Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hillary takes flak

Hillary, while secretary of state, did all her email on her own email server, located in her house. She didn't use a work email ( at all.  She probably figured doing it that way was more secure, State has been repeatedly hacked, and State  IT people can snoop all emails and leak any that they pleased.  She wanted a secure email, and it looks like she got it.
  Thinking about it, I had, and used, my work email for work stuff, and my home email for personal stuff, chatting with friends and the like.  I always figured the work email was insecure, and took pains to never put anything in email that I wouldn't post on a downtown bulletin board. Like if we ever got sued, the lawyers would subpoena every email in the company, and use anything in them in court. So, never bad mouth anyone, you might need to do business with them sometime.  Never discuss future plans, technological secrets, sales, pay, political infighting at the company, stick to selling the company product. 
   The TV is admitting that Hillary had left State before the more draconian laws about doing government business on government email were passed. 
   I'm not a Hillary fan, but on this email business, I understand her. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

With weapons grade fissionables anyone can build a bomb.

There are two fissionable isotopes practical for nuclear weapons, Uranium 235 and Plutonium 239.  U235 is found in nature, but it's scarce and very difficult to concentrate.  Only seven tenths of one percent of natural uranium is the readily fissionable isotope U235, the rest is relatively inert U238.  Plutonium, with a half life of  only 24 thousand years, is not found in nature.  Any plutonium present when earth was created, 4.5 billion years ago has decayed to lead by now.  Plutonium can be made from Uranium in a nuclear reactor. 
  To make a uranium fission bomb, you have to concentrate the fissionable U235 up from the 0.7% found in nature to 90% or so.  That is hard to do.  Chemistry won't help, because U238 and U235 are both Uranium and any chemical process will effect both isotopes alike.  Chemistry won't separate them. 
   Concentration of U235 relies upon physical processes that work on the slight difference in mass.  The Iranians are using centrifuges.  They react the Uranium with fluorine creating uranium hexafluoride gas.  The gaseous Uranium is fed into the centrifuge and the very high G forces of the centrifuge cause the heavier U238 to sink to outside and the lighter U235 to rise to the center, where it is skimmed off.  A single pass thru a centrifuge will raise the concentration of U235 a small amount.  To achieve weapons grade, 90%, you make many passes thru the same apparatus.   It takes a lot of centrifuges to get enough 90% U235 for a bomb.  The Iranians have 6800 on line and 19000 a building. 
   A bomb is merely a "critical mass" of U235.  The exact value of critical mass used to be a top secret, but nowadays it is probably 25 kilograms or so, call it 55 pounds or more.  Create a chunk of U235 of critical mass and you have a nuclear explosion, right then and there. 
   To produce a nuclear explosion at the target, rather than in the factory,  make two sub critical masses, keep them separate until the bomb is on target, then slam them together, hard, creating a critical mass and a nuclear explosion.  Standard design puts one sub critical mass in a gun, and fires it at the other sub critical mass.  This was the design of "Little Boy", the bomb used on Hiroshima.  They worked out the design of "Little Boy" in the 1940's with nothing but slide rules and Munroematic adding machines.  They were sufficiently confident of the design that they didn't waste any U235 on a test shot in Nevada.  "Little Boy" was shipped to the Marianas and dropped on Hiroshima. 
   In short, once you have enough weapons grade fissionables, say 55 pounds of 90% U235,  you have a bomb.  Just takes a little ordinary work with machine tools and it's ready to go. 
   Which means, as long as the Iranians have 6800 or maybe 19000 centrifuges, they can produce a working fission bomb in a matter of weeks. 
   The Obama team, negotiating with the Iranians, is willing to let the Iranian keep all their centrifuges.

Loving the USA

Story on NHPR this morning.  Apparently pregnant foreign women (well to do Chinese are mentioned but there has gotta be others) are traveling to the US to give birth here, so that the child will be a US citizen.  There is enough traffic to support  organizations of runners, who make the arrangements (for a stiff fee).  Border patrol is trying to bust them.
   I kept thinking, there has to be something really attractive about the US of A, to prompt pregnant women to travel half way around the world, away from friends and family, to give birth in an alien land, just to obtain US citizenship for the child. We should take advantage of that really attractive something in our dealings with adversaries like Putin and Iran. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bebi brings down the house

He spoke for 40 minutes.  The place was packed.  Bebi got 30-40 standing ovations.  Clearly a lot of Congressmen liked what they heard.  He spoke well, mentioned concrete examples, supported his points with facts, dates, places. None of the vague motherhood-and-applepie stuff that Obama hands out.  If nothing else, Bebi convinced all the enemies of Israel that he has a lot of good friends in America. 
   Bebi's objections to the deal Obama is working on with Iran are two fold.  First Iran gets to keep all its centrifuges, which means they can crank out a lot of weapons grade uranium in short order.  His other objection is to the 10-15 year time limit on the deal.  Iran only has to wait 10-15 years and it can then build all nukes as it likes, legally. 
   We will see what Bebi's speech does to US policy.  It certainly is going to make life uncomfortable for Obama.
   BTW, we need a Republican candidate for 2016 who can speak as well as Bebi. 

Bebi vs Bama

It oughta be good.  Bebi represents Israel, which gives him a good start.  Something like 10 million Americans are Jewish.  I know a fair number of them, and everyone of them is behind Israel 100%.  Many more Americans are Christian, and know their Old Testament.  The Children of Israel are the good guys thru out, and this rubs off on modern Israel.  And modern Israel is an inspiring story of bravery, hard work, entrepreneurship, and democracy.  So Bebi has some stuff going for him. 
   And Bebi is a pretty good speaker.  I watched him on TV a while ago.  It was a travelog kinda show on public TV, about historical sites in Israel.  Bebi was the tour guide.  He knew all the stories, in Israel there is a story connected with every rock and stone, he told them well.  I usually skip right over travelogs, but this one held my interest and I watched it to the end.
   Presumably Bebi is going talk about Iranian nukes, and the need to stop them.  Obama is trying to cut a deal with the Iranians.  The terms of the deal are still secret, but enough has leaked out to show that the deal isn't much of a deal.  The Iranians get to keep all their centrifuges,  international supervision is weak to non existent, and the whole deal sunsets in 10-15 years, which means the Iranians can legally build a nuke in 10 or 15 years.
   There is substantial support in the US Congress for laying more sanctions on Iran.  Bebi may be able to energize that support into something real.  Obama fears that this would queer the deal with Iran, which he seems all in favor of.  Obama's relations with Congress are bad, and his speaking style now bores people. Babi might well get what he wants over Obama's objections.
  Show starts in about an hour.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS)

Back in the 1930's and even thru WWII, engineers designing tanks were burdened with complicated theories as to what the tank was supposed to do.  They spoke of "breaking thru enemy positions" and "infantry support" and "exploitation" and "offensive combat" and so on.  Which resulted in some strange, very strange, tanks.  Like a model with five machine gun turrets,  or numerous models with dinky main guns.
   By the end of WWII it had become clear that the purpose of a tank was to destroy ALL battlefield targets within visual range.  Of which, the most difficult are hostile tanks.  This simple concept led to the conclusion that a tank needs a gun big enough to blow a hole thru enemy tanks.  Compared to the popguns that armed all too many tanks in WWII, the postwar tanks were equipped with truly massive guns. 
   In short, the simpler statement of the mission of a tank, led to much more effective designs. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

We have John Kerry, secretary of state, saying that times have never been better, casualties from terrorism are down, everything is hunky dory.  We have James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, saying the terrorism problem is the worst it has been since they started keeping records.  On the same day we have these two summaries.  Both given in front of Congress. 
   So who is right?  Well Kerry is an airhead, been one for a long time.  Dunno much about Clapper.  But neither of them look back very far. 
   For a real existential threat to our country, look back to the 1930's.  The Nazi's , with the Japanese for side kicks, were a real threat.  It took the longest, bloodiest, deadliest war in all of history to stop them.  We might have lost WWII if the enemy hadn't made so many mistakes.  The Nazi's could have beaten us to the bomb, and that would have been that.  Hitler would have nuked London and then New York, and kept on doing it till we had nothing left. 
   And, then there was the cold war.  The Soviets had plenty of nukes, enough to turn our country into a coast-to-coast slagheap.  One misstep,  say in Berlin, or Cuba, and boom, no more US of A.
   Compared to those two, now extinct threats,  the IS/ISIS/ISIL thing, while a pain in the tush, is just not that deadly, yet. 
   Of course we aren't doing anything about the IS/ISIS/ISIL threat.  We can't even figure out what to call them, let along how to squash them.