Unfortunately the mechanism was weak

Wednesday, May 31st, 2023

Today is Clint Eastwood‘s 93rd birthday, which reminds me that I recently re-watched his 1992 western Unforgiven and couldn’t help but notice that he shot a double-action revolver, at a time when single-action revolvers were the norm. This was a Starr 1858 Army:

The Starr revolver was first introduced in 1858 as a sidearm for the U.S. Army, being called the “Starr 1858 Army”. This revolver was a six shot, black powder percussion revolver with a unique feature; a double action or “self-cocking” trigger mechanism. Unfortunately the mechanism was weak and the gun lost favor with soldiers after having their triggers break in combat all too often.


To fix this, the gun was given a more simple single action system and reproduced in 1863 as the “Starr 1863 Army” revolver. This model was far more favorable with troops, though other revolvers like the Colt 1860 Army and Remington 1858 New Army were more popular.

Vague and not especially constitutional laws from the 1960s

Wednesday, May 31st, 2023

Kulak has been reading Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement, which covers “ America since the 60s”:

How did Ivy league educated Lawyers and Bureaucrats turn some very vague, and not especially constitutional laws from the 1960s, seemingly passed by many of the congressmen of the time as a feel good bill they expected to do nothing… and instead turn them into a basis of permanent post-political Bureaucratic control?


I don’t think you can understand modern politics unless you understand that as much as the left and institutional bureaucracy is rushing to rig every institution and system in their favour… they’re fundamentally doing it out of fear.


All of America rejected the 1960s!

They rejected it when they gave Nixon the biggest political landslide in US history in 1972, and they rejected it again when they Elected Ronald Reagan…

American’s voted in sweeping majorities to undo the 1960s and strip the Harvard educated Legal/Bureaucratic elite of every ounce of power they’d usurped via tortured interpretations of the 64 civil rights act… and so of course Nixon was the subject of a coup d’etat! “Deep Throat” the Watergate informant was an FBI Associate Director. The people who actually did the Wiretapping were FBI and CIA agents… this is all public record… and yet the only thing that’s unknown is if Nixon actually knew the wiretapping was going on Ie. The one faction that lost political power instead of gaining it was the one that had a sweeping democratic mandate and might have been innocent in the literal sense of the word “Lacking knowledge”.

Reagan of course took the opposite tact and appeased the legal/bureaucratic machine: instead of ending affirmative action “With the stroke of a pen” as he promised, and ss any president could do given there has never been a single law passed mandating it and it is entirely Executive branch agency made “Regulation” that can be undone via executive order at any time.


But this is why Progressives and Regime Conservatives are so terrified of the “Latent Fascism” in the American people… Their entire empire could be ripped down at a seconds notice if the people just simultaneously demanded it and had a political movement willing to do it.

The society we live in may aptly be described as a “consultocracy”

Tuesday, May 30th, 2023

Geoff Shullenberger was teaching at a large private university in the final years of the Obama administration, when the university reacted to some student protests by convening a task force on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which brought in outside consultants to conduct a “climate assessment” of the entire institution:

In effect, this was a long online survey that all employees and students were encouraged, cajoled, and bribed (with pizza and the like) into filling out over the course of some months. The survey asked respondents to translate their feelings of comfort and discomfort within the institution into a series of numerical ratings. The consultants then synthesized the resulting data into a public presentation; this glorified PowerPoint was ceremoniously presented as the crowning achievement of the DEI task force — soon after which it was summarily disbanded


Why did those leading the university see hiring an external consultancy as the obvious and necessary response to the students’ objections? And why did most community members accept this approach without any questions? The answer, as Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington suggest in their new book, The Big Con, is that we live under the sway of “consultology.” This is their shorthand for the cluster of assumptions and practices that inform the vast and powerful consulting industry, which has become a defining element of our professional lives, economy, and governance structures.

As a result, the society we live in may aptly be described as a “consultocracy.” Not only nonprofit educational institutions but Fortune 500 corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and government agencies all regularly undergo processes like the one described above. When those leading such organizations find themselves confronting some novel situation — be it internal unrest, a pandemic, declining market share, rapid technological change, or any number of other eventualities — they turn, by ingrained second nature, to external management consultancies and lay out significant sums for their coveted guidance.


Another question is how this omnipresent industry has remained in the shadows despite having left its mark on nearly every organization in Western societies over decades. These questions are closely related because, as it turns out, the success of consulting has depended partly on the industry’s capacity to avoid public scrutiny and duck accountability for its often dubious contributions to the management of firms and governments.


The basic modus operandi of consultancies is not “ownership of scarce valuable knowledge assets” but rather “the possession of the means to create an impression of value.” Put simply, consultancies subsist not by actually making demonstrable positive contributions to the functioning of organizations but by conjuring up the appearance they are doing so.


What do organizations gain from bringing in external talent on short-term contracts rather than cultivating it internally? The basic pitch of the industry, they show, is that “learning … can be bought off the shelf, rather than developed over time through cumulative resource and knowledge investments.” The result is that the “Big Con is preventing governments and businesses from evolving the capabilities they need,” leaving them infantilized and dysfunctional — all of which makes continued dependence on consultancies inevitable.

How a political economy so favorable to the consulting industry came into being is a complicated story, but The Big Con implicates in particular the influence of “Third Way” center-left governments such as Tony Blair’s in the United Kingdom and Bill Clinton’s in the United States. In the wake of the midcentury expansion of the regulatory state and public programs, the Thatcher-Reagan revolution had castigated big government and attempted to limit its scope and functions (with less success than often imagined). Figures like Blair and Clinton offered a compromise: a “vision of government,” Mazzucato and Collington write, “as responsible for meeting public needs without necessarily providing public services itself.” Consulting firms played a massive role in implementing this vision, both offering guidance to governments on how to shrink payrolls and enact public-private partnerships and offering their own services on the “private” side of these partnerships.

According to The Big Con, global management consultancy revenue was 10 times greater in 2021 than in 1999 — without much to show for it except a massive financial crisis, secular stagnation, and mounting institutional crises across the West.


The penultimate chapter of The Big Con is dedicated to perhaps the most significant alignment of consulting firms with a progressive political cause: the rise of “climate consulting.” The market for this once-small field of consulting is expected to grow to more than $8.5 billion by 2028.


It’s worth noting you could easily replace the phrase “climate crisis” in this passage with “systemic racism,” “toxic masculinity,” “gender disparities,” “pandemics,” or any number of other causes taken up by the political Left in recent years — all of which, as it happens, have offered opportunities for consultants to cash in, whether specialized in DEI, ESG, or public health. Although Mazzucato and Collington do not say so, there is a clear symbiosis between progressive invocations of perpetual, pervasive crisis and the consulting industry’s capacity to expand the demand for its services.

Military body armor must be designed to prevent military injury

Monday, May 29th, 2023

A look at military wounding and death statistics shows that small arms injuries to the extremities are rarely fatal, whereas wounds to the head, neck, or torso are frequently fatal, which suggests a few things:

First, that improvements to helmet design are at least as pressing and as important as improvements to body armor systems. The current combat helmet does not provide adequate protection from blast wave exposure, which is the primary mechanism of injury today, and is sure to remain a dominant mechanism of injury long into the future.

Second, given the overwhelming preponderance of fragmentation injuries, especially to the limbs, improvements in soft armor materials and systems, guided towards improved armor coverage, are of key importance. And, of course, technological improvements in this area will also result in better, lighter hard armor plates. This may also reduce the casualty burden associated with small arms wounds to the extremities, which are apparently fairly common but do not result in substantial morbidity.

Further, with the data from OIF and the data from Gofrit et al, it would seem that the overwhelming preponderance of bullet injuries are anterior — that is to say, when bullets strike, they are 10x to almost 20x more likely to enter through the front of the body. It may make sense to consider pairing a larger and heavier armor plate in the front, with a smaller or lighter armor plate in the back. This is indeed quite an ancient practice — one which Alexander the Great was known to promote — and was recently employed by the Soviets.

More data is required, but, though admittedly unorthodox, this doesn’t seem like an obviously bad idea; full body armor does not exist, and one must prioritize coverage based on (a) where shots are likely to be particularly damaging or fatal, and (b) where shots are likely to hit. If shots in the back are indeed that uncommon, it stands to reason that the front armor plate is vastly more important than the rear armor plate, and should be made larger, stronger, etc., whereas the rear plate can be made smaller and thinner. That they are of equal weight and capability seems unreasonable, given that one may be ~10-20x more likely to be impacted than the other.

The geography that makes Crimea hard to invade facilitates a modern-day siege

Sunday, May 28th, 2023

Ukraine can isolate Crimea without a costly ground offensive:

Defending the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014, has historically presented a quandary. A land invasion from the northwest — the direct route — must cross the narrow and easily defended Perekop isthmus between the peninsula and the mainland.

On the other hand, a hostile army can just as easily block communications between Crimea and the mainland. This would force Russia to supply the peninsula either by sea or by road and rail using the 11-mile Kerch Strait bridge on the eastern side of the peninsula, which connects Crimea with the Taman peninsula in southern Russia.


“The geography that makes Crimea hard to invade facilitates a modern-day siege,” Courtney and Savitz wrote. “All Russian movements by land must pass through one of two constrained corridors. The first entails traversing hundreds of miles of occupied territory, including areas relatively close to the front and crawling with hostile populations, saboteurs, and special forces. The final gauntlet is the isthmus, a target-rich place with minimal room for maneuver and within range of current Ukrainian weapons.”

That leaves the Black Sea route. Ideally, Ukraine would either launch an amphibious invasion of the peninsula — as Britain and France did in the Crimean War in 1854 — or starve out the Russians through a naval blockade.


“USVs are well-suited for networked swarm attacks, and relatively low-cost,” Courtney and Savitz wrote. “Their nascent designs can be modified to make them stealthier and harder to detect than most crewed vessels. Sinking a warship in a confined channel could create obstacles that would take weeks to clear, or longer if under fire.”

It could have accuracy like a rocket but cheaper

Saturday, May 27th, 2023

A Ukrainian “shopping” on behalf of his government at the SOFWeek special operations conference in Tampa explains what they need:

Q: So you’re basically serving as a front person to bring Ukraine weapons and other systems that you need?

A: Yes. You’re right. So I’m trying to find something which is quite interesting. Then we help U.S. companies to organize some demo because if you bring something new, the first question from our military guy is like ‘okay, I like it. But bring it here in Ukraine and I will test it.’ Why is this necessary? Because you know, in Ukraine now it’s a very hard electronic warfare situation. Russians are great at jamming GPS, radio signal, everything. So sometimes you have no LTE [long-term evolution or broadband communications network], no GPS, no radio communication systems, or nothing.

And this is why the equipment — if you’re talking for example, about drones — needs to be tested in the real battlefield where it goes to the bottom line and we have some place where we could switch off, switch on some Russian electronic warfare equipment which we have in our hands and test it but we could not make it outside of Ukraine. So that’s why we asked all producers to bring such equipment to Ukraine make some tests and then we could send this equipment back. It’s up to the producer.

Q: What kind of equipment are the Russians using to jam your equipment?

A: They have a lot and to be honest, they study very well. So they have an understanding of the waveform of radio waves and some other characteristics of this. I’m not a very big specialist on electronic warfare, but I know how it generally works. So they teach from time to time which signals they need to jam because you could jam everything but it’s just for low distance. If you want to jam something special you need to be very accurate with this frequency rate, this waveform and everything.

So for example, they know for sure the Harris [radio) waveform and it's very dangerous for us because if they could identify the Harris waveform, Harris radio stations, and arrays - if they know the location, they could immediately hit this place.

Q: Because not only can they jam but they can detect it, and then they can hit the spot. And they know that.

A: For example, if we're talking about drone operators, yes. So if you will define where is the base station located, you could hit the operator.

Q: Is there a big problem of Ukrainian drone operators being attacked because the Russians have picked up their frequencies?

A: I have no statistics, but understand how this works. It's why I think it's happened. Because now we use a lot of drones and it's some information which was in some open sources, the average time for DJI Mavic on the battlefield, it's like three to five days. So what this means is we lose a lot of drones and we need to replace it... It's now not like something unusual, we use it and we lose it and we need to be all the time replacing different types of drones. Of course, if the drone is better and flies higher and it's more protected from jamming, its lifetime could be longer but you never know.

If you want to ask questions about what we need...

Q: Yes

A: So we need a lot of different types of drones because we now operate with FPV [First Person Video] drones, with Mavic drones and also with all other type of drones for ISR [information, surveillance, reconnaissance] for sometimes for some civilians, [trying to understand] where’s the enemy located? And not just in an optic way, but in radio way because we could also scan some frequency and understand where this enemy is located.

So we need different types of drones and also we need a lot of kamikaze drones because drones [are cheaper to operate than rockets] which we don’t have. We use kamikaze drone to penetrate some special objects, like for example, an S-300 [air defense] complex etc. etc. So for this reason we use such kamikaze drones because the price of this equipment that would be destroyed, compared to the price of drones, it’s less than if you use the rockets. Rockets are quite expensive. Send a kamikaze drone? It could have accuracy like a rocket but cheaper.

Their other need is optical systems:

Let’s say this is why I’m interested in some different optics systems — thermal vision, binoculars, some type of lighter munitions, electronic warfare systems, some for civilians for when we try to find where the enemy is in an electronic way, let’s say…

Engeroff’s plyometric program involved nothing but hopping on the spot

Friday, May 26th, 2023

Plyometric training can make you a more efficient runner, Alex Hutchinson notes, but there’s still plenty of debate about how it works:

As a result, studies like this one in Sports Biomechanics, published last month by a group led by Aurélien Patoz of the University of Lausanne, don’t garner much attention. They found a 3.9 percent improvement in running economy after eight weeks of either plyometric or dynamic strength training, roughly comparable to what Nike’s original Vaporfly 4% shoe produced. (They also found no evidence that either form of training altered running stride in any significant way, for what it’s worth.)

Why no excitement about a free four-percent boost? As someone who has experimented on and off with various forms of plyometric training over several decades, let me venture a hypothesis: it’s perceived as too complicated, and possibly risky, for most of us.

Does it need to be that complicated?

That’s the question tackled by another recent study, this one led by Tobias Engeroff of Goethe University Frankfurt and published in Scientific Reports. They stripped plyometric training down to its bare bones, tested it on a group of amateur runners—and still found a significant improvement in running economy after just six weeks. The exact size of the improvement depends on how you measure it and at what speed, but was between 2 and 4 percent.

Engeroff’s plyometric program involved nothing but hopping on the spot. Specifically, “participants were instructed to start with both feet no wider than hip width apart and to hop as high as possible with both legs, keeping the knees extended and aiming to minimize ground contact time.” They started by hopping for 10 seconds, resting for 50 seconds, and repeating five times for a total of five minutes. They did this five-minute program daily, decreasing the rest and increasing the number of sets each week: the second week was 6 sets of 10 seconds of hopping with 40 seconds of rest; the sixth and final week was 15 sets of 10 seconds hopping with 10 seconds of rest, still totaling five minutes.

This program was based on the idea that it’s tendon stiffness that boosts running economy. In particular, the stretch and recoil of the Achilles tendon provides between half and three-quarters of the positive work required for running, by some estimates. Engeroff’s short daily program draws on recent research by Keith Baar and others suggesting that connective tissue such as tendons responds best to brief, frequent stimulus rather than longer and harder workouts. Notably, this approach didn’t injure any of the runners.

A modernized steel helmet is simultaneously lighter than the PASGT and performs better against both fragments and handgun rounds

Thursday, May 25th, 2023

The first modern combat helmet was the French casque Adrian which was designed to address the threats soldiers faced in the Great War:

In WWI, explosive or fragmenting munitions were responsible for roughly 60-70% of all combat casualties. At the battle of Verdun, fragmentation and shrapnel from artillery bombardment caused at least 70% of the approximately 800,000 casualties that both sides suffered. The remainder were, for the most part, inflicted by relatively heavy rifle and machine-gun rounds which even the best helmets of today would not be able to stop.


The first helmet of the war to enter mass production and see widespread use — and the first modern combat helmet — was the French casque Adrian. This was made of mild steel, 0.7 to 0.8mm thick, with a tensile strength of at least 415 MPa and moderate ductility. (18% tensile elongation.) This helmet was capable of resisting a 230-grain, .45 caliber ball round at 400-450 feet per second, which is roughly half the .45 ACP’s muzzle velocity. But notwithstanding this poor performance against bullets, it is estimated to have defeated 75% of all shrapnel impacts from airburst munitions, and it had, therefore, an immediate positive impact on troop casualty rates and morale. In the Adrian’s wake, every other participant in WWI — except for Russia — hastened to develop and issue steel helmets of their own. Like the Adrian, these helmets had very poor resistance to small arms impacts, but were highly effective at protecting their wearers from shrapnel and fragmentation.

These same steel helmets, with minor modifications in some instances, were employed by all American and European forces through WWII. And here they proved even more vital, for whereas fragments and shrapnel accounted for approximately 65% of all WWI casualties, they accounted for 73% of WWII’s wartime wounds. The widespread use of the steel helmet shifted patterns of wounding and was highly effective at preventing fatal head injury. When the war was over, it was calculated that of all hits upon the US military’s M1 helmet 54% were defeated and, in fact, of all incapacitating hits upon the body, the M1 helmet prevented 10% of them.

Needless to say, all of the helmets of the war were totally incapable of stopping 8mm Mauser, 7.62x54mmR, or .30-06 bullets at most engagement distances — and in fact they would, invariably, fail to stop 7.62x25mm Tokarev handgun/submachinegun rounds within 100 yards under normal ballistic test conditions — but that wasn’t their intended function.


Interestingly, the soft, large, and extremely heavy .45 ball ammo that was used as the test projectile for the M1 couldn’t possibly have been more different from the fragment-simulating projectiles (FSP) used to test helmets today. The FSPs are much lighter — ranging from 2 to 64 grains — and they’re made entirely of AISI 4340 steel heat-treated to 30 HRC. With no jacket, no deformable lead core, and much lighter weights and lower diameters, they’re a qualitatively different threat in every respect.


In the mid 1960s, duPont chemists working on materials for automobile tire reinforcement identified a high-modulus polymer fiber which was first named PRD-49-IV was later trademarked and sold as Kevlar® 29. This material was of immediate interest to the US military. For at the time of its production it was 2.5 times as strong as any other textile fiber, and its performance was 60-100% better than ballistic nylon on a weight basis. Little time was wasted in replacing the nylon and fiberglass flak jackets with more protective and lighter Kevlar vests. And, taking a page from the Hayes-Stewart, Kevlar-laminate helmets — stiffened with about 20% by weight of a polymeric (PVB-phenolic) resin — were developed. Both the vests and the helmets were introduced as the PASGT program, and were issued to the troops in 1983. Some U.S. soldiers wore PASGT helmets in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury) in 1983, Panama (Operation Just Cause) in 1989, and in the Middle East (Desert Shield/Desert Storm) in 1990-1991.


The PASGT, though not officially rated to stop handgun rounds, was also demonstrably capable of stopping 9mm FMJ service ammunition at typical muzzle velocities.

All of this is tempered somewhat by the fact that the PASGT helmet is markedly heavier than the M1. A size XL PASGT weighs 4.2 pounds; a size XL M1 weighs 2.85 pounds. (The M1 was only offered in one size, which corresponds to an XL in dimensions and coverage.) Were the M1 made 47% heavier, thicker, out of a more modern steel alloy, it stands to reason that its protective capabilities could have kept pace, at a much lower cost and with superior performance against small-arms projectiles. Indeed, we know that this is the case, for a modernized steel helmet — the Adept NovaSteel — is simultaneously lighter than the PASGT and performs better against both fragments and handgun rounds. It is frankly surprising that something along such lines was never attempted or, seemingly, considered. As things stand, it could be argued, and very convincingly, that the introduction of the Kevlar helmet was a mistake.

And that’s without taking into consideration the fact that the PASGT was perhaps an order of magnitude more expensive than the M1, which cost the military $3.03/unit in the early 1950s. ($1.05 for the manganese steel shell, $1.98 for the liner.)

While ballistic protection provided by helmets has increased significantly since WWI, blast protection has not.

Papers downplay the race of non-white offenders

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023

A Washington Free Beacon review of hundreds of articles published by major papers over a span of two years finds that papers downplay the race of non-white offenders, mentioning their race much later in articles than they do for white offenders:

These papers are also three to four times more likely to mention an offender’s race at all if he is white, a disparity that grew in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020 and the protests that followed.

The Free Beacon collected data on nearly 1,100 articles about homicides from six major papers, all written between 2019 and 2021. Those papers included the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, and Minneapolis’s Star-Tribune — representatives of each paper did not return requests for comment for this article. For each article, we collected the offender’s and victim’s name and race, and noted where in the article the offender’s race was mentioned, if at all.

The data suggest an alarming editorial trend in which major papers routinely omit information from news reports, presenting readers with a skewed picture of who does and doesn’t commit crime. These editorial choices are part and parcel with the “racial reckoning” that swept newsrooms in the wake of Floyd’s murder, which saw journalists dramatically overhauling crime coverage to emphasize the view that the criminal justice system is racist at the root — perhaps at the expense of honesty about individual offenders’ crimes.

Everyone is happy, and stakeholders might falsify records if the government demands higher standards

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023

As someone who greatly benefited from school choice and ambitious curricula, Austin Vernon took years to accept the inconvenient lack of demand for higher-quality education:

My favored model is that schools have an iron triangle:

  1. Parents need someone to watch their kids while they work. They often don’t want to think about it, and they are usually content as long as their kids can reach the same status or skill levels they have.
  2. Most students prefer doing as little work as possible and focusing on fun activities like sports.
  3. Teachers don’t want to be bothered by disruptive students, nagging parents, or overbearing administrators.

Teachers provide the minimum instruction required to meet parental expectations. Students can avoid doing most work by showing up and behaving. Parents don’t bother teachers as long as their children come home intact. Teachers don’t bother parents as long as their kids behave. They also organize to limit administrator influence, often allying with students and parents. Honors programs provide a relief valve for teachers, parents, and students with more ambition or stronger tendencies to seek status. The most ambitious still need to seek outside tutoring.

Everyone is happy, and these stakeholders might falsify records if the government demands “higher standards.” They will fight hard against binding requirements or innovations like teaching scripts that challenge this compact.

This iron triangle collides with digital tools:

The number two pencil is one of the most critical tools for our iron triangle. Grade books need adjustments at the end of semesters to pass on underperforming students or raise a grade for an unhappy student (or parent). Sometimes state-mandated standardized tests need altering as well. Teachers can make these changes using an eraser or the keyboard on an unconnected spreadsheet without being charged with fraud.

Many education reformers dream of systems where students use personalized software. There are some schools where it works wonderfully. One of my high school mentors joined a non-profit education organization to assist rural schools wanting to adopt these systems. 5-10 districts adopted the program, but many encountered issues. Teachers, parents, and students revolted at one of the most successful implementations, forcing the district to revert to the old ways. Another became a crime scene because teachers didn’t realize that a central database tracked the changes they made to student grades at the end of the semester.


ChatGPT-for-schools must be compatible with a “Gentleman’s C” for widespread adoption. It could even be popular if it helps with classroom control, allows students to goof off, and lets parents believe their students have world-class teachers.

Containerize the batteries, charge them nearby the port, and load them like regular cargo

Monday, May 22nd, 2023

Batteries and cargo ships don’t seem like a natural fit, because, Austin Bernon argues, ships need cheap batteries instead of high performance ones:

Let’s examine powering a 10,000 TEU container ship from New York to Rotterdam with the cheapest volume battery chemistry we have, lithium iron phosphate (LFP). At the max continuous speed of 22 knots, power usage is ~40 MW. The trip distance is 3800 miles, so we need ~150 hours of power or 6 GWh. These ships carry ~2 million gallons of fuel, which equates to ~7.5 million liters. The latest CATL Qilin LFP packs contain 290 Wh/l. We can fit nearly 2.2 GWh just in our fuel storage space. Two-stroke marine diesel engines are massive, and we can get another ~0.5 GWh from reducing engine room space and ballast. The last 3.6 GWh can fit in less than 450 TEUs. So we can cross oceans losing only 4.5% of cargo space while gaining the benefits of electrification. The mass performance is not as good, with the batteries using 25% of the cargo mass after netting out fuel and engines. Ships carrying lighter containers would see little cargo penalty, but those carrying heavier goods would.

The startup Fleet Zero has a solution for the charging problem — containerize the batteries, charge them nearby the port, and load them like regular cargo. Ships carry so much fuel today because few fuel sales points offer the required scale, quality, and cost. Filling up at the best places and using large fuel tanks is the way to minimize cost. Recharging at each port will be the lowest cost strategy if batteries and electricity are cheaper than fuel, even if there is variation in prices between ports.

The issue with using LFP batteries is cost. 6 GWh of LFP batteries would cost over $600 million. The cost per cycle would be $110/MWh plus charging costs that could be anywhere from $30/MWh to $100/MWh. Heavy fuel oil at $80/barrel in a 45% efficient engine equates to ~$110/MWh. Business models like Fleet Zero assume multiple stops on routes (which cargo ships commonly do, anyway) and slower speeds. Ships carry fewer batteries on each leg, and the system requires fewer batteries. Cost per cycle drops to reasonable levels while cargo penalties decrease. But it would make adoption easier if cheaper batteries allowed ships to carry more batteries or increased their savings.

These numbers contrast with calculations from analysts like Vaclav Smil because he assumes a 30+ day non-stop trip from Asia to Europe. But shipping companies are in the business of making money,

Asian success has obscured a bleaker picture in the rest of the world.

Sunday, May 21st, 2023

The prognosis for the poor world is much worse than the standard picture, David Oks and Henry Williams argue:

The crux of the problem is this: despite attempts to find alternative models of economic development, there is no widely replicable strategy to develop a country — simply put, to turn it from poor to rich — that does not involve an economy becoming highly industrialized. But in recent decades, the growth of manufacturing sectors, and thus of economic development more broadly, has been overwhelmingly concen­trated in East Asia, particularly in China. Across the bulk of the poor world— here we have in mind Latin America, South Asia, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa — economies have been experiencing a more disturbing trajectory: simultaneous deagrarianization and deindus­trialization, especially in the years after 1980.

The result is that industrialization, development, and massive income growth in East Asia has statistically “compensated” for stagnation almost everywhere else — with East Asian industrialization partly re­spon­sible for the loss of other countries’ manufacturing bases. This has been the case even as incomes have risen in most of the poor world, mainly on account of the 2000–15 commodity supercycle driven in part by the explosive growth in demand from the Chinese market — which, ironically, helped lock emerging markets into low-tech, undiversified export profiles. Asian success, in short, has obscured a bleaker picture in the rest of the world.

Most emerging markets have not found an engine of durable growth comparable to manufacturing— most have indeed grown over the last few decades, but dependence on services and commodities exports has not made them rich. Thus most “developing” countries — we are skepti­cal of that euphemistic label — are in a worse structural position than they were a few decades ago: less economically complex and more socially unstable, with their developmental coalitions, if they ever exist­ed, badly frayed. For all the intermittent hype around “rising India” or “rising Africa,” systemic dynamics — deindustrialization, ecological dis­ruption, demographic headwinds — will pose severe challenges to eco­nomic development over the coming decades. New waves of industrialization and meaningful development are unlikely in these parts of the world. From the perspective of poverty statistics, Africa will assume particular importance: by far the continent with the worst economic performance over the last several decades, it is there that the most sig­nificant population growth will occur over the next century. The result, pending dramatic change, is a world in which the progress made against poverty over the last forty years will slow, stagnate, or even reverse.

The heliborne laser, fire-and-forget missile became the Hellfire

Saturday, May 20th, 2023

In 1974 the US Army needed a “tank buster” missile for its helicopters. This heliborne laser, fire-and-forget missile became the AGM-114 Hellfire.

It’s still a force in being

Saturday, May 20th, 2023

One of the “mysteries” of the Ukraine war has been the ineffectiveness of Russia’s air force:

Despite superior numbers and technology, Russian pilots have been surprisingly timid in pressing their attacks.

One reason for that is the effectiveness of Ukrainian ground-based air defenses, but the recent leak of secret US intelligence assessments has confirmed what some have suspected for a while: Ukraine is running out of anti-aircraft weapons.

Which raises the question: If Ukrainian air defenses fade, will the Russian Air Force — known as the VKS — finally become a decisive factor in the war?

“As a force, the VKS is still intact,” Dara Massicot, an expert on the Russian military at the RAND Corporation think tank, warned during an April episode of the Geopolitics Decanted podcast. “Yes, they’ve lost squadrons of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, but all in all that’s a single-digit percentage of the total force. It’s still a force in being.”


More importantly, Russian pilots encountered an effective Ukrainian integrated air-defense network composed of a patchwork of systems. It combined early-warning radars, manned interceptors, and Soviet-era surface-to-air missiles, or SAMs, such as the long-range S-300 and the short-range, man-portable Igla. These were quickly supplemented by Western weapons such as the man-portable US Stinger, British Starstreak, and, more recently, German Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns.

Given a choice, most air forces would perform deep strikes behind enemy lines rather than dangerous close-air-support missions, for which heavily armored ground-attack aircraft such as Russia’s Su-25 or the US’s A-10 are best suited. But as Russia’s ground invasion faltered in the early days of the war, the VKS was tasked with providing close air support to help the army.

“Then you saw them getting chewed up in various Stinger envelopes, various SAM envelopes,” Massicot said. “Ever since that, the VKS has been essentially used very conservatively.”


If Ukrainian SAM coverage at medium altitude does ebb, Bronk expects Russian aircraft to become much more active, but they may still struggle to provide close air support.

These missiles are likely completely stealth to the Patriot radar for the majority of their ballistic arc

Friday, May 19th, 2023

Simplicius breaks down Russia’s recent Patriot attack:

Russia was said to have conducted a layered, multi-vectored attack which came from various sides including north, east, and south, which included both Geran drones as screening cover, Kalibr missiles, Kh-101s, and finally the Kinzhals. The attack also likely included other cheaper types of drones as decoys to saturate the air defense, and in fact Kiev does attest to that, as in their official ‘shoot down’ graphic they include several drones they comically ID’d as Orlan ‘Supercum’ which was later changed to ‘Supercam’.

First, let’s break down how such an attack happens. Most logically, the cheaper decoy drones are sent in first to see if they can bait out any of the air defense into opening up on them. Kiev would try to use only its less important SHORAD (Short Range AD) systems against them, such as German Gepards and any Tunguskas/Shilkas and such that they might have.

Next would come the cruise missiles in order to bait out the true high value AD that may have held back with the first wave, and which Ukraine’s SHORAD systems may be useless against.


It should be stated that there are certain positions Russia already knows are likely, and are prefigured into their search matrices. For instance, Mim-104 Patriot system is an extremely complex and large system, you can’t just set it up anywhere, like in the middle of an apartment building courtyard or something like that. These systems not only require a lot of room but also, since they are much less mobile than drivable units like Gepards and such, they are preferably situated somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of civilian ‘eyes’ in the area, so that no one films or rats them out, whether accidentally or not.

This leaves only a few real, solid choices where you can put such a system. And they are almost always put in airports, as an example. It comes as no surprise then that during the attacks on 5/16, word now has it that two of the Patriots were located at Zhuliany airport in Kiev and one at or near the Zoo…

The launch angle of Patriot rockets is fixed at 38° above horizontal. Many other missile systems fire straight up.

This brings up the next issue: a lot of the Patriot missiles appeared to fail. These fallen pieces are not ‘discarded rocket stages’ or anything like that, but the actual missile heads themselves. In fact, we have photo proof that several of them “failed” mid-flight and did the famous ‘Patriot maneuver’ caught long ago in Saudi Arabia:

The Russians’ infamous hypersonic missile is the Kinzhal:

If we take its alleged Mach 10 value, a Mig-31K / Tu-22M3, flying approximately 100-150km north of Kiev over the Russian border, could fire the Kinzhal and it would take a mere 90 seconds or so to arrive in Kiev.

This means that, using the above methods of monitoring, tracking, and observation, once the Russian MOD homes in on a Patriot battery / radar location, it can transfer the coordinates to the Mig-31Ks already in the air, and the Patriots would only have 90 seconds, which is no where near enough time for them to move or do anything to really save themselves.


The other important thing to note is that no one actually knows how fast the Kinzhal or any hypersonic weapons system goes at the point of terminal impact, however it is almost certainly not hypersonic at that point. Yes, you heard that right: no hypersonic weapon on earth actually impacts the target at hypersonic speed.

No where is it actually stated it hits the target at hypersonic speed; this is merely a misleading assumption that people make. In fact, the official description for most hypersonic vehicles like the Kinzhal is that it hits hypersonic velocity at burnout speed. Burnout speed typically means when its engines finish firing during the peak of its ‘ballistic arc’.

People wrongly assume that the point of a hypersonic missile is “to hit the target at a hypersonic speed”. That’s actually not the main advantage. The real point of a hypersonic vehicle is to get to the target as fast as possible, and faster than any other conventional munition, which gives your enemy very little chance to react, such as trying to scramble or hide underground, etc.

The fact is, no manmade object can travel at hypersonic speeds at ground atmospheric levels. The atmosphere is way too thick and any object going such a speed would quickly heat up to astronomical levels and then vaporize. How do space rockets hit hypersonic speeds then, you ask? They accelerate very slow and don’t actually cross the hypersonic threshold until they’re basically already in space.

Most missile types like ballistic missiles and even air to air missiles fired by jets actually shoot up to a very high altitude for most of their cruise, and then come down only as they’re nearing the target. The point is to fly where the atmosphere and air resistance is much thinner to get maximum fuel mileage and acceleration/speed. Cruise missiles are an exception as the exigencies of needing to be ‘below the radar’ require most of them to fly very low.


The second most important thing is that hypersonic vehicles, as noted above, generate a plasma shield around them. This has been by far the biggest reason behind the ‘difficulty’ of creating hypersonic weapons. To accelerate something hypersonically, especially with a basic rocket motor, is easy enough. The problem is then communicating with the object. The plasma shield completely negates all electromagnetic waves, making the object completely impermeable to waves which means you can’t send it any signals to ‘guide’ it to a target.


No one knows which method Russia settled on and uses for the Kinzhal, it’s all classified. However, the likely fact is that the Kinzhal, as well as the Iskander, simply are no longer hypersonic by the time they reach the target, which allows radio signals to give them mid-course correction to the target. The reason is, once they accelerate to their hypersonic ‘burnout speed’ at the top of the ballistic arc, everything after that begins to bleed speed. No one actually knows for certain, but it is likely that by the time of target impact they may be going somewhere in the range of Mach 3-5.

This is still very fast, but keeps them from the ‘plasma field’ problem. How do we know this? Well, there are some videos of Iskander impacts, and while Iskander is said to top out at Mach 6-7 at burnout speed, its impacts do not look hypersonic, though they do look much faster than any other conventional missile types.


Because clearly, if it’s no longer being propelled by thrust, and is merely a ‘glider’ after the zenith of its ballistic arc, then the hypersonic speed it reaches from that point on will be slowly bled little by little. This is likely naturally timed such that the missile is no longer creating a plasma shield or disintegrating itself, such that it’s still going faster than anything else, but can receive course-correction data. This is why my best guess is these missiles actually impact at something like Mach 2-5 at the most.

Also, note that during the May 16 attack, on the night camera footage there was no “glowing objects” descending in the sky. If a Kinzhal was actually traveling Mach 5-7+ when it hit those Patriots, it would have streaked down like a meteor, glowing and throwing plasma.


But there’s one other important aspect not yet mentioned. A plasma bubble absorbs all electromagnetic signals, making the vehicle impervious to them. Guess what that means? That’s right—a hypersonic vehicle is essentially ‘stealth’ and cannot be detected by radar. The radar waves are simply absorbed and ionized by the plasma bubble, and in fact there have been many long years of stealth research in this field.

So the point is that, apropos the argument of whether the Patriot can intercept the Kinzhal or even the Iskander, the fact is, these missiles are likely completely stealth to the Patriot radar for the majority of their ballistic arc. Once they hit the arc and go into ‘glide mode’ and begin slowing down, they slowly come out of stealth, but the problem is, at that point they are already likely over the target and only 15-30 seconds at most from impact, maybe less, and still going a very fast Mach 4-5 at the beginning of the slow down.