Later On

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Archive for March 10th, 2018

The military keeps encountering UFOs. Why doesn’t the Pentagon care?

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Christopher Mellon, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, writes in the Washington Post:

In December, the Defense Department declassified two videosdocumenting encounters between U.S. Navy F-18 fighters and unidentified aircraft. The first video captures multiple pilots observing and discussing a strange, hovering, egg-shaped craft, apparently one of a “fleet” of such objects, according to cockpit audio. The second shows a similar incident involving an F-18 attached to the USS Nimitz carrier battle group in 2004.

The videos, along with observations by pilots and radar operators, appear to provide evidence of the existence of aircraft far superior to anything possessed by the United States or its allies. Defense Department officials who analyze the relevant intelligence confirm more than a dozen such incidents off the East Coast alone since 2015. In another recent case, the Air Force launched F-15 fighters last October in a failed attempt to intercept an unidentified high-speed aircraft looping over the Pacific Northwest .

A third declassified video, released by To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science , a privately owned media and scientific research company to which I’m an adviser, reveals a previously undisclosed Navy encounter that occurred off the East Coast in 2015.

Is it possible that America has been technologically leap-frogged by Russia or China? Or, as many people wondered after the videos were first published by the New York Times in December, might they be evidence of some alien civilization?

Unfortunately, we have no idea, because we aren’t even seeking answers.

I served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence for the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and as staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I know from numerous discussions with Pentagon officials over the past two years that military departments and agencies treat such incidents as isolated events rather than as part of a pattern requiring serious attention and investigation. A colleague of mine at To the Stars Academy, Luis Elizondo, used to run a Pentagon intelligence program that examined evidence of “anomalous” aircraft, but he resigned last fall to protest government inattention to the growing body of empirical data.

Meanwhile, reports from different services and agencies remain largely ignored and unevaluated inside their respective bureaucratic stovepipes. There is no Pentagon process for synthesizing all the observations the military is making. The current approach is equivalent to having the Army conduct a submarine search without the Navy. It is also reminiscent of the counterterrorism efforts of the CIA and the FBI before Sept. 11, 2001, when each had information on the hijackers that they kept to themselves. In this instance, the truth may ultimately prove benign, but why leave it to chance?

(A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to requests from The Washington Post for comment, but in December, the military confirmed the existence of a program to investigate UFOs and said it had stopped funding the research in 2012.)

The military personnel who are encountering these phenomena tell remarkable stories. In one example, over the course of two weeks in November 2004, the USS Princeton, a guided-missile cruiser operating advanced naval radar, repeatedly detected unidentified aircraft operating in and around the Nimitz carrier battle group, which it was guarding off the coast of San Diego. In some cases, according to incident reports and interviews with military personnel, these vehicles descended from altitudes higher than 60,000 feet at supersonic speeds, only to suddenly stop and hover as low as 50 feet above the ocean. The United States possesses nothing capable of such feats.

On at least two occasions, F-18 fighters were guided to intercept these vehicles and were able to verify their location, appearance and performance. Notably, these encounters occurred in broad daylight and were independently monitored by radars aboard multiple ships and aircraft. According to naval aviators I have spoken with at length, the vehicles were roughly 45 feet long and white. Yet these mysterious aircraft easily sped away from and outmaneuvered America’s front-line fighters without a discernible means of propulsion.

From my work with To the Stars Academy, which seeks to raise private funds to investigate incidents like the 2004 Nimitz encounter, I know they continue to occur, because we are being approached by military personnel who are concerned about national security and frustrated by how the Defense Department is handling such reports. I am also familiar with the evidence as a former Pentagon intelligence official and a consultant who began researching the issue after the Nimitz incident was brought to my attention. On several occasions, I have met with senior Pentagon officials, and at least one followed up and obtained briefings confirming incidents such as the Nimitz case. But nobody wants to be “the alien guy” in the national security bureaucracy; nobody wants to be ridiculed or sidelined for drawing attention to the issue. This is true up and down the chain of command, and it is a serious and recurring impediment to progress. 

If the origin of these aircraft is a mystery, so is the paralysis of the U.S. government in the face of such evidence. Sixty years ago,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2018 at 11:34 am

“These regulations were written with human blood.” Safety rules adopted after the Deepwater Horizon disaster are a target of Trump rollbacks.

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One serious problem faced by organizations of all sizes—including the Federal government—is an inability to learn from experience. Indeed, Chris Argyris devoted much of his career and several books to understanding (a) how organizations make themselves incapable of learning, and (b) how to create a learning organization.

In the NY Times Eric Lipton reports on a clear example of a failure to learn:

A dozen miles off the coast, on a rusty, aging platform, workers in hard hats and overalls spend their days extracting oil and gas from the ocean floor before retreating at night into tiny weather-beaten steel cubes that act as dorms.

The platform, owned by a Houston-based energy company that until recently was bankrupt, has none of the grandeur — or profits — of the deep-sea structures over 100 miles offshore that are operated by international giants like Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

But the company, Energy XXI, and other struggling operators in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico are beneficiaries of the Trump administration’s efforts to increase offshore production here — in large part by upending financial, environmental and safety regulations that the companies oppose.

While attention has been focused on President Trump’s disputed decision in January to reverse drilling restrictions in nearly all United States coastal waters, the administration has also pursued a rollback of Obama-era regulations in the Gulf. Those rules include safety measures put in place after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010, a disaster that killed 11 people and resulted in the largest marine oil spill in drilling history.

Smaller oil and gas companies, many backed by Wall Street and private equity firms, say they need the relief to survive financially, and the top safety official at the Interior Department appointed by Mr. Trump has appeared an enthusiastic ally.

“Help is on the way, help is on the way,” the official, Scott Angelle, said in September at a gathering in Lafayette, La., of oil and gas executives from so-called independent companies, which focus on drilling alone rather than the extended drilling-to-gas-station operations of bigger competitors.

But an analysis of federal inspection data by The New York Times found that several of the independent companies seeking the rollback, including Energy XXI, had been cited for workplace safety violations in recent years at a rate much higher than the industry average. Their offshore platforms suffer in some cases from years of poor maintenance, as well as equipment failures or metal fatigue on aging devices, records show.

In addition, there was a string of serious environmental and safety episodes in the last six months involving independent operators, including the death in February of a worker who was removing firefighting equipment from a platform about 30 miles offshore, and an oil spill in October that is considered the largest since the Deepwater Horizon event, according to Interior Department records.

“These regulations were written with human blood,” said Lillian Espinoza-Gala, a former offshore worker who now serves as an industry safety consultant and opposes easing protections. “The only way we can honor those who lost their lives is for us to learn how to do this in the correct way.”

But Mr. Angelle has close personal and recent ties to the oil and gas industry, particularly the smaller companies seeking his intervention. Earlier, as a state official, he worked with them to end a temporary moratorium on new offshore drilling imposed by the Obama administration after the Deepwater Horizon accident.

Now he is the top official at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, a division created under President Obama to toughen safety standards and enforcement in offshore drilling because of problems exposed by Deepwater Horizon. Mr. Angelle spent his first months on the job, records show, traveling between Washington, Texas and his native Louisiana to meet with executives at most of the top offshore oil companies, including some repeatedly cited for safety violations.

During the gatherings, most of which were behind closed doors, he asked for suggestions about how federal safety and environmental rules should be rewritten. Sometimes he offered up his cellphone number, urging attendees to call rather than send emails or text messages, which could be subject to public records requests. . .

Continue reading.  There’s a lot more, and it shows how the Federal government is being warped into a facilitator of corporate greed.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2018 at 9:47 am

Why children ask ‘Why?’ and what makes a good explanation

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Matteo Colombo, an assistant professor in the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science, and in the Department of Philosophy at Tilburg University in the Netherlands does research on the philosophy of cognitive science, moral psychology, and the philosophy of science. He writes in Aeon:

When I was about four years old, I asked my mother one of my first ‘Why?’ questions: ‘Mom, why does Pippo live underwater?’ Mom explained that Pippo, our goldfish, was a fish, and fish live underwater. This answer left me unsatisfied, so I kept enquiring: ‘Why do fish live underwater? Can’t we also live underwater?’ Mom replied that fish breathe by extracting oxygen from the water around them; people cannot breathe underwater. I then asked an apparently unrelated one: ‘What is ice made of?’ ‘Ice is made of water, Matteo.’ Two days later, Pippo was found in our freezer.

Like most four-year-olds, I was surprised by the things happening around me. As soon as I began speaking, I was asking about why things happen. This often annoyed the grown-ups. But when they were willing to answer my questions, their explanations helped me figure out what would happen, had things been different. My conclusions were badly off sometimes (as poor Pippo found out to his cost). Nevertheless, mistakes and explanations guided my discovery of the world: I was doing science before I went to school, and I was enjoying it too.

What is a good explanation? And how can we find out? Philosophers of science have traditionally answered these questions by concentrating on the norms governing scientists’ explanatory practice, evaluating these norms on the basis of their intuitions on a battery of cases involving putative explanations.

Starting with the work of Carl G Hempel in the 1960s, philosophers of science have articulated three main models of explanation. According to Hempel’s covering-law model, explanations are arguments demonstrating that what is being explained logically follows from some general law. By the covering-law model, if one asks: ‘Why does a certain flagpole cast a shadow that is 10 metres long?’, a good answer should cite the laws of optics, the height of the flagpole, and the angle of the Sun in the sky. This explanation is good because it ‘shows that, given the particular circumstances and the laws in question, the occurrence of the phenomenon was to be expected’.

Another approach is the unificationist model, which says that good explanations provide a unified account that can be comprehensively applied to many different phenomena. Newton’s theory of gravity and Darwin’s theory of evolution are lovely explanations because they enjoy a great unifying power. These theories appeal again and again to a few basic principles that can account for a great many phenomena. Thereby, unifying theories reduce to a minimum the number of what the biologist Thomas Huxley in 1896 called ‘fundamental incomprehensibilities’.

The causal mechanical model is perhaps the most popular among philosophers. It says that good explanations reveal organised component parts and activities that make things happen. If one asks: ‘Why did that window break?’, a good answer is: ‘Because someone threw a rock at it.’ Or if one asks: ‘How does blood reach every part of the body?’, a good answer should include information about the heart, the blood vessels of the circulatory system, and their functions.

These models capture the form of many good explanations. However, philosophers should not assume that there is only one true model of explanation, and that a decision must be made about which model tells us what a good explanation really is. That is, many assume that a single, ‘one-size’ explanatory model fits all areas of enquiry. This assumption means that philosophers have often ignored the psychology of explanatory reasoning.

Giving a good answer to a ‘Why?’ question is not just a philosophical abstraction. An explanation has cognitive, real-world functions. It promotes learning and discovery, and good explanatory theories are vital to smoothly navigating the environment. In this sense, an explanation is what is known as a speech act, which is an utterance that serves a certain function in communication. Evaluating when someone successfully performs this speech act should take account of the psychology of explanatory reasoning and its subtle context sensitivity. Wonderful work in the psychology of explanation shows that laws, unification and causal mechanisms all have a place in human psychology, tracking distinct concepts that get triggered depending on one’s audience, interests, background beliefs and social environment.

Results from psychology also expose a striking similarity between children’s and scientists’ explanatory reasoning. Both children and scientists look out in the world, trying to find patterns, searching for surprising violations of those patterns, and attempting to make sense of them based on explanatory and probabilistic considerations. Children’s explanatory practices offer unique insight into the nature of good explanation.

Models of explanation should be . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2018 at 9:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Nothing wrong with the Edwin Jagger razor—with Dark Rose

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An extremely pleasant shave today. The intensely lavender soap I got years back from a vendor now gone made a very fine lather, thanks in part to Mr Pomp, the brush with the striped polo-style handle.

I generally use razors other than my Edwin Jagger just because I find them as good (or somewhat better) in comfort and efficiency and more interesting in terms of design and/or backstory. But the EJ is indeed a good razor. I particularly like this one, with the handle of fluted black rubber. And it delivered a great shave: BBS with total comfort and no problems.

Saint Charles Shave Dark Rose is a favorite, and because I’m running low, I got in touch with them to see whether a new batch was possible. Unfortunately, the drive holding her database of formulae had been attacked by ransomware, so she lost that computer. Fortunately, she found the printed recipe and is going to make up some. I highly recommend the fragrance: rose, but with lots more going on. She emailed:

I know about half of the oils I have on hand for sure, but there are about 6 or 8 I need to look for. Once upon a time I kept all my oils in alphabetical order and by size too. : )  If there are any oils I do not have, the timing is perfect because I have to place an order for some others next week already and can throw those on the order. I am sure I have most on hand though.

I suggested she offer Dark Rose on her website.

A splash of Dark Rose as an aftershave, and the weekend is looking good.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2018 at 9:11 am

Posted in Shaving

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