interesting... albeit just at vixra and my follow-on internal journal entry... “local minima” in the classical energy function also lie behind the various metastable states of atoms, as was worked out in some detail there! So YES, the Boltzmann term can do it, can generate “macroscopic” order on distance scales as huge as the Angstrom unit, so many orders of magnitude larger than the femtosecond scale we start with for the elementary particles. Two quantum jumps to greater distance already, just based on f(E,C1,...Cm)! Beyond that, what comes next are solid objects, things I know well from quantum electronics and photonics, and they certainly have interesting Boltzmann-based patterning varieties. I remembered Roger Lake... how the same topological soliton kind of pattern distribution can be elevated to the ordinary laboratory level... and the quantum separator (QS) at that scale. (Not to mention some of Von Neumann’s ideas about life.) So already with closed PDE systems (DO I SAY “CLOSED” OR “CONSERVATIVE” AT MEMPHIS???)... the energy term DOES allow all kinds of neat stuff. This week, I seem to be supporting Poincare as much as Von Neumann... maybe I need to look him up more... later...  (though for Memphis, it might help to show links...)

Now of course, the patterning we see with life on the surface of the earth (and the neuron example in the Solar Express,,, which I probably should WRITE DOWN when next I visit Central Library)... is due more to the injection of forwards time free energy, light from the sun. But what specific kinds of boundary conditions count as “forwards time free energy”? It is embarrassing how elusive it is to try to pin that down. In a way, we may not really NEED to formalize the GENERAL idea; we need Pr- and Pr+ boundary conditions at final and initial times, and that’s enough; more may not even be inherently well-defined, as it is ultimately just a rough way to characterize emergent statistics and specific local experiments/systems. But if we can see something more clear and more universal, it could be nice...

As I think more about that... I am intrigued by the possibility of getting more concrete (more specific, useful) results form a couple of special cases of “open” systems, which I think of as the “uniform light” and “cosmic ecology” examples/cases/paradigms. In the “light” example, we still have PDE, which can be represented by spatially uniform additional terms violating time-symmetry and/or energy conservation. (Now that I think of it... we have not proven that uniformity in 3D space would work... a vast ocean of light model ... in generating life as well as our local light does, entering in 2D. So many issues to explore!) Can we get nice equations for that? The cosmic ecology would start more concretely... considering things like rates of stuff ejected from black holes, gross recycling of stuff keeping the universe alive, described as close to ODE as possible... trying to keep it as simple as possible but real. (That reminds me of very important new supernova results from Kozma/Chile, which we will pursue after Memphis and after a brain exercise if all goes well.)

Thinking about the “light” example... it is striking how my previous results (in “Extended..”) really did rely on energy conservation. Yet shouldn’t the concept of equilibrium probability be expressable in a USEFUL closed-form way for density operators in the general case? In my mind... I think of how the basic Hamiltonian dynamics translate into dynamics for rho, with an obvious equilibrium condition. But isn’t that condition in the GENERAL case (e.g. including light systems) about as useless as Wiener’s nonlinear statistics, and in fact quite similar? It reminds me of the inherent problems in reification, and the inherent stuff in Arnold and in chaos.

So: for later. Something probably is there... some ordering... but not this week.

============================ brainy stuff:

Perhaps I should also type some of my thoughts about brain/mind/NN which came during UDC. Much fuzzier, and not part of an active goal beyond my own mind... but... whatever.

I was disappointed, of course, that Polikar – who seemed on course to solidify and upgrade syncretism, to address the crucial issue of real-time learning in brains – has drifted away into drifting away. A lot of the questions his new community are asking about nonstationarity are no more puzzling than causality, and perhaps I should have written some of it down earlier. (I have always had too much stuff to be able to publish so much as half of it.) Yet he has some stimulating questions, if the right questions are pulled out and played with.

For example: he asked (with some reification here): “What if we have two sets of variables, Y(t) and X(t), called labels and data? What if we have some initial data on Y(t) and X(t), and then a WHOLE LOT more data on X(t) later, especially in a world where relationships may change?” I urged consideration of two examples, an “auto” example and a linear example. In the auto example... Ford might have millions of data points on Y(t) and X(t) from thousands of engines or batteries, fully instrumented in the lab, followed by later getting billions of data points just from X(t) from cars on the road. (Hypothetical, assume wireless “phone home.”) The obvious approach is to learn just from the laboratory data, but also learn soft sensing to predict Y(t) from history of X(t) for use on the road. (Feldkamp and Prokhorov have an important soft sensing paper in Narendra, which I even repost on my own Later X(t) doesn’t do much! HOWEVER: in principle, one could use X(t) (predicting X(t+1) from X(<=t)) to find proper “hidden nodes,” preferred encoding, which one could then go back and use to REMODEL the laboratory data. ALSO: observing the range of variation of the later data, IF it is larger in some dimensions than the laboratory data, one can use it to put special weight on trying to get accurate measurement of weights which will explain more of the variance in later observations, a possibility for value weighting. (Still, a concept much trickier than Vapnik understands.) The linear example reminds us... if covariance of X to X changes, why not X to Y.... which rather grossly invalidates that kind of exercise.


I worked hard, in preparing my own talk (recorded by UDC, to be posted), to try to avoid being as depressing as I have been lately at home. Probably death of the entire species really is depressing, more so than my cancer, which still bugs me as well. I did not mention climate change hardly at all. But Diego, the final speaker on the first day, got into great detail on the kinds of stratospheric ozone effects which, after H2S upwelling from oceans, seem likely to get worse enough and be the first thing directly fatal to human life from climate as such. He also did a lot of mixture of experts modeling, though he did not remind us of what is or is not known about that general power of such things. Is there any such? I remain skeptical, and skeptical of its relevance to brains. Yet I must admit... that Jungian archetypes are beyond the point prototypes of classical syncretism, and that mixture of models thinking might be adaptable to that general case in a reasonable way, for noospheres if not for mammal brains. Worth thinking about, along with dynamics and drift of prototypes in general.

The final talk by Kozma included example of a solar surface model by Catalina Terra. (Met her to be sure!) Amusing what degree of parallel with Modesitt’s story... different desert, but still...

Wunsch objected to use of PSO to optimize, a comment I certainly found friendly. For general power, we need to get past methods like PSO which do not offer a good ratio of parameters-handled to number of examples explored... yes, use derivative and hence the chain rule for ordered derivatives... but when a dozen or two free parameters can do the job, priority in becoming more scientific involves two different upgrades, as I said to people: (1) technical aspects, related to what they are modeling now; and (2) new questions, the most important.

Re (1) :”Did you train and test?” It is remarkable that one PDE type model (even if with nonlocal field effects) could start form the beginning and track the long history of light emission from any star without new data coming in. (Or did it? Train and test needed.) I have seen cases in chemical engineering (my papers with McAvoy) where such was possible, but others in economics (my 1977/8 SMC paper predicting conflict in Latin America) where it was not, because of something... a general form... of “phase drift,” shown in my slides for UDC. UNLIKE the “nonstationarity” community... we have a compromise method which can address this kind of thing...  one more thing which needs to be translated even now... and a fundamental thing at that! (Some of the other things Polikar talked about can be modelled simply as hidden variables in time-series model, no fundamental significance at all, except insofar as some parameter values need to be thought about...
part of the universal vector intelligence game). Even now, I guess I need to be even more brutally explicit to the world in explaining/defining the basic mathematical concept of vector intelligence.


From UDC, other loose ends... tell Lily about MomLink, Maia about Harold’s earthquake model (communicated and translated better) and Wunsch’s effort to use ADP on iterated prisoner’s dilemma (and his hypothesis about decomposing some types of games into “easy” and “PD-like”.) And Chawla’s health systems... maybe even related to my health! Luis for political cooperation? Whatever... if time allows.. I did look up Gulen, and need to explore loose ends in that area.

Anti-aging also came up, at UDC and in Solar Express, at many levels, from structures to people to ,... well, I always think about noospheres too. It too relates to the Boltzmann world, but has to be managed carefully in the weird environment we are in today.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Who is Donald Trump Really, and Who Would He Turn Out to be If Elected?

Who is Donald Trump Really, and Who Would He Turn Out to be If Elected?

All of us who vote in the US have a very serious, high spiritual duty to think hard and meditate seriously and honestly on that question this year – just as we have the same duty for Hillary Clinton, John Kasich and Bernie Sanders. (I have said enough on the others for now.)

Yesterday, as I scanned CNN briefly while doing other things late in the afternoon, an image flashed into my mind, helping me see deeper into this question. Briefly: there are fascinating parallels between Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich (whom I know much better).  In particular, Trump’s deep love for his current wife suggests strongly that he, like Ronald Reagan and Gingrich, really has made a deep shift in his views of women’s rights and the Supreme Court, just as he says he has.


That really was a brief thought, and probably a lot easier to understand than most of my brief thoughts. But it leads to a lot of related things.

For one thing – why does it always seem to take forever to explain some of the things I see briefly? There are a couple of reasons. Sometimes, when the thoughts come at a level of higher intelligence (typically around 3AM for me), they are intrinsically complicated and draw on a web of knowledge and memory beyond what I really draw on later in the day, especially in late afternoon and evening, when there are times I can hardly even do a difficult sudoku type puzzle let alone something more meaningful. But even in the afternoon – my brain has learned categories, “hidden neurons,” representations, concepts which are not shared by everyone and are called by different names even when shared. Also, associations with unique memories play a key role. At the Quaker discussion meeting eight days ago, someone commented how the term “suffering servant” is universally understood by Amish, in a way which lets them communicate very quickly some ideas which would take a lot longer outside the community. (I noticed how huge the gulf is between their concept of Jesus, as a suffering servant, and Constantine’s view, visible in a plaque as one enters Hagia Sophia, depicting Jesus and Constantine as co-creators and gods of the universe. Luda asks: “Why do you always bad mouth Constantine, like Dan Brown?” Yes, I am simplifying, but... save that history for another time. )

For another thing: what do I know about Newt Gingrich, and how, and how does this analogy work?

I have met Newt Gingrich in person only three times, and Newt himself... MIGHT vaguely remember just one of the three times, maybe.

The one he might remember vaguely was in 2009. Do you remember the concept of an “elevator speech?” Someone, somewhere, told people: “You need to have an elevator speech ready. You need to be ready to express your most important ideas really quickly in 30 seconds, in case you just happen to find yourself in an elevator with someone who could make them real...” So at one point, in 2009, I found myself alone in an elevator with Newt Gingrich, on my way from the top of the Hart building to the little coffee place on the corridor which connects Hart and Dirksen. I said something about how a lot of people remembered how he stood up for space, and how important that was, and we are interested to hear what he thinks now. Throughout the 2012 primaries, Gingrich really did stand u p for space, and one of his key constituents actually stayed in my house a couple of days to attend a space meeting we both went to. But at the same time, Gingrich stood up very firmly in support of changing the Supreme Court, so as to vitiate women’s rights at many levels. With regret, I concluded in the end that I had to channel my energies elsewhere, because womens’ rights really are a life or death matter for the very survival of the human species.  I did not want to support being “nice” and “respectful” to a group of people who would then suffer brutally themselves from the consequences of doing so! And I was not alone on that.

Newt would almost certainly not remember the time, during the start of the 2012 primary season, when my back was about two inches from the back of his wife, when he and his wife were seated in the next table to me, Luda and a visitor of ours, in a Japanese restaurant.  He was not loud, but he was rather easy to hear, especially for someone located where I was located. I noticed that he ordered shabu-shabu – the only dish I ever had in that restaurant which was merely mediocre. (Others... include the best regular sashimi I have had anywhere on earth, including Japan, though I guess it’s pretty arbritary to compare it with the special gifu I once had in Nagoya...) He elaborated in great detail on his views of Mitt Romney and on how the campaign might go. But in truth, I followed that primary more religiously than I am following these, and I learned a whole lot more from other sources. I noticed how many people were cynical about how deep his feelings might be towards his wife and human relationships... since his wife then was not his first wife... but Luda is also my second wife, and my own experience tells me a lot about how truly overwhelming and intense a marriage can be for some kinds of people (like me, Trump and Gingrich). Gingrich is relatively independent in his thinking, and far more truculent than most in asserting different views when he has them... but it is crystal clear that meeting his wife was truly overpowering, and that men and women both change a lot as they move into new territory. Conversion to Catholicism was part of that marriage.

For me... well Luda and I are both even more strong-minded in some ways... and neither of us are storm troopers for any religious organization. (Quakers do not recruit storm troopers.) Probably I should not say more right now.

But Trump with Melania... he spoke very briefly in that two minute period, but a lot of what he said was very, very familiar to me. Melania like Luda is a very striking and energetic person, and yet not so willing to speak SO much on TV. In fact, she is... like Luda in some ways, but with features of some other women I have known, more from the Germanic side of the world. From Slovakia, is she a Catholic, like Newt’s wife and almost all of my family? Maybe. I don’t know, but it is a reasonable guess.  She wants to defend HER PEOPLE... and it is ironic for me that she defines her people as something more like my family than like Luda’s, and even more like them than Trump’s (though Trump is also of German roots). On its way from the Trier part of Germany to New York, my family did spend almost a century in the Austria-Hungary empire, and it is easy to recognize familiar things... Many parts of the Slavic community actually do share many traits with the German community (reminding me of my great-grandmother whom I knew well as I grew up)... and in that area, both had to cope with issues of relations with the Islamic world.

It is sad that litmus tests are now so insane in the Republican party ... that they freeze our choices so much, in such a bad way!! So Trump’s sincerity here bodes well for his nomination, but will present a very, very serious challenge for the general election.

But... Luda is now active upstairs, and I will go join her... 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Dream From South Carolina

A Dream From South Carolina

Just an amusing story from the day watch, too funny to ignore...

Floating around, I met a regular guy from Ohio, named John, who said:

“Hi, Paul! Am I glad to see you. Come to think of it, am I glad just to be HERE. I joke woke up from the weirdest dream.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Well... I was the only human being there, except for the bartender, in this big dark bar in South Carolina. In the front of the bar, there was a big nasty fight going on, between a totally enraged uncontrolled big wookie, right out of Star Wars, and tall thin snake, who was black, whose tongue was slithering out at everyone, but still standing somehow on two legs. They were making a huge mess, and it was getting very scary.

“Besides me, there were only two dogs and a large sized baby doll. The baby doll was real just like those little dolls from the 60’s – you pull the string and it always says “Mama! Mama!” the exact same way, and it cries real tears. One of the dogs was a very nice friendly lost puppy, a kind of dark hound dog, who sat in a friendly way next to me in the back, and we both looked together towards that mess in front with sadness and amazement. The other dog was a yippy chihuahua who kept trying to join the fight, and bite the snake and the wookie. It kept yapping the same yap over and over again, to where I began to wonder if he was actually a robot too, like the baby doll.

“But then... the bartender... her name was Nikki... decided she could use a little pet chihuahua, and she decided this one looked cute enough. So she approached him quietly from behind, and started petting his fur and then rubbing behind his ears. He clearly liked that, and was happy with the idea of becoming her dog. He didn’t exactly purr... but became more regular. But for a chihuahua, being more regular meant the same old yap and attempt to bite, more regular but utterly unchanged.

“Well, that was enough, so I looked around the room to see if there was anything I missed. And there, sure enough, in the dark far right corner, I saw... Darth Vader. Yes, the real Darth Vader, complete with wheezing mask, implacable dark force and all. I could feel the waves of focused powerful hatred he felt for that bartender, as she had the effrontery to try to take HIS DOG. But, being Darth Vader, and a bit like a snake himself, he poised himself to act but held himself back just for now. He didn’t want to act until his dog won the fight... and she was actually helping him win... but the instant it was over he was poised to jump in, show her that her effrontery would not be tolerated, and smash all those silly little sunflowers she kept around the place. He would teach her to respect the dark side.

“But... he couldn’t help looking at the snake... wishing he owned it, as it was his kind of creature... but he realized wistfully that he couldn’t, and that if the snake won, EVERYONE in the neighborhood would be dead of a poison bite, the people in the room including him first. Such a snake... a creature of the God Siva, but even Siva renounced this creature. Who WOULDN’T renounce this creature?...

“But then it came to him.. hat maybe someone up there on the other side might plan to throw out half the Republicans from the House and Senate... and if so... this creature might be his unwitting instrument... just as Satan is often said to be an unwitting instrument of God, in those old stories... still condemned and destroyed in the end, but used... not quite the kind of instrument of God the poor gullible people imagine he might be...”

“Well, Paul, I sure was glad to wake up from that dream, and escape from all the alcohol fumes in that room. Does this place have any coffee? I sure could use some right now, straight or with cream and sugar, either way... just so long as it’s not Irish coffee.. no alcohol, not for a long time...”

It reminds me of the old saying by Chuang Tzu (sometimes attributed to Li Po): “Am I Li Po just waking up from a dream of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming now that he is Li Po?”


Just for the record, in case you wondered, this was NOT a conversation either here in Virginia or on the "astral plane."  The noosphere has many aspects... 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cosmopolitan Quaker discussion of emptiness in the Heart Sutra

Cosmopolitan Quaker discussion of emptiness in the Heart Sutra

After many weeks of snow, and medical and political distraction... back to the Sunday morning discussion with Quakers.

The reading for the day was from the Heart Sutra. The reading was very strong in saying that emptiness transcends consciousness, perception, form, and so on. But it wasn’t so clear on what “emptiness” IS.

After one key paragraph... I tried hard to parse the meaning, to translate the words on the page to something with an objective meaning. (i.e. “What the hell is this guy actually trying to say? Does it mean ANYTHING, really, or is it just empty gobbledegook like a lot of what I hear in the presidential debates?”) We have often discussed passages which have different meanings, depending on how you understand a word which was translated from some other language. But this time, it was a struggle to find ANY possible meaning at all.

After that paragraph, I broke in and said: “Hey! Maybe I can see a way to make this make sense! Please forgive... it’s not EXACTLY a joke.. but maybe ‘emptiness’ here means Minkowski space. It’s something which actually exists (we think) and is important and meaningful, PRIOR TO all the specific field strengths and patterns and states which can exist IN Minkowski space.” One or two people were horrified that I might interpret such an elevated philosophical feeling with something as mundane as Minkowski space... but I was amused a few paragraphs later when the sutra went on to describe the usual stuff (consciousness, perceptions, etc.) as like “waves” and ‘emptiness’ as like the water which the waves travel on!! Hey, that really does sound a WHOLE lot like Minkowksi space! OK so the sutra says we need to think explicitly about Minkowski space itself to make sense of our experience... and yes, there really is that great void, not unlike what we see looking up at stars on some nights.

But before we got to the waves, a different KIND of emptiness came into it. (If one really understands is not SO surprising when humans shift definitions in midstream. It happens all the time. It often happens that the multiple concepts are all worthwhile, but do need to be distinguished to get a really clear understanding.)
The sutra urges us to be “empty” of all preconceptions, to attempt a kind of zero-based budgeting of our thoughts, starting from scratch in a way...

So I said: “THIS emptiness is not the blank slate of objective reality, of space-time, but the blank slate of the mind. (Like restarting from zero weights, a bit.) That is certainly important. ..

“I am reminded how many mystics will spend hours or days meditating on a physical object, like an apple or a fire in the fireplace or on a candle. For myself, I find more and more that there are WORDS which merit that kind of intense, focused meditation. In a way, the most important single message in this sutra is that OPEN-MINDEDNESS, openness, is one of the important words deserving that kind of attention. That is the kind of ‘emptiness’ which really matters here.”

I thought, but did not voice, my memory of Nietzsche’s “withdrawal and return,” of the final “return” scene in Voyage to Arcturus, and of a Rosicrucian meditation where an openness exercise is alternated with a radiant exercise. (And, oh yes, Elizabeth ... Noble.. childbirth exercises...alternating squeezing and relaxing.) The open phase is essential, but is not the whole story, and is not the ultimate goal.

This reminded me... that my concept of first-level sanity or “integrity” or “zhengqi”... can be seen as a kind of unification or “marriage” of the objective and subjective viewpoints,  not CHOOSING between emptiness as Minkowski space (which may be our objective ground of existence, or alternatively whatever space eventually supplants it in physics) and emptiness as our subjective open mind, but fully integrating the objective and subjective points of views, as described in a couple of my published papers. In a way it is SIMILAR to the Alchemical Marriage (level two), but here there is no difference in VALUES between the two (as deep values exist only on the subjective side!),
only in expectations or predictions or cognitive aspects of life. “The mundane objective/subjective marriage of cognition”? But between body/brain and soul, the true Alchemical Marriage is more like a real marriage, a combining of values, a coalition of self and Self.

One person, more established in Quakers than anyone else in the room (including the moderator), asked: “Can I even say I am a Quaker really? I cannot claim to agree with the other things people say Quakers believe? I guess I am like Emerson, who said ‘I am ALMOST a Quaker.’”

But the rest of us noted that Quaker in the modern version (i.e. the new most common mainstream definition of the words among mainstream FGC Quakers) does not refer to specific BELIEFS. In fact, it is more a commitment to being open-minded, just like in the sutra. REALLY open, to all levels of existence. (If it were all mundane, why even come to Meeting? Not that anyone is excluded, if they don’t actively disrupt the group.) One person noted... hey, in reality, we need SPECIFIC beliefs, just to survive, and Quakers do not meet that need. But I note: that is like another part of the sutra, discussing the need and the inescapable reality of the IMPERMANENT – which reminds me of the states S(t) of actual universes or field theories defined OVER  Minkowski space. (OK, so knowing the true Hamiltonian of the universe would be part of the great ‘emptiness’ too ?! Not impermanent...).   The key point is that the greater objective reality, containing both mundane and esoteric variables, is highly specific (as in some belief systems, at least the ones which are not fuzzy and incoherent and logically inconsistent)... but NOT KNOWN to anyone on earth. Yes, our knowledge is fuzzy (to the extent that it has any connection to objective greater reality), but that does not mean that reality itself is fuzzy. Quakers do not CLAIM to know the detailed specifics of objective reality.

I am also reminded of what the US Constitution was intended to be (before various myopic bad guys started twisting it)... a framework, just like Quakers or world-class universities, in which a wide variety of competing ideas could flourish as PART of the larger system, governed by a kind of honorable competition. We ALSO need specific ideas and specific schools of thought, in a flux of growth and change and impermanence... schools like Rosicrucian Order and various orders of Sufis and yogas for example... but no rigidity about the details, and no monopoly nonsense stifling growth or the economy or the freedom/liberation of the mind and of the spirit. Just yesterday... having read Dark Money (which COMPLEMENTS the last chapter of “A G-Man’s Journal,” written by a conservative with vibes like Kasich’s).. I do worry a lot about the hack job lobotomy some folks are doing  on the US lately.... the horrible “Magog” phenomenon just as bad as the “Gog” of the extreme sharia core of the international Moslem Brotherhood behind both ISIL and Cheney (and the patsies and blobs who empower them to make trouble). Will the human species survive? It is too early to rule out the possibility of a Judgment Day scenario... but every spiritless loveless rigid fundamentalist of all religious factions... should realize that this would not be what they want... that they should fear what might be coming for THEM as much as the most atheistic axe-murderer should. I do hope it doesn’t come to that, but the folks I see on TV lately., do pose that possibility. Especially if they should exercise their free will by choosing Cruz! (Unless Cruz truly changes... but how real is that? One may hope but...)


Of course, I can easily imagine some Zennies I have known going into orbit after seeing the above.
Buddhist clergy is a diverse lot, like Christian and Moslem clergy, etc.; whatever the founders taught, in all these religions, there are always some insensitive folks who use religious dogmatism as a way to pamper their ego. I still remember visiting Nara, in Japan, where people talk to this day about the nasty physical wars between monks with one color of hat versus monks with another color of hat, and places in China where people think one's chances of enlightenment depend n which way one bends the finger, just for its own sake, and they argue and forget which way is which.... 

In Tricycle, the magazine of American Buddhism (serving all groups), I was intrigued to read about the great debate at Samye... circa 670AD?... a place in Tibet... where the "nothingness" (Zen) Tibetan school basically lost the debate to the mindfulness school (which became the main Tibetan school), and then went in exile... to Shaolin. Not a Chinese cult after all. Zen has many great techniques, but in the end... sheer logic.. and any serious mindfulness...  clearly points towards mindfulness as the sane choice, the only coherent choice between the two, in terms of goals. Techniques are another matter.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tricky Situation for Syria -- and larger context of politics of oil

Tricky situation for Syria

This past month there has been so much gross incompetence on display in some of the debates in the US that other nations... have mixed views of the relevance of the US... to the point where they too risk making mistakes due to overconfidence and neglect of crucial details.

For the situation in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, for example,  I have found it very very useful to monitor France24 and even RT (which was once less useful), for some of the basic facts of life which I wish our candidates knew about. I especially remember seeing McCain protest very loudly about our “loyal friends” being bombed by the Russians – loyal friends who turned out to be al Nusrah, a branch of Al Qaeda! It reminds me of how certain folks in the US gave Osama bin Laden his start, with weapons and training. And it reminds me of how folks like Morgenthau and the UK foreign policy old guard would shake their heads at the wild impulsive self-righteous actions the US could fall into when we do not even attempt a bit of strategic thinking of any kind.

Though in fact there HAS been a lot of strategic thinking playing games in the Middle East... which I am warned not to outline in too much detail. (No, not by any intelligence agency. By stuff more like privacy rights, spiritual principles, and a little self-preservation.)

But... it is very disappointing today to hear that peace talks on Syria have not gone as well as the US, Russia and EU really need them to go. It is a serious matter. Kerry is being unusually clear and effective for a US representative, and the spokesman I see on TV today and yesterday is also unusually clear and reassuring. But... yes... balance is tricky. I can even hear Trump saying: “Hey, you still need the art of the deal here. Look at..” Well, maybe. I have never compared Trump’s Art of the Deal with Raiffa’s work on negotiation... but in any case, it is now a time and place where the dialogue
has real potential but has been hung up. And this IS one of the unusual times (much exaggerated by most Republicans) when the problem actually is in large part lack of respect for EU and US by Russian folks involved.

In essence, key people in Russia seem to think: “The US has proved itself to be totally idiotic in what it did, the whole world can now see that, and so we can now go back to simply winding this up and going back to Assad.” But it’s not so simple.  My response has been: “We in the West really do owe Russia a whole lot of respect and gratitude for all the blood and money it has shelled out to prevent a Sunni sharia extremist takeover of Syria, and we do need to learn to understand how tough rules of engagement are needed at times with that crowd, but Russia cannot afford unlimited flows of blood and money forever.” (I think of a great cat we once had, beloved both of my Russian Romanov type wife and my equally tough son... a cat who got himself killed in an all-out fight to the death with a coyote he tried to keep off our territory. I really would not want the great cat of Russia itself to kill itself that way! Really, seriously!). Folks need to understand the need to try to move to a more sustainable situation.

“What do you folks want anyway?”

Well, it’s not as if the West wants to dictate terms to Russia. That would be stupid. But there is some real analytical intelligence in parts of the US, Russia and intellectual centers in the EU. Surely we could analyze this in a cooperative dialogue, and come up with something a bit more sustainable (less risky and less expensive) than just wasting more blood and money ...

Not being a diplomat, I could even invoke the ultimate insult and ask whether Putin wants to be like George Bush and win in Syria the way Bush won in Iraq. “Oh, no, we don’t have such pride, and we will get out soon.” Yes, and the US got out soon too... we thought. And in all fairness, pride is something we all have to work to overcome.

“Well, do you have any specifics here of things you want other than some kind of support for Assad?”  

“Well... that should be mainly for the official dialogues. But there is one thing for sure. At a minimum, we really need strong safe zones for nonMoslem cosmopolitans, the kind of people who wanted a free Arab spring, with rights and at least some local autonomy. Secure regions. (Even Palestinians have some safe zones in the region controlled by Israel! Zones whihc would be safer if they truly agreed to not attack the others, as I hope the cosmopolitans would agree to here... but here we could agree to international checks. A better and safer use for your troops than the other stuff...)”

“Huh? Who cares about safe zones?”

“Well, David Cameron, for one?”

“Who the hell cares about him? He’s not even a real spokesman for the EU.”

“David Cameron is really crucial here as a peacemaker in the EU. Have you been watching what’s happening in the EU lately? With Merkel versus folks who could really bring us back to full-up Nazism? Do you want THAT to happen, for God’s sake? Cameron has been pushing for safe zones to meet the needs of Syrian refugees, as completely and sustainably as posisble, WITHIN the territory of Syria. There are lots of reasons why we both should be working as hard as we can to make his “third way” really work...:

Well, maybe. It is a tricky time.

By the way, the political prospects in the EU would be a whole lot better if they had any economist capable of understanding more than the hoary old 7-equation models in his or her gut. (The proposal at is written in ordinary language, without economics jargon, but reflects the policy optimization implications of a more complete multisectoral analysis.) Schroder might be able to catch on... but he is now employed by folks who get money from oil, and it is harder for people to see the long-term picture when they are overwhelmed by short-term constraints.

To wind this up, I append a couple of postings to a US energy discussion list relevant to the context of these conflicts,
supporting Obama’s proposal for a $10/barrel oil import surcharge:

================================================================= Later post:
Another key issue with this tax... is the possibility that today's low world oil price represents a market failure (at least so far as economics is concerned). More precisely: at a conference in Azerbaijan a couple of years ago, I agreed with the majority that the present low price is basically due to the Saudis exerting market power to keep the price low, for reasons beyond what market economics envisions, effectively amounting to their giving a subsidy to the rest of the world economy (in which they have large investments). I argued that it would be a win-win Pareto optimal solution BOTH to move gently to a much higher price AND to push harder the kind of technology development which would allow the world to WITHSTAND higher oil prices without the kind of collapse we saw in 2008.

In other words... if the OECD+China economy (OECDC?) could afford to pay twice as much for oil, without endangering the investments of the Saudis (and a few other financial folks)... the Saudis could cut back production and raise prices, and save more oil for the future, when it will deserve/command a higher price (as true Islamic finance really demands), while we could avoid economic depression and be better prepared to survive in the long term (with more security). 
According to Scheuer ("Anonymous"), overrrapid exploitation of Saudi oil is one of Al Qaeda's three top reasons for attacking the West, and maybe that is the kind of grievance we could "make a deal" on (to quote Trump). 

But part of me is amused... that as soon as I advocated for a higher world oil price, folks took such strong steps to achieve the opposite!!

Well, there are also external variables, like money seriously leaking from Saudi to seriously bad politics. But Obama's suggestion is a great example of what economists call "the theory of the second best": if we can't get our economic Pareto optimum, for whatever reason, and if worldoil is underpriced, we CAN at least get the US oil price a little closer to the true market value of the oil, thereby both helping the US with its budget/debt issues and giving better signals on a level playing field  to activities within the US, which include activities ranging from fracking to hybrid cars. 
(Some theorize that Saudis were not protecting the world economy, but trying to bankrupt oil fracking, where they have in fact had a huge impact. Either way, Obama's action, second-best, makes sense.)

================ Earlier:

Someone asked:  'At these low gas prices'. Cheap is a pretty poor rational for taxation. And to what end? My question is: Can anyone show that such a tax would really reduce the threat of climate change? That is something I'm concerned about.

My reply:

What do REAL economists say about this? I am amused that this question comes after I lectured some family members about Walras, Paul Samuelson, Ken Arrow and Joan Robinson -- real foundations for what we understand about market economics, unlike the growing PR blather which confuses so much of the local discussions lately.

From an economist's viewpoint, I might rephrase Rosemarie's question as: are the externalities here (the additional costs not paid by the person who buys the oil) large enough to justify a price as high as $10 per barrel?

In a way, I might ask Mike to run the numbers. If the social cost of carbon (SCC) is, say, $30 per ton of CO2 (i.e. $90 per ton of carbon as such in CO2), as Mike once estimated, what does that give per barrel? I could calculate that myself, but:

(1) Is that the real SCC? I once thought $30/barrel was reasonable, but now see damage from climate change as far more serious that I once believed:
Naturally, many folks do not have time to look at the logic and think for themselves, and ask: "Why don't we see this in Nature or Science?" Several reasons. When last I discussed this with a friend who publishes regularly in SCience, he said that "It's even worse than YOU think... we all know this... but the political forces repressing it all have grown worse and worse... and we simply give up. I have a nice house on the beach." On the other hand, the problem is nonlinear, and simple externality payments may or may not be enough to give us much hope anyway.
Lately, I am starting to hope that the H2S stink from the smaller problem in the Arctic might wake people up enough to give us some hope of acting in time before the huger fatal problems from the Antarctic kick in (starting in waters off of California, Japan and China). 

Some folks say: "The price is oil is low, so why should we worry?" Well, there are some of us who believe that the future of the Middle East is not something we should ASSUME will be sweetness and light, and who also believe that fracking for oil will not last forever either.
Is the ability of the US to survive so much as 20 or 30 years in the future of any significance to any of us today? That's a really fundamental ethical question. In economics, it relates to the very serious debates about the right real interest rate to use in making long-term decisions,
and to the question of what to do in nonconvex or "crossroads" situations. I could say a lot more about that... but in the end, my claim is that competent technical economics is capable of living up to the obvious idea that maybe we would prefer our nations and our descendants to live, rather than die. Politics involving the Middle East really are a matter of life or death, in the most literal sense, for all of humanity,
and there really are very substantial externalities there!

At the end of the day, I do not see the $10-per-barrel import fee (similar to things in Japan and EU) as anything like a complete answer to the climate or security challenges, but do see it as fully justified in terms of the externalities.  GIven a choice between that and nothing, I would choose that. But at the same time... I would really hope that the next elections could be won by folks more serious about a more complete strategy to address both challenges (e.g. per the addendum below, probably close to the white paper approved recently by IEEE
and on the site of, the world's largest engineering society, which manages the most complete and credible technical peer review system in the world).


My final reply to an offline question:

The Transportation Addendum to the National Energy Policy Recommendations (NEPR) basically elaborates on a section of the brief recommendations in IEEE's National Energy Policy Recommendations (NEPR). The organization felt that the recommendations were specific enough for formal purposes -- but planned to encourage things like face-to-face discussions of specific ways to implement them.

Time has passed... but I seem to recall that one of the recommendations looked a lot like support for some kind of Open Fuel Standard bill, and the Addendum certainly substantiates that kind of thing. In broad terms, I still see it all as consistent with the much more specific legislative proposals, still as timely as in 2009, posted at

For myself -- if the folks in Washington really tried to balance competing goals in a Pareto optimal way... I would be especially interested in getting folks to consider RATIONALIZING Bush's renewable fuel standard (RFS) rather than perpetuating or abolishing it, as purists of the left or the right assume are the only choices; one section of Specter's bill, posted at, could be easily adapted to be brief standalone bill to accomplish just that -- substantially improving national security (as "w" envisioned when he pushed all that) while substantially increasing flexibility and reducing cost (the most important legitimate concerns of the industry here). Instead of a war between national security and the energy industry, why can't we go for a Pareto optimum of the two? I really wish someone knew a workable way forward on this... because there is ever so much at stake...


Added later:

OK, I'm not a diplomat. Comparing Putin to George Bush on any basis whatsoever was not
a kosher thing to do. (But maybe Trump would say that being a good diplomat is not always the same as being diplomatic?). The analogy between what Russia is doing in Syria, even just giving a total green light to Assad (the guy whose recent statements really drive the West up a tree), and George Bush's invasion of Iraq, is the kind of comparison no one wants to think about, Just as no one wants to think about H2S poisoning everyone on earth. We humans really do have limits, and we do have to manage our limits. Just as Putin might not want to think about that comparison, and its unpleasant implications requiring all kinds of complex thought and sticky stuff... I guess I have my limits too. It is equally hard for ME to think about how it is the Erdogan Turks, not the Russians, attacking safe zones for Kurds!!! What do we do about THAT? What an incredible mess. But I have the excuse that
it's not even remotely my job, and I do have two nontrivial personal commitments coming up (for nontrivial talks, one a week away and one about three weeks).....

One friend has even said: "Hey, NOTHING is your job now. Denial is an important defense mechanism for folks who can't do anything anyway."

Yes, but:

(1) I keep remember what Hannah Arendt once said, "All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing"... not to mention Wiesel's poem "there was no one left to come for me"... aptly mirroring the recent transformation of the US executive branch;

(2) George Valliant's study shows quite directly and forcibly that there are OTHER defense mechanisms besides denial, ones which work better,

Giving up would be ever so justifiable and natural... but logic keeps pushing in another direction.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

new experiment as important as Michelson and Morley

The chart above was handed to me by Prof. Yanhua Shih and his graduate student Peng Tao at my first day attending the SPIE conference in Baltimore in April 2015. The day after, I gave my SPIE leadership award talk on neural networks in one session, and a talk related to the new experiment in the workshop on quantum information technology.
   The curve represents the predictions of time-symmetric physics -- of any of a set of new local realistic models I developed last year. The dots represent the actual measured data. These were the first results for the continuous-angle triphoton experiment (triple entanglement), which had never been performed before on earth,In that experiment, the predictions of time-symmetric physics disagree decisively from those of the traditional forms of quantum mechanics assuming collapse of the wave function.
    When Yanhua showed me these results, I stated in my talks that this triphoton experiment, in general, is as important as the Michelson and Morley experiment was. But it defies conventional thinking. It took some time to really explain it -- and Luda took on the actual task of translating it from my way of thinking to conventional language and thinking, as was essential to the peer-reviewed publication in the past few months in the journal Quantum Information Processing, in the special issue dedicated to Howard Brandt, a central player behind the scenes in IS work on quantum information science and technology.
   Because realism (literally, the belief in objective reality) and heresy are both far less accepted now than they were 100 years ago, we may have to wait before other leading labs replicate the experiment, and address the many issues described in our paper. But it really does change everything, and open lots of doors which will be closed forever if we do not go further with it.

Musk raises the bar on Mars

 One of the serious space policy lists sent out a posting "Musk raises the bar on Mars."

My initial reaction: "Trump says that his followers are so loyal that he could shoot someone on the streets of New York and they would still support him. Is Elon Musk now showing he could promise to open a Star Wars cantina on Mars, and get lots of support from gullible customers asking to pay for tickets today?"  I strongly support most of the causes Musk supports, but am a bit concerned about reality.

But it turns out that Mars is the big PR theme of the day in Washington DC, mainly because folks looking for billions of dollars believe it's a good PR strategy. Others on the same list questioned how real those policy debates are now.

My reply:


HI, Jerry!

I am happy this morning to see some folks asking some of the right questions about where we are going in the long-term in space.

For example -- could settlement of Mars ever become economically viable/sustainable?

What worries me most here is that people in power in DC are so utterly unwilling to take that kind of question seriously, except for a 
contingent who simply want to zero out all space activity (a justified position when the rest of us don't provide a convincing answer to the question). Maybe the vote in New Hampshire has emboldened me a little to feel there are still a few folks who actually want to do things right... and cut out the really gross corruption and misdirection which makes it hard to pay really serious attention to the question of sustainability of space activities. But at the same time, in the presidential debates, I still notice how many candidates complained about "all that reality stuff getting in the way."

Getting to reality -- settlement of Mars MIGHT or MIGHT NOT be economically viable or sustainable, DEPENDING on what else is accomplished in terms of OTHER infrastructure, markets and technology. In some contexts, Mars settlements are sustainable. In other contexts, they aren't. In a way... in a weird way... I would actually mostly/almost  agree with the idea that the core mission of NASA should be to maximize the probability that settlement of Mars becomes sustainable and viable. But:
   (1) Why just Mars? From the viewpoint of philosophy... of the meaning of life... ANY sustainable human settlement of space should count. When we are at that high level of defining what we want, the core mission should really be sustainable human settlement of space, period, INCLUDING Mars but not restricted to Mars only. (Who needs humans in space? Who needs humans on earth? Humans, that's us. A very basic starting point.)
  (2) TO ACTUALLY ACHIEVE the goal of sustainable human settlement of Mars, or anywhere else, we really need a kind of rational long-term strategic "plan" (or "decision tree") which maximizes the probability that we create the context which makes it economically feasible, or at least plausible. I agree with the folks on this list who say that we simply aren't there yet. We haven't done what we need to do.   A major charge to Mars with inadequate preparation and infrastructure would be a lot like Lyndon JOhnson's fast charge to the moon, which cut out so much of JFK's infrastructure building and resulted in flags, footprints, disillusionment and budget cuts.

What does it really take to get to economic settlement of Mars of anywhere else in the solar system? My general analysis, based on real economics rather than iron triangle PR,  is at:

In a way... talking about the economic settlement of Mars today would be like talking about the economic settlement of Nevada in the 1600's, before the East Coast had much of an independent settlement itself. If we do things right, Mars will be one important and growing part of a larger interconnected solar system economy, not an isolated bubble. But then again, it would be great if NASA or anyone else could really develop the technology needed to build such bubbles, or "terraria for humans," as they tried to do but failed on in... Arizona, was it?

In sum: we do not have the technology and infrastructure yet EITHER for export-driven sustainable settlement on Mars, or for closed system "terrarium" type settlement. To develop that technology and infrastructure is ever so important for the human species, but to ASSUME it and act as if the problem doesn't exist... would be a way to seal our doom. Really. No hyperbole.  

Best of luck,



I also attached a policy paper by myself and Ed McCullough detailing what we think a new rational policy would be for NASA. That was unanimously approved by the IEEE Committee on Transportation and Aerospace Policy, but on the way upstairs... well, DC is DC. I hope someone lives up to his or her promise to fix it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Korean rocket and Navy LENR illustrate pathways to NUC/AI extinction

Posted to scientific advisory board of Lifeboat Foundation, discussing possibilities for extinction of human species:


There are actually many specific pathways or credible scenarios or real time-tracks leading from where we are to the clusters of human species extinction which I label as "NUC/AI" for short. (H2S is also still in play, but two items are enough to analyze in one post.)

Probably you already know about the new North Korean rocket launch, and its link to their recent "H bomb" test. I recently received several inputs on the new Navy LENR activities, which are just as important; one of the inputs was the link:

The Korean rocket does relate to various "NUC" type extinction possibilities, but it calls out for some discussion here and now on this list because of how it relates to the bad-AI issue we have discussed here a bit. The discussion was a bit fuzzy, and it helps to anchor a bit in something concrete.

There are ways for the US to react to the Korean rocket which would play directly into the AI extinction scenario, following the very serious Terminator script. Since some of you really demand evidence (which is a very good thing), I would ask you to please scan the simple colorful slides at:

which in turn are substantiated by the citations in the accompanying paper, for which the link and background are posted at the top of

One of these slides illustrates the work of S.N. Balakrishnan of Missouri, who implemented one of the RLADP neural network algorithms I developed in the 1970s (DHP), and showed that it reduced error in hit-to-kill missile interception applications by more than an order of magnitude. It was a long and entertaining path, and I will resist the temptation to elaborate. Just two stories: 

(1) in 2009, I attended a briefing at the Marshall Institute for Congressional staff (which I was) on missile defense, and couldn't help smiling when the technical guy with the Lockheed representative said: "What you folks need to understand is how much more real the opportunities for missile interception are now. Yes, back in the days of the Patriot missile, we only hit about one or two in a hundred, but thanks to this guy S.N. Balakrishnan, we can do it much more reliably. His mathematics is a bit weird, and we are struggling to understand it, but a whole new world has opened up to protect us...

(2) Many people believe it is a top security priority not to let the world know, and thus not discuss the very limited surface details I am posting here today. But ALSO a few years ago... the Chinese arranged two major speaking tours, one by Balakrishnan and one by me, curiously all at the same places, one of them being Harbin (the main center of hard military aerospace activities in China of they types they don't mind Russians knowing about). No way they don't know. They can do web searches as well as any of us. I came on official NSF travel, after full approvals and checking on the rules, and had no security clearance; however, there were amusing little cameos where a couple of people just assumed I must have some CIA connection, and I work actively to forget some bits of that. China is also certainly not the only country which knows. (Balakrishnan has bent over backwards to hold back stuff, respect important security concerns, and even offer a few primrose paths to the web searchers.) When we go to nutty extremes in holding back, we hurt ourselves and our own consciousness more than we reduce proliferation; some of you think of the very serious nonsense about Clinton emails, but I think more about the historical introduction chapter in The Skyrme Model by Makhankov, Rybakov and Sanyuk, who recount how classification in the UK made certain nuclear information widely disseminated in Russia but almost unknown in the West.  

I will refrain from boring you with discussions near SPAWAR linking to Iron Dome, Russians and a friend in blue uniform who really looked like a character from the Terminator movies, and really had an option to make the whole thing come true.

All that being true, one obvious option with Korea's rocket launch would be to use it as a test of antimissile interception capabilities. With a previous Korean launch, that was discussed quite actively in the press, but not this time. Should we seek a UN security council resolution authorizing the US to intercept any Korean launches until and unless  they stop being such serious NUC outlaws (and violators of strong past commitments) that they no longer add to the NUC extinction pathway (not directly but opening up a path to an avalanche)?

In fact, Iron Dome has already displayed major capabilities, already saving many many lives in a situation where lack of such a defense might already have led us into a nuclear war. 

But: (1) Is the Bala/Iron-Dome level of missile defense technology really safe (versus the AI risk)?; (2) If we start to need even better defense, as larger NUC risks grow in the world, just how much more is both possible and safe along the same pathway?

In my view, the technology deployed so far is reasonably safe. It is an example of what I call "vector intelligence," which can handle much more complexity than the earlier reinforcement learning schemes of folks like Minsky/Selfridge and Barto/Sutton/Anderson, but is still limited, and can't optimise more than about one vehicle with about a dozen state variables in a highly nonlinear environment. (And yes, we have stability proofs. One even in Automatica this past year, albeit for a level weaker than DHP.) 

On the other hand, with more missiles launched (or with the task of coordinating whole fleets of drones), more complexity comes into it. "Theater missile defense," exactly as in the highly realistic Skynet scenario, is what I once viewed as "a beautiful testbed demonstrating the value of rising to a higher quantum level of intelligence." It is, and we know how to do it. But I am very grateful to the guy from Boeing, who in their Executive Dining Room in 1991, strongly urged me to go see Terminator II: "You may not like that kind of movie, but you really have to. It is your absolute duty, given what  you are doing and what you are doing with us right now." More of the story is at 
But no, I do not intend to go there. I do at times worry whether other people might someday catch up... have we just bought a little time, and are we out of the woods yet?

Fortunately, there is another way to substantially improve missile defense, well justified in today's world (and hopefully something we could work with Russians on as allies of a sort, as Reagan wanted to do in this area)... and that is good old space-based boost intercept. Just a few weeks ago, I was happy to see some really nice reviews out there on the web, which I bumped into when checking on high-energy and exotic lasers. Livermore really had a nice story. Some guys at Boeing really are excited about it. When I came back from Marshall's briefing, I asked a friend (a key guy on Senate defense appropriations subcommittee) their view; they said: "Story sounds great, but the numbers are wrong.  Cost per hour of protection is too high." Having once been a student of Tom Schelling (who advised McNamara on the economics of defense), I fully understood what he meant instantly. But I also understood ... since we DO have the technology and design (integrated by Ray Chase in a variety of key papers and sources) for RLVs with $500/kg-LEO (and with some GEO capabilities), we COULD bring that cost way down, and really afford to deploy space-based missile defense. In my view, that would be a great and safe thing, making all the world much safer, and providing really huge side benefits (which we list again and again in space policy papers). For example, it is the necessary enabler for 9-cents-per-kwh switchable space solar power, per the plan put together in the most recent book by John Mankins.

Unfortunately, the same bad guys that Hillary Clinton, Trump and Sanders complain about are also putting a hard freeze right now on our hopes of deploying or even continuing to have that RLV options. There are very scary specific stories about bad things done by really bad guys in DC. But "speak of the devil and he may appear." I won't go there either now. 


So... that's the Korean rocket... where it leads us... but what of the LENR case?

There are actually many specific, diverse clusters of pathways leading to extinction by misuse of nuclear technologies. One of them is the "lone wolf nuc" development. Since the Navy, US News and NASA have already let one of the cats out of the bag more than I am even capable of by any mundane channel, I chose to reply to the new information:


To X:

I have known that LENR works for some time. Here is some background, a link
and some extensions. Please do click to see the video...
taken when Lamar Smith's guy (Pramod Khargonekar, who told me that day that his deals with Smith bothered many people but "hey, they get us money") insisted that cold fusion be the main theme of the speech given on the occasion of my retirement:

(another email sent to a couple of friends on September 8, 2015)

Your probably know that a guy named Dennis Bushnell, Chief Scientist of NASA, has been very effective in getting the word out worldwide on cold fusion. 

I do worry about the nuclear proliferation aspects, but at this point it's my calculation that the underlying science is important enough and the cat is out of the bag enough, that's it time to let a bit more out of the bad. Of course, it helps that I retired from the US government on February 15 -- in part because of policy changes and personality conflicts in the NSF Engineering Directorate which led me to conclude it would not be a good use of my special abilities to stay there. 

I did not do anything with cold fusion since about 1990, but Kargonekar, being ever so friendly, decided to bring in a guy involved with the cold fusion story to make that the highlight of the parting speech for my retirement. But it didn't work out precisely as he imagined. Here is a 15 minute video
which left some of the NSF people open-jawed:

Somewhat more seriously, here is a folder of documents I scanned as part of compressing my files (throwing away lots of paper both at home and in the office) in my final months:

The "CF" cold fusion file includes such things as lab notes from the Pons/Schwinger collaboration, and the report of the NSF workshop of 1990 or so.
That stream of technology is actually just a first step towards a higher frequency coherent technology related to further steps which in my view are important to even more remarkable future technology. Wild as this is, it is the tip of an iceberg. 

By the way, this is all on the cloud - but life being what it is, and my life expectancy being finite, 
it might be reasonable to make backup copies not dependent on my machines and cloud areas.


..... (some further nuclear stuff) ..... 

I had good personal contact with the guy at Lockheed behind this LENR stuff, who collaborated with Macgregor of Livermore, but the "black wall" later got in the way. 

It is a nasty dilemma, that technology which humanity might need to survive long-term seems to pose ever more lethal risks short-term. Sometimes I think about the Babylon 5 episodes where they judge humanity is not ready yet for real longevity... more realistic than what I hear in the debates these days.  


Best of luck,



Here on this blog, maybe I should also add a little news n the H2S front.
One space guy asked: "if this is real, why don't I see it in the press?" I have posted the logic, but not tried to appear on reality TV. A life style choice. More seriously, when I discussed the issue last with the most serious ..
university specialist (much published in Science) I have worked with in this area... he said that I am late to the party. A whole lot of people realize the H2S extinction thing is likely to kill us, but, in view of the active censorship  driven by folks like Lamar Smith, Cheney and Koch brothers, penetrating much deeper than TV watchers realize... they are pretty much giving up. After all, Antarctica is the Big One, and we are still 40 years away from the start of the major oxygen crunch, according to best data... 

Yet I saw a new map yesterday from the ARCTIC which is also disturbing. No, even the Arctic and the North Atlantic combined would probably not produce and emit enough H2S to outso the smaller great extinction
(the paleocene discontinuity) which killed all proto-primates and other big mammals on earth but was not enough to kill the mice. The Big One (PT) could kill them all. But even so, the news... I think it was Science News...
clearly shows lowest ice ever in the Arctic, WITH the remaining ice mainly concentrated near the shores of 
Greenland and far north Canada... suggesting the kind of freeze of fresh water runoff we also see around the Antarctic. On first glance, it seems... Antarctic has ALREADY seen shutdown of the biggest "lung of the planet" (souther thermohaline current, THC), while the Arctic is smaller... and might not be cut off... yet... though the new map suggests ... maybe, maybe not. HOWEVER: once cutoff occurs (or occurred?) in the Arctic, 
the possibility for bad stuff happening is much quicker, due in part to depth of the water and direct runoff.
Could we smell it in our lifetimes? Maybe. Maybe that wouldn't be so bad, if we survive it, insofar as an early whiff might possibly wake a few folks up. Then again, people voting for oil/Cruz show that panic by itself is not enough...