Sodium won’t boil at any of the temperatures it should be exposed to

November 29th, 2021

TerraPower, a US-based nuclear power company backed by Bill Gates, has selected Kemmerer, Wyoming — population roughly 2,500, and home to the soon-to-be-closed coal-fired Naughton Power Plant — as the site for its first reactor:

The TerraPower project will see it replaced by a 345 megawatt reactor that would pioneer a number of technologies that haven’t been commercially deployed before.

These include a reactor design that needs minimal refueling, cooling by liquid sodium, and a molten-salt heat-storage system that will provide the plant with the flexibility needed to better integrate with renewable energy.

[…]

The reactor design is being developed jointly with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. A company called Bechtel will help with the construction, which will require a workforce equivalent to roughly 80 percent of Kemmerer’s population.

[…]

To begin with, the plant will not use water to transfer heat out of the reactor; instead, it will use liquid sodium. This has a major advantage in that sodium won’t boil at any of the temperatures it should be exposed to in the reactor. This means that none of the hardware that holds the coolant will be exposed to high pressures, which simplifies matters considerably. Sodium will, however, readily react with air and explosively react with water, which raises a distinct set of concerns.

Globally, only about 25 major reactors have been built using sodium coolant. Many were only built for research purposes, and only a handful remain operational. The last one in the US was built in 1965, and the last operational one was shuttered in 1994. So, it’s fair to say that the companies don’t have much hands-on experience to draw on.

Sodium-cooled designs, in contrast to water cooling, don’t slow the neutrons produced by fission reactions down; they’re often referred to as “fast reactors” for that reason. Fast neutrons have the ability to transform isotopes that don’t make useful fuel, allowing them to produce more fuel during operation.

In TerraPower’s case, its design surrounds a core of enriched fuel with lots of less-useful isotopes. The reactor will be powered by the enriched core as it converts additional material to useful fuel, which will take over as the first gets exhausted. This process can repeat through several layers of conversion, limiting the downtime needed for refueling. But again, it hasn’t seen commercial use before.

The reactor will have a number of features that should allow passive safety, causing its internal heat to remain limited even if cooling circulation fails.

Finally, TerraPower won’t directly convert the heat extracted from the reactor into power; instead, it will store it as molten salt. As a result, although the reactor will be rated as 345 MW, the plant will be able to generate as much as 500 MW during periods of high demand or scale down to lower production when demand is reduced. This will allow the plant to better follow daily cycles of demand. In addition, the heat storage will also allow the Kemmerer site to better integrate with the growing use of renewable power (Wyoming is a major producer of wind power).

It’s not a good idea to tell yourself what not to do

November 27th, 2021

You’ve probably heard that it’s not a good idea to tell yourself what not to do:

A recent study (Gorgulu, 2019) looked at what would happen when experienced tennis players were asked to serve, and not miss, under a bit of pressure.

[...]

Specifically, when their anxiety went up, participants hit more balls long and wide — the exact thing they were explicitly told not to do. Meanwhile, the number of balls hit into the middle of the service box — the 0-point area, where they neither gained nor lost points — was pretty much the same regardless of whether they were nervous or not.

In other words, under pressure, the athletes didn’t just become less accurate servers in general. They became less accurate in a very specific way — hitting more balls to the exact place on the court that they were trying to avoid.

Which is pretty weird, when you think about it — so why does this happen?

Well, there are a few possibilities, but the theory of “ironic error” essentially suggests that we have two mental processes in play — an “operating” process and a “monitoring” process. And that when we’re under pressure, given the limited cognitive resources available to us, monitoring our performance ends up taking resources away from the operating process, which makes us more likely to mess up in exactly the way we’re trying not to.

The choice group totally outperformed the no-choice group

November 26th, 2021

A team of researchers recruited twenty-four 10-year old girls to learn five classical ballet positions:

Each participant was shown pictures of each position and given a verbal explanation of what to do. Then, it was time to give it a try. And after their first practice attempt, half of the participants (the choice group) were told that if they wanted, they could ask to see a video demonstration of the positions before any subsequent practice attempt.

The other participants (the no-choice group) were told that they would be shown videos from time to time, but not given any choice as to when. Each of these participants were “yoked” to another participant in the choice group, such that whenever their counterpart requested a video, they would be shown a video too.

Everyone did 50 practice repetitions (5 sets of 10), and then they were done for the day.

Autonomy support enhances performance expectancies, positive affect, and motor learning

The choice group totally outperformed the no-choice group.

Americans do indeed spend more when Thanksgiving falls early

November 25th, 2021

Retailers don’t just put up decorations to steal Christmas sales from each other, Tim Harford notes. They are also boosting the total amount we impressionable customers spend:

In 2005, the economist Emek Basker…studied the US, where Thanksgiving now ranges between November 22 and 28, leaving as few as 26 or as many as 32 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. She found a clear pattern: Americans do indeed spend more when Thanksgiving falls early. The sums aren’t trivial: about $10 per person per day in today’s terms. Robert Urbatsch, a political scientist, used a similar approach to examine the jobs market and found that longer Christmas seasons lead to higher levels of employment.

Professor Basker estimated total holiday spending by comparing all spending in November and December vs all spending in September and October; the difference was about $300 per person in today’s money. Using a slightly different method, the author of Scroogenomics Joel Waldfogel has produced broadly similar estimates of the Christmas bump in sales.

Von Neumann’s genius was apparent early

November 24th, 2021

Tom Chivers (How to Read Numbers) reviews Ananyo Bhattacharya’s The Man from the Future, which explores the genius of John von Neumann:

Von Neumann’s genius was apparent early. In 1915, at the age of 11, he had gone to the famous gymnasium school in his native Budapest; the “legendary” maths teacher, László Rátz, immediately realised that von Neumann was beyond his ability to teach, and sent him for extra tuition at the local university. There he was mentored by Gábor Szegö, later head of Stanford’s maths department, who was “moved to tears” by his brilliance.

At 17, still at high school, he partly rescued Cantor’s set theory, the basis of much mathematical theory, from a crippling paradox. A couple of years later, he helped reconcile Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger’s rival models of quantum mechanics. In the early Thirties, he met the astronomer Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, and worked with him on general relativity and the behaviour of stellar clusters. Chandrasekhar would later tell an interviewer, “If I say, ‘He reminds me of von Neumann,’ that’s about the best compliment I can give anyone.”

Von Neumamm read some Alan Turing research which imagined a hypothetical computing machine, and saw how to build a working computer. The paper he produced building on Turing’s ideas is considered “the birth certificate of modern computers”, according to the computer scientist Wolfgang Coy. With his wife Kläri, and Ulam, he pioneered Monte Carlo simulations, vital now in climate modelling and a million other fields.

[…]

What created this genius? Bhattacharya does not speculate a great deal, but there are things worth considering. First, simple genetics: his family was high-achieving. His father was a doctor of law and an economic adviser to the Hungarian government; his uneducated maternal grandfather apparently could “add or multiply numbers into the millions” in his head instantly, a trick von Neumann emulated. The family was “puzzled” by their son’s inability to play the piano properly at the age of five, suggesting rather higher expectations than most. But it turned out to be because he “had taken to propping up books on his music stand so he could read while ‘practising’”.

He also grew up in a fertile environment. Around the turn of the 20th century, the Budapest Jewish community of which he was part produced an astonishing number of great thinkers. Near-contemporaries included Dennis Gabor, “who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1971 for inventing the hologram”; Theodore von Kármán, after whom the “Kármán line” is named, denoting the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space; and Eugene Wigner, Edward Teller, and Leo Szilard, three of the greatest minds behind the Manhattan Project. The atomic bomb has been described as a “Hungarian high school science fair project”.

You don’t begin with a manifesto and a top-heavy board of advisors

November 23rd, 2021

Pano Kanelos has left his post as president of St. John’s College in Annapolis (the Great Books school) to build the University of Austin, dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth.

Arnold Kling wishes them luck, but he doesn’t think that this is how start-ups work:

You don’t begin with a manifesto and a top-heavy board of advisors. You begin with a few very energetic founders trying to put together a prototype. I say get some proof-of-concept work done, then go after endorsements. Yes, it’s hard to do “proof-of-concept” if your mental model is to be a better version of Harvard. But that means you should have a different mental model.

Students were being asked to get answers by multiple methods

November 22nd, 2021

Physics professor Chad Orzel’s child (“SteelyKid”) started school in 2013, which was close to the peak of the freakout over Common Core Math:

The inscrutability of the new standards for elementary school math was an endlessly recurring topic in late-night talk show monologues and frustrated Facebook rants from high-school classmates whose kids are a bit older than mine. Nobody seemed able to understand what was now deemed to be third-grade math, and everybody was pissed about it.

As is often the case with issues touching on STEM in schools, I found this a little puzzling. As SteelyKid started to get into the math curriculum, I thought it was great — not just the endless algorithmic chugging I dimly remembered from my own childhood, but something much closer to actual math. Students were being asked to get answers by multiple methods, check them against each other, and explain how they knew their final answers were right. These are all things I struggle to get college frosh to do in intro physics, and here it was built right into the elementary school math curriculum.

So, on reflection, I guess it’s pretty obvious why everybody else hated it…

It would not be like the movies with intense dogfights

November 21st, 2021

Physics would constrain space-to-space engagements. These five key concepts help explain how:

  1. Satellites move quickly.
  2. Satellites move predictably.
  3. Space is big.
  4. Timing is everything.
  5. Satellites maneuver slowly.

Warfighting on Earth typically involves competitors fighting to dominate a physical location:

Opposing military forces fight to control the land, sea, and air over a certain part of Earth to expand influence over people or resources. Space warfare does not follow this paradigm; satellites in orbit do not occupy or dominate a single location over time. Instead, satellites provide capabilities, such as communications, navigation, and intelligence gathering, to Earth-based militaries. Therefore, to “control space” is not necessarily to physically conquer sectors of space but rather to reduce or eliminate adversary satellite capabilities while ensuring one retains the ability to freely operate their own space capabilities.

[...]

Objects orbiting Earth have a strict relationship between altitude and speed. Orbital mechanics dictate that objects at lower altitudes will always move more quickly than those at higher altitudes. Any attempt to add or reduce a satellite’s speed will always lead to a change in altitude. Compare this relationship between speed and altitude to an aircraft, which often changes speed without affecting its altitude, and vice versa.

And that speed is fast. Satellites in commonly used circular orbits move at speeds between 3 km/s and 8 km/s (6,700 mph and 18,000 mph), depending on their altitude. In contrast, an average bullet only travels about 0.75 km/s (1,700 mph).

[...]

Also, because a satellite’s speed is tied to its altitude, a satellite will return to approximately the same point in its orbit at regular intervals (known as its period), regardless of the orbit’s shape and absent a maneuver to change the orbit.

[...]

To deviate from their prescribed orbit, satellites must use an engine to maneuver. This contrasts with airplanes, which mostly use air to change direction; the vacuum of space offers no such option.

[...]

Getting two satellites to the same altitude and the same plane is straightforward (though time and delta-V consuming), but that does not mean they are yet in the same spot. The phasing — current location along the orbital trajectory — of the two satellites must also be the same. Since speed and altitude are connected, getting two satellites in the same spot is not intuitive. Therefore, it requires careful planning and perfect timing.

One way to get close to another satellite is to perform a flyby. A flyby occurs when one satellite nearly matches the other satellite’s position without matching its orbit. Because the satellites are in different orbits, they will appear to speed past each other. These maneuvers are useful for inspection missions where the goal is not to destroy the target but to image it. Flybys often require minimal delta-V for an attacking satellite to perform since it can use natural intersection points of the two orbits to come close to its target. A related operation, known as an intercept, involves intentionally trying to match positions with the target, leading to the destruction of both satellites.

For two satellites in the same orbit, a common maneuver known as a phasing maneuver is required for one satellite to catch the other satellite. A phasing maneuver involves changing the satellite’s position in its orbit plane, either moving it ahead or behind of where it would normally be, similar to a train increasing or decreasing its speed to arrive at a destination sooner or later. Unlike a train, which can speed up or slow down without changing tracks, a satellite that changes speed also changes its altitude. This leads to the satellite entering into a new orbit known as a transfer orbit, an orbit used temporarily to move a satellite from an original orbit to a new orbit.

Phasing Maneuvers

Ground-based ASATs are missiles that rely on a rocket to deliver a small warhead to impact with a satellite. Because the rocket has a large delta-V capacity, the warhead itself is placed in the correct intercept trajectory and requires little propellant to reach its target — this makes them more intuitive as they behave more like traditional missiles.

[...]

In contrast, an orbital ASAT is basically a satellite that purposefully destroys other satellites. This can be done either with an RPO intercept or with onboard weapons. Unlike the ground ASAT missile, which can be launched without warning and at a moment’s notice, an orbital ASAT may be launched months to years ahead of a potential conflict.

[...]

Some counterspace threats utilize the electromagnetic spectrum to inflict either temporary (reversible) or permanent (irreversible) harm. These threats are attractive because the attacks happen from a distance, which adds a measure of deniability and lessens the burden of getting physically close. Intentional jamming can also be quite difficult to distinguish from unintentional interference, making attribution more challenging.

[...]

While there has never been a battle in space, we can still gauge what a war in space might look like. It would not be like the movies with intense dogfights. Instead space-based threats would be un-crewed and require slow and deliberate planning to get into position. Compared with the timing and flexibility limitations of on-orbit weapons, ground-based threats afford substantially shorter engagement execution timelines and the prospect of more numerous shots. The more we can internalize these insights, the better we can understand the stakes of a geopolitical fight in space.

Some of the best engineers would rather quit than be micromanaged

November 20th, 2021

The Pragmatic Engineer (Gergely Orosz) looks at how Big Tech runs tech projects and ends with the following ideas as food for thought:

  • Iterative changes always work better than ‘big bang’ ones. A European tech company struggling with shipping very slowly hired a new VP of Engineering. This person decided to move the whole organization to a NoEstimates method in the first few months of their tenure. They organized a major event, hired a rock band, and unveiled the new way of working. The following weeks and months were chaos, and the organization reverted to doing what it did beforehand.
  • It’s more work to teach someone to fish, than it is to catch a fish for them. My approach to project management has been to coach and mentor members of my team to become project leads themselves. It was a lot more work upfront, but resulted in the team delivering more, people growing faster, getting promoted faster, and those people becoming engineering leaders faster than their peers. This approach was one of my best decisions in an empowered environment.
  • Directing, mentoring and coaching all have their uses. Directing – telling people exactly how to do something – is micromanaging when they can do it themselves. However, it’s a supportive activity when they can’t. Choose your approaches depending on whether you direct, mentor or coach and give space to people or teams, based on their capabilities as well. Over time, you should be doing little to no directing. But you might need to start with this.
  • The fewer people you need to make decisions, the faster you can make them. If an engineer only needs to talk to an engineer to decide, that decision will be faster than if the engineer needs to talk to their project manager, who talks to another project manager, who talks to an engineer, who talks to… you get it.
  • Optimizing for reporting is optimizing for a low-trust environment. Reporting at the executive levels is important. However, if you roll out project management methodologies that add heavy processes for the sake of reporting, then you’ll get more process, lower trust, and people gaming whatever reports you’re trying to produce.
  • Consultants will be biased to deliver easy-to-measure results because this is the simplest way to prove their value. If the easy-to-measure result is a good goal, this makes consultants a good investment. Just make sure it is a worthwhile goal, and directionally correct.
  • Learning from direct competitors is underrated. Understanding what a faster-moving competitor is doing – and experimenting with something similar – is a very smart one. Having a coffee with a peer at a competitor can be a great professional, and networking investment, not to mention one that may inspire you.
  • Some of the best engineers would rather quit than be micromanaged, especially when the job market is hot, and it’s so easy to switch jobs. A relevant quote from a response to my survey: “Recently, C-level executives have started to mandate the ways of working for all teams (everyone needs to follow the same methodology). It resulted in a lot of engineers leaving.”

Passenger car drivers are seven times more likely to be killed in a crash with an SUV

November 19th, 2021

The problem with electric trucks is that they’re big and even heavier than their gas-powered counterparts:

Between 2000 and 2019, the average weight of vehicles involved in a fatal crash increased by 11%.

[...]

Their increasingly flat fronts and tall hoods create front blind zones two to three times larger than a sedan’s; one experiment sat 18 children in front of an SUV, and all were fully hidden from the driver by the massive hood. This exacerbates the risk of “frontover collisions,” in which a vehicle moving forward slowly hits a person the driver can’t see. Most frontover collision victims are between one and two-years-old, and the vast majority of frontover fatalities since the 1990s have involved an SUV, van or light truck. A recent study in the Economics of Transportation estimates that if between 2000 and 2019 all light trucks were replaced with cars, more than 8,000 pedestrians would still be alive today.

]…]

A study from the University at Buffalo concluded that passenger car drivers are seven times more likely to be killed in a crash with an SUV, partially due to the ability of the SUV to roll over the smaller car (a phenomenon unfortunately named “bumper mismatch”).

Vials labeled “smallpox” discovered at Merck lab near Philadelphia

November 18th, 2021

A Merck vaccine research lab in the Philadelphia area was temporarily placed on lockdown Tuesday night after the discovery of “questionable” vials inside a freezer that were labeled “smallpox” and “vaccinia,” according to an alert received by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

Fifteen frozen vials were found at the research facility, including 10 labeled as “smallpox” and five as “vaccinia.” Both are members of the poxvirus family, but the virus that causes smallpox was a particularly deadly scourge until it was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization in 1980.

The facility was placed on lockdown by the FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but reportedly was lifted after an initial investigation.

Merck has a pair of facilities in Montgomery County in West Point and North Wales, but authorities have not identified the specific lab where the lockdown occurred.

Netflix’s greatest impact on pop culture will not be allowing us to binge watch

November 18th, 2021

I haven’t watched Squid Game, but the Korean show is on pace to be the biggest hit in the history of Netflix:

Netflix has been investing in foreign language programming since 2015. It has spent more than $1 billion on Korean programs alone. This is the first Korean show to break through on this scale, and it is driving millions of new viewers to other East Asian series like “Sweet Home” and “Alice in Borderland.”

When all is said and done, Netflix’s greatest impact on pop culture will not be allowing us to “binge watch,” or stream TV on-demand. It will be globalizing the entertainment business, creating a platform for people from more than 190 countries to watch stories from all over the world.

Crossing fingers had worked pretty well in the past

November 17th, 2021

Bret Weinstein paints a picture of how the sun could wipe us out:

The world began to end on 12th May 2024, though another 309 years would pass before our species finally went extinct. The apocalypse was not the result of one thing, unless that one thing was that we repeatedly ignored signs that industrial civilisation had become increasingly fragile, even as it grew ever more powerful. But our end very definitely had a trigger. A burst of charged plasma from the sun caused the sudden, simultaneous collapse of numerous electrical grids across the world, setting in motion a cascade of devastating failures from which humanity would never recover.

In one regard, this was perfectly predictable. In any given decade since the grid’s invention, there was a one in eight chance that such an electrical collapse could occur. In 2013, a report had warned that an extreme geomagnetic storm was almost inevitable, and would induce huge currents in Earth’s transmission lines. This vulnerability could, with a little effort, have been completely addressed for a tiny sum of money — less than a tenth of what the world invested annually in text messaging prior to the great collapse of 2024.

[...]

The burst of plasma leapt from the Sun’s surface on 9 May, 2024. It was detected by Earthbound space-weather observers, who track these dangerous Coronal Mass Ejections. They made the usual calculations and issued the standard warnings. Had the grid been promptly disconnected, the crisis might have been lessened. But as was invariably the case with geomagnetic storms, they could not say how seriously — or even if — this burst would disrupt power, so the scientists’ warnings were largely ignored by grid managers, who don’t like blacking out vast areas on the remote chance of a severe problem. Crossing fingers had worked pretty well in the past. This time it did not.

The plasma cloud had hit the Earth just so, inducing violent current fluctuations that burned up numerous electrical power transformers from the inside. The blackouts that started in May 2024 were not universal at first. The eastern third of North America was among the most extensively affected areas, with 30 massive transformers completely destroyed. In ordinary times, a single replacement transformer took three years to deliver. Suddenly the world faced an emergency need for more than 100.

Apple TV+’s recent Finch stars Tom Hanks as a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world where a solar flare has destroyed the ozone layer and kicked off massive climate change.

Think of the narratives the MSM has pushed in recent years that have collapsed

November 16th, 2021

Andrew Sullivan asks us to think of the narratives the MSM has pushed in recent years that have collapsed:

They viciously defamed the Covington boys. They authoritatively told us that bounties had been placed on US soldiers in Afghanistan by Putin — and Trump’s denials only made them more certain. They told us that the lab-leak theory of Covid was a conspiracy theory with no evidence behind it at all. (The NYT actually had the story of the leak theory, by Donald McNeil, killed it, and then fired McNeil, their best Covid reporter, after some schoolgirls complained he wasn’t woke.) Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The MSM took the ludicrous story of Jussie Smollett seriously because it fit their nutty “white supremacy” narrative. They told us that a woman was brutally gang-raped at UVA (invented), that the Pulse mass shooting was driven by homophobia (untrue) and that the Atlanta spa shooter was motivated by anti-Asian bias (no known evidence for that at all). For good measure, they followed up with story after story about white supremacists targeting Asian-Americans, in a new wave of “hate,” even as the assaults were disproportionately by African Americans and the mentally ill.

As Greenwald noted, the NYT “published an emotionally gut-wrenching but complete fiction that never had any evidence — that Officer Sicknick’s skull was savagely bashed in with a fire extinguisher by a pro-Trump mob until he died.” The media told us that an alleged transgender exposure in the Wi Spa in Los Angeles was an anti-trans hoax (also untrue). They told us that the emails recovered on Hunter Biden’s laptop were Russian disinformation. They did this just before an election and used that claim to stymie the story on social media. But they were not Russian disinformation. They were a valid if minor news story the media consciously kept from its audience for partisan purposes.

More recently, the MSM were telling us for months that inflation is a phantasm. We were told that the “2021 Inflation Scare is another in a series of false alarms going back several decades.” We were assured that “the numbers at least for now are on the side of those expecting the trend to subside and then stabilize at lower levels.” Any concern was “fearmongering politics.” And now we wake up to the highest inflation in 30 years, counter-balancing wage increases. Still, they tell us, all will be well.

We were told that vaccines would end the Covid pandemic. But they merely altered Covid to a manageable disease that you could still contract while vaccinated. We were told that the migrant surge at the border was just seasonal, and nothing out of the ordinary, even as 1.7 million migrants were illegally trying to get into the country in the last year. We were told that sending migrants back to their home countries was a wicked and unconscionable Trump tactic — even as the Biden administration swiftly copied it with Haitian immigrants — to much success. The cruelty is the point, eh?

We were — and still are! — being told by most of the media that critical race theory isn’t in high schools at all. Meanwhile, a tsunami of evidence is out there showing that it absolutely is — in every subject, and every class, as the central philosophy behind many states’ education policies.

The ANC destroyed South Africa

November 15th, 2021

The African National Congress has destroyed South Africa — and failed to gain a majority of the vote:

The party is, despite its manifest failings, still custodian of the liberator’s mantle among many black South Africans — a recent survey showed that although 60% of ANC voters associated their party with corruption, they would nonetheless vote for it; such is the brand loyalty — but the party’s once hegemonic power is in retreat. The decline over the years is neatly in tandem with the nation’s trajectory towards a failed state. At its peak in 2004, the ANC pulled nearly 70% of the national vote. This week, it could barely pull past 46%.

[…]

President Nelson Mandela’s post-liberation administration winged it for five years on the back of public euphoria about the Rainbow Nation and the administrative sinews left by the departed apartheid state.

Then President Thabo Mbeki, his successor, sought to impose a sere, technocratic and welfarist vision on his realm, drawn directly from his experiences in Left-wing UK universities. Problem was that while he taught the newly enfranchised all about their rights as modern citizens, he somehow did not get around to talking about their duties. As a result, a boundless sense of entitlement has become an irreducible, damaging and informing fact of South African life, killing initiative and personal agency. Meanwhile, the technocrats who could give content to Mbeki’s vision were leaving state service in droves: victims of his racial affirmative policies.

After him came Jacob Zuma, former head of intelligence of the ANC’s military in exile, the army that somehow managed to wage a decades-long war during the apartheid years that few South Africans ever noticed. His cronies came into government trailing the odour of the Angolan military camps; the paranoia, secrecy, expedience, manipulation, fear, brutality, corruption and hopelessness.

It is estimated that during his eight-year term, Zuma benignly presided over the embezzlement of between R400 billion and R1.5 trillion of public money (1 GBP = R21) by a coterie of crooks gathered around his presidency, and by others appointed to the State services under the guise of affirmative action and “cadre deployment” (yes, they still speak like that).

[…]

Last month, the World Bank ranked South Africa’s once excellent ports at the bottom of the 351 ports surveyed and the Universal Postal Union conveyed the warming news that the South African postal service is now officially worse than Nigeria’s.

[…]

For decades now these informal cantons have become ever more self-sufficient: they have private police, hospitals, schools and an army of fixers to mediate between them and a truly appalling bureaucracy. So-called Public-Private Partnerships control large public business and tourist spaces, property developers build public roads, private companies manage water reticulation and major road routes are maintained by private enterprise.

Recent Government policy allows for Independent Power Producers: energy self-sufficiency is now within the grasp of these localised and internally expatriated communities.