US intelligence community releases long-awaited UFO report; the Classical Limit & Metaphysical Limit; Part 1

(CNN) US intelligence community releases long-awaited UFO report. PDF here: (DNI) Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.

If all goes well,  a determined investigation will ensue, with an eventual answer to a question. The question may be in flux, the final form delivered as part of the answer. What eventually constitutes an answer may be dog-tired familiar, or strangely incomprehensible.

The report is the first consensus of DoD, the intelligence community, and NASA that asserts:

  • Human fallibility and sensor artifacts are not  by themselves a sufficient explanation for the bulk of observations reported to the predecessor program, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP).
  • UAPs may constitute a threat to national security.
  • Commitment  to a response.

If the consensus  becomes resolve, there will follow:

  • Investment in analysis of historical and future report data.
  • Investment in hardware, per future “UAP R&D Technical Roadmap.”

Resolve is new. In the past, resolve had enemies:

  • From 1948 to recent, the USAF ran  various tiny UAP (then called UFOs) programs, embarrassments to the mainstream, distractions from the problem of nuclear deterrence, which had not yet reached the formulaic perfection of MAD. The 50’s were a time of inter-service rivalry and cutthroat competition for congressional attention, when even pocket programs were viewed as threats by larger ones.
  • Until recent, the only  technology likely to record UAPs was radar, which remains notoriously vulnerable to atmospheric phenomena and flocks of birds.  The few photographs are of questionable provenance.
  • With an absence of good instruments, reliance on  untrained observers, imaginative individuals, frauds and lies substituted for objective recording.

Since 1985, sensors have have evolved from bulky-insensitive-deficient-expensive to small-agile-marvelous — and even cheap. The initial requirement may be met by off-the-shelf commercial hardware. Even unmodified cellphones may be of use.

If resolve holds, an iterative experiment results:

  • Design  new sensors for data collection. See CNN) James Clapper on UFOs; Let’s do Hyperspectral Imaging.
  • Deploy the sensors on airplanes, ships, and hot sites, a major job involving hundreds or thousands of platforms that may carry them.
  • Analyze the data,. to narrow  scope of explanations of UAPs.
  • Based on the success or failure of the deployments, go to “Design” and repeat.
  • When we’ve done enough of this, we have an outcome – or futility.

It’s traditional to anticipate the possible outcomes before we design the experiment. The report lists these buckets:

  • Airborne Clutter
  • Natural Atmospheric Phenomena
  • USG or Industry Developmental Programs
  • Foreign Adversary Systems, which includes “non-governmental entity”.

Luis Elizondo, former head of AATIP, has a category in mind  that should not be lumped with “stealth Al-Qaeda drone”, or “Houthi hypersonic project.” There are many interviews of Elizondo on the web; see (CNN) Former Pentagon official: Real question is, what are we really dealing with?

Preliminary Assessment commits a category error of omission, by omitting the bucket “extraterrestrial.” Perhaps this is to be expected, since the authors replaced a four-letter word, UFOs with the polite equivalent, UAP.

Why did they engage in this travesty of a mockery of a sham? Ufology is historically a really trashy field. The authors are hoping for a fresh start. Ain’t gonna happen. They’ll be dogged by trash every step of the way.

Elizondo positions himself as close to ufology believer as one can without making the actual statement. From Project Sign in 1948 till  2007 AATIP inception, there are no collections that justify the vibe. Before modern sensors came along, the gold standard was an experienced pilot.

It is exceedingly hard for a well trained pilot to accurately judge relative position and velocity when some of the norms of a typical encounter are missing or distorted: size, shape, speed. The classics, belonging to the explainable category:

As with all sightings that lack sensor data, the explanations are probable, not factual. You have only what the pilot or controllers tell you, or the vague impressions of radar.  Elizondo’s AATIP was the first to include optical sensors.  Yet the press approach to Elizondo was classical; how did he come across? Quoting (Wikipedia) Luis Elizondo,

When in 2019 Elizondo was interviewed by Tucker Carlson, Elizondo stated that the government had fragments of a UFO, “then quickly invoked his security oath”.

In this and a couple other strokes, Elizondo trashed himself, trading the attention of the establishment for the favor of a Fox mob. Yet  his legacy, AATIP, had sensors, and is poised to undergo elaborate resurrection. With the vast advances of sensor technology, this Question of the Age may finally escape paradox.

Life now seems so simple: deploy sensors, tabulate and analyze data, obtain answer. What could stop us now?

For that, you must wait for Part 2, shortly.








The Royal Pharmaceutical Society; Delta Strain of COVID; Napkin Calculation #3

How good is Napkin Calculation #3 of the Delta variant breakthrough rate? As napkin calculations are partly intuitive, let’s compare. The media have provided a variety of numbers which are not comparable. Breakthrough that counts only symptomatic cases is not the same as breakthrough of test-positive cases.

A Scotland study has a comparable result: (The official journal of The Royal Pharmaceutical Society) Second dose of Pfizer and Oxford vaccines offer reduced protection against Delta variant of COVID-19, study suggests. Quoting,

Results of a Scotland-wide study have shown that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine provides 79% protection against the Delta variant two weeks after the second jab, while the second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offers 60% protection.

From Delta Strain of COVID — We’re in for a Rough Ride; Napkin Calculation #3,

A breakthrough infection percentage of between 5X and 10X the percentage of hospitalized patients, breakthrough of 20%-40%. compared to 5% for the viruses of the original Phase 3 study.

79% for Pfizer, implying 21% breakthrough, is within the range of 20-40% predicted by the napkin calculation.  The Pfizer results indicate great benefit for the immunized individual. Whether the Pfizer shot will adequately suppress community transmission remains to be seen.



Revisiting One Year On: How Long Will the COVID-19 Epidemic Last? Napkin Calculation

On March 10, 2020, I wrote How Long Will the COVID-19 Epidemic Last? Napkin Calculation. Quoting,

In  the world of this very rough estimate, the epidemic takes a downturn 65 weeks from present. It assumes  no modifications by medicine and public health, and a lot of mostly avoidable human suffering.

It was offered almost tongue in cheek, yet the errors seem to have canceled out. Were it not for the Delta variant, it might be somewhat durable. Since this is a teaching blog, it would be dishonest to claim accuracy. I claim luck instead.

It should be taken as general encouragement of napkin calculations, which have a major advantage over sophisticated modeling:

You can’t be a prisoner of a napkin.


Biden-Putin Summit, Part 1, Putin’s Soul; Dumbing-Down

Let’s have a theological discussion. Does Putin have a soul?

About Cardinal Richelieu, Kissinger wrote, “the charting genius of a new concept of centralized statecraft and foreign policy based on the balance of power.” The Texas National Security Review article is an excellent description of the first modern statement of  diplomacy, Raison d’Etat, (Reason of State) which Oxford Languages defines as “a purely political reason for action on the part of a ruler or government, especially where a departure from openness, justice, or honesty is involved.”

Richelieu was First Minister of France from 12 August 1624 – 4 December 1642. Until the 1648 Peace of Westphalia,  sovereigns such as the King of France were formally vassals of the Holy Roman Empire. Religion was the partner of diplomacy, until Richelieu. With alliances in disregard of religion, he was thought evil by those who did not accept his rationale, for the state. On his death, a luminary said, paraphrasing,

“If there is no Hell, Richelieu has lived a very good life.”

This is the ancient version of “Did he have a soul?”

Richelieu’s deviousness inherits from Machiavelli’s The Prince. With the extensive documentation of Richelieu’s diplomacy, there began a tradition that continues to the current day:

  • Suspension of moral standards when in conflict with the needs of the state. (Chechnya, Syria, Ukraine.)
  • Disingenuous communication.
  • Alliances that serve balance of power, including states with which there is doctrinal conflict.

Talleyrand, 1797-1815, was even more devious, to the extent that the multiple regimes of France, instead of executing him, found him useful. On hearing of his death,  Austrian diplomat Metternich said, “I wonder what he means by that?”  Modern diplo-speak was flowering, not to inform, but to mislead.

Richelieu’s ghost  resurrects  in the person of Bismarck, who created modern Germany. His machinations so increased the power of Germany  that balance-of-power in Europe was destroyed, ultimately causing the Great War, World War 1.

The ghost of Richelieu, through Bismarck, was the ultimate cause of the Great War, which caused World War 2, which caused the Cold War. This is not to say that without Richelieu there would have been no war. His heritage provided the specific tripwires, fuses and explosions of record.

Among those who  consider war inevitable, Richelieu is avidly studied. His students think, if war is inevitable, at least have it on the best terms. Until the invasion of Ukraine, Europe had forgotten how to write  history in dripping blood. The disadvantage of historical anticipation is repetition.

Vladimir Putin is an intellectual man. He reads and re-reads the history and practice of diplomacy. His favorite author is undoubtedly Henry Kissinger. If you want to  know an intellectual, read the books he reads. You’ll have a deeper understanding of the man than any amount of spy-work provides.

Now back to the question of both Bush and Biden: Does Putin have a soul? The administration’s internal dialog had better be more sophisticated than that; I expect that it is. But this “soul/no-soul” label, offered to the electorate as insight, has dumbing-down dangers. Simplifying a complex individual who is himself a child of history discards available insight into Putin’s mind. This is so important to the game, Richelieu’s game, Putin’s game, our game.

So do you still think Putin’s soul is the right question, or will you put some mental muscle into it? Are handshakes and gifts central, or is the center somewhere else?

To be continued shortly.












Delta Strain of COVID — We’re in for a Rough Ride; Napkin Calculation #3

COVID springtime is short. It’s set to end in four more days.

In (CNN) Vaccinated Americans allowed to taste freedom; Not So Fast; Napkin Calculation #2, I wrote:

When B1.351 is vanquished, other variants will compete for dominance, with each other, and with vaccine makers.  Ad infinitum.  Ground Hog Day. Is this certain?  No, but to assume otherwise is wishful thinking.

Fate is now so poised with the Delta variant. The news media are lacking an important comparison, percentage of breakthrough infection. This doesn’t give it:

The above numbers are not comparable. The  casual reader needs elucidation of the meaning. How might we estimate the ratio, protection against infection/ protection against hospitalization?  The Fierce Pharma article does not supply that number.

We can get a rough idea from (Trust for America’s Health, pdf) CDC Data Show High Hospitalization Rates for Diagnosed COVID19 Patients with Underlying  Conditions in the United States, which offers a table, “Diagnosed COVID-19 Patients Age 19 and Older with Known Health History in United States, November [Note: should be February] 12 – March 28, 2020.”

Which row(s) of the table should we compare for an appropriately bracketed estimate?  Both of these:

  • In an early month of 2020, with no vaccine, 9% of those with no preexisting conditions were hospitalized; a ratio of  roughly 10X infected to hospitalized.
  • Including preexisting conditions, 21% were hospitalized; a ratio of  roughly 5X infected to hospitalized.

Currently, 4% of all Pfizer recipients who contract Delta, with or without qualification for preexisting health conditions, are hospitalized. This provides a napkin-calc  estimate of the protection of Pfizer against infection with the Delta strain:

A breakthrough infection percentage of between 5X and 10X the percentage of hospitalized patients, breakthrough of 20%-40%. compared to 5% for the viruses of the original Phase 3 study.

Do we call this “effective against the Delta strain?” Sure, get the shot. The shot improves the outlook for the individual.  It is not good enough to prevent another COVID catastrophe. And there is a strong pure math argument that this level of efficacy will select for an Epsilon strain with even greater breakthrough. It has the near optimal combination of opportunity-for replication, and selectivity.

The failure of the media to correctly portray this comparison verges on managing the news as opposed to reporting it. In defense, “News” might say that “Authorities” have not made the comparison. I say, dig a little, and you’ll get it.

Perhaps the media don’t want to be the killjoys. Somebody has to do it, and it’s their job. We will soon don masks again, retreating to our private amusements. Perhaps after the vaccines are adjusted with boosters, we can ditch the masks — for a while.

Revised: US assessing reported leak at Chinese nuclear power facility

(CNN)  Exclusive: US assessing reported leak at Chinese nuclear power facility contains new information. Quoting,

French utility company Electrictie de France (EDF) said in a statement it has been informed of an increase concentration of “noble gases in the primary circuit” of reactor number one of the Taishan nuclear power plant.

The noble gases produced are radioactive:

  • Xenon-135, which has a short half life, affects reactor operation, but is not a significant health hazard.
  • Krypton-85,  with a half life of 11 years, is a health hazard.

These gases accumulate in fuel rods, where they limit  fuel rod lifetime. The outer structure of a fuel rod is zircaloy, a mechanically tough alloy of zirconium. An inner liner of softer, pure zirconium reduces gas leakage.

Accumulation of these gases in the primary loop implies a problem with the zircaloy cladding , which is usually caused by bad welding. ANT International has published Welding of Zirconium Alloys.The first chapter is a very dense 47 pages. Quoting a couple paragraphs cannot portray the complexity of this exacting metallurgy. I’ll quote a little anyway:

2. Cleaning of weld joints and adjacent areas prior to welding. Contamination can lead to welds with poor strength and or poor corrosion resistance.

3. Atmosphere control during many of the zirconium welding processes must be strictly controlled to keep uptake of especially nitrogen and to a lesser extent oxygen at very low levels. In reactor corrosion resistance can be impaired when these gases enter the weld.

Incidents of bad China metallurgy have come to light more than in the West. Russia and Ukraine have a tradition of good metallurgy,  which has not yet become the norm in China. (Sacramento Bee) Troubled welds on the Bay Bridge: How a Chinese builder’s flaws left structural doubts and cost taxpayers.

Noble gases in the primary loop  indicates corrosion of fuel rods. Framatome assesses imminent containment failure; the U.S. estimate is “not yet.” What accounts for the divergence?

It comes down to the trajectory, and the failure mechanism:

  • Gas escapes from porous welds; not so bad, but auguring worse.
  • Severe corrosion  resulting in pinholes, much worse.
  • Water enters a fuel rod. Fresh fuel,  uranium dioxide, is nonreactive. The decay products, which are much more radioactive than the fuel itself, leach into the primary water loop. This could cause a failure cascade, resulting in containment failure.
  • Fuel rods break apart. Impaired cooling could result in partial melting of the core.

Perhaps Beijing  waking from their little nap is a realistic prerequisite for U.S. assistance.



(CNN) US assessing reported leak at Chinese nuclear power facility

Note: This post has been supplemented by Revised: US assessing reported leak at Chinese nuclear power facility.

(CNN) Exclusive: US assessing reported leak at Chinese nuclear power facility.

The Taishan reactors are a pressurized water design (PWR), with two water loops.

  • At high temperature and pressure, the primary loop cools the reactor core.
  • The primary loop transfers heat to  the secondary loop.
  • The secondary loop generates steam which powers turbines.
  • The turbines turn electric generators.

The primary loop is subject to the intense radiation of the reactor core. Under normal operation this causes radiolysis; a small quantity of water is broken down into free hydrogen and  oxygen. In a PWR design, this can be a stable arrangement; the dissolved hydrogen suppresses more radiolysis.

  • Radiolysis is a normal source of gas.

If a bubble of free H and O forms somewhere in the piping, it could recombine explosively, so most designs bleed off the gas at the top of the loop. The expected rate of bleed-off is known to the designers.  The Framatome  report of excessive, progressively increasing gas release indicates gas is being generated by other mechanism(s).

  • Metal-water interaction. Many metals, and some semiconductors, are weakly catalytic, accelerating radiolysis. Fuel rods are clad with zirconium, which tends to make gas: Zr + 2 H2O → ZrO2 + 2 H2 .  This becomes critical with a core melt-down.
  • Dissolved impurities, such as chlorine,and corrosion products, including zirconium, and whatever leaches out of a bad weld.

Why has Framatome approached the U.S. ?   The U.S. is the heir to the Manhattan Project knowledge base. Contrary to popular impression, most of the project dollars were spent on chemistry and materials science, not design of the Bomb. Including post war,  307 research reactors were constructed. Since one cannot look easily inspect the inside a reactor core, methods of remote diagnosis were developed.

Samples of water from the high pressure loop have dissolved chemicals with radioactive signatures. Excess gas implies corrosion in the system, but from what? A radiation chemistry analysis of primary-loop water could narrow the scope to a bad weld, (not the worst) or a hot spot in the core (bad).

In the early phase of COVID-19, the Wuhan regional bureaucracy engaged in what could charitably be called self deception. When the Beijing government took charge, China’s response  ranked with the best in the world. COVID has left China without visible scars.

A Taishan  miscalculation could be much worse. If the containment vessels hold, a Three-Mile Island results, with almost no consequences. If containment fails, you have a Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Are you listening, China?







Biden — Putin summit — Just a Note

This summit is likely to be without precedent. Concessions, agreement, national expressions of  friendship, or personal bonding, are unlikely.  Neither personality lends to the media circus in the manner of the Trump-Kim summit.  We won’t be bored by the freebee hand-shake shots that dripped heedlessly from the Reuters front page. In anticipation, Getty has sourced Russian dancing bears snacking on Delaware blue crab.

If the summit pays dividends,  the distributions will come in the future, beyond the standard diplomatic horizon, where six months are equivalent to five minutes of anything else. You are entitled to  speculate on the nature of these dividends.

Clue. Of all the issues of the U.S. – Russia relationship, virtually all are unmovable, not in play. A minority become negotiable with passage of time. What is impossible now may become slightly possible in 2, 4,…8 years.

To avoid interfering with Biden’s message, this discussion will resume after the summit.