Bullet Points:

* Bannon Predicts – Steve Bannon, who moves in political circles, predicts that Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) will switch parties and become a Republican. She’s a conservative Democrat and espouses a lot of the issues that Republicans do. And she’s from Arizona. So, maybe? It would upset the balance in the US Senate.

Sinema is a contradiction in many ways. Sinema was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She graduated as valedictorian from Walton High School in DeFuniak Springs, Florida at age 16 and went on to earn her B.A. from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1995 at age 18. She left the LDS Church after graduating from BYU. She swung hard left, announcing her bisexuality, and served three terms in the Arizona State Assembly. As a US Senator, she moved to the center and now supports a lot of conservative projects like a border wall, reduced federal spending, etc. I don’t know what she’s going to do, but Bannon has his ear to the ground a lot more than I do.

Vladimir Putin signed official papers to formally recognize the incorporation of four partially occupied Ukrainian regions into the Russian Federation.

At a grand ceremony in the Kremlin, the Russian president delivered a defiant speech in front of Moscow’s most senior political elite, telling the West the land grab was irreversible and calling on Ukraine’s emboldened army to give up and negotiate a surrender.

‘I want to say this to the Kyiv regime and its masters in the West: People living in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens forever,’ Putin said.

Ukraine requested fast-track membership in NATO. The game is afoot.


The Relative nature of Relativity – and SciFi

A friend wrote me an email a few days ago asking for a sci-fi sanity check. He had been reading a series of sci-fi books where some interesting physics was used to destroy a hostile alien race. He was wondering if the methods used were credible and could actually be used in a hypothetical space battle. Below is his question followed by my response.


“First, they had a fleet of ships fire nuclear weapons while traveling close to the speed of light towards the battle. The idea was that the wavelength of the energy from the blast would experience an intense doppler effect, and hit the enemies at an incredibly high frequency. This gave the weapons far more devastating effects than would have otherwise been possible.”


This question is one that I looked at and said, “Oh, there is an easy answer to that.” But the more I thought about it the more complex it became. So I went and asked a real nuclear physicist (Not DRJIM, who has been ill. I didn’t want to bother him) and we both thought about it for a while and concluded that the issue is irrelevant, though there are some interesting physics questions underneath that made us scratch our heads, but none of which would make a better weapon.

The first problem is a misconception of where most of the energy in a nuclear blast goes. When an atom bomb goes boom it does release a significant amount of gamma radiation. That is just something that happens. When the uranium or plutonium fissions it will release a gamma ray, which is very energetic as far as electromagnetic radiation goes, and very dangerous, but the vast majority of the energy actually is carried away by the fission products. That is, the daughter isotopes of the nuclear reaction carry most of the energy in the form of kinetic energy. The gamma radiation will fry you, but the thing that actually creates the blast is the huge number of particles with huge kinetic energies that will rip you apart. The gamma radiation will ionize the atoms in your body, but the thing that will literally blast you to smithereens is the fissioned material with huge amounts of kinetic energy.

The gamma radiation will only carry away like 10% of the total energy from a nuclear blast, the rest is in the kinetic energy of the atoms after they split apart.

So if you accelerated it to high speeds the only part of the blast that would be doppler shifted would be the radiation. The particles that make up the most dangerous part of the nuclear weapon would not be doppler-shifted. So the radiation (gamma rays) from a nuclear weapon that has been accelerated to near the speed of light would get columnated, doppler shifted, and would be more energetic in the direction of motion. Still, you would have to be going at like 99.9998 % the speed of light before the doppler shift would make the radiation that much more dangerous than it already was. For example, if the bomb was traveling at 90% the speed of light then it would only raise the energy of the gamma radiation by a factor of 4. To make a significant difference you would literally need to be going 99.9998% the speed of light. At that speed the energy of the photons would be shifted by a factor of 1000, but only on an extremely narrow beam directly in front of the blast. A deviation by as little as 0.5 degrees would decrease the doppler shift by a factor of 10 (an overall increase of only a factor of 100). So aiming would have to be extremely precise, which means the detonation would have to occur right on target or any doppler advantage would be lost.

But the main issue with this scenario, and the thing that makes everything I discussed above pointless, is that at relativistic speeds the kinetic energy far exceeds any possible yield from the atom bomb. For every kilogram of plutonium, there is a total theoretical yield of about 20 kilotons of TNT, which comes to about 8×10^13 joules of energy. A kilogram of lead moving at 10% of the speed of light has a kinetic energy of about 5×10^14 joules or almost 10 times as much energy as you would get from an atom bomb.

If you take that up to 90% the speed of light, 1 kg of lead would have the kinetic energy of about 1×10^17 joules, or about 20 megatons of TNT, which is about the yield of the largest hydrogen bomb the US ever tested. At relativistic speeds, the kinetic energy of the case that holds the bomb would have orders of magnitude more energy than anything the atom bomb could produce. So accelerating an atom bomb to relativistic speeds in order to take advantage of the doppler effect is kind of like strapping a stick of dynamite to the front of a semi-truck traveling at 100 mph. It’s not the dynamite that will kill you.

The key is that at relativistic speeds everything has such high kinetic energy that normal stuff like atom bombs are tiny in comparison. Just getting a chunk of metal up to relativistic speeds would make it much more dangerous than any atom bomb.

Does that make sense?


More Clancy-Inspired

The third season of Tom Clancy’s political action thriller series “Jack Ryan” is set to premiere on Prime Video Dec. 21.

Starring John Krasinski as Jack Ryan, the eight-episode season follows Ryan on the run after being implicated in a larger conspiracy. While trying to stay alive as the CIA and an international rogue faction hunt him down, Ryan must also prevent a massive global conflict…of course.


September 28, 1066

William the Conqueror invaded England

Claiming his right to the English throne, William, duke of Normandy, invades England at Pevensey on Britain’s southeast coast. His subsequent defeat of King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings marked the beginning of a new era in British history.

William was the illegitimate son of Robert I, duke of Normandy, by his concubine Arlette, a tanner’s daughter from the town of Falaise. The duke, who had no other sons, designated William his heir, and with his death in 1035 William became duke of Normandy at age seven. Rebellions were epidemic during the early years of his reign, and on several occasions, the young duke narrowly escaped death. Many of his advisers did not. By the time he was 20, William had become an able ruler and was backed by King Henry I of France. Henry later turned against him, but William survived the opposition and in 1063 expanded the borders of his duchy into the region of Maine.

In 1051, William is believed to have visited England and met with his cousin Edward the Confessor, the childless English king. According to Norman historians, Edward promised to make William his heir. On his deathbed, however, Edward granted the kingdom to Harold Godwine, head of the leading noble family in England and more powerful than the king himself.

In January 1066, King Edward died, and Harold Godwine was proclaimed King Harold II. William immediately disputed his claim. In addition, King Harald III Hardraade of Norway had designs on England, as did Tostig, brother of Harold. King Harold rallied his forces for an expected invasion by William, but Tostig launched a series of raids instead, forcing the king to leave the English Channel unprotected. In September, Tostig joined forces with King Harald III and invaded England from Scotland. On September 25, Harold met them at Stamford Bridge and defeated and killed them both. Three days later, William landed in England at Pevensey.

With approximately 7,000 troops and cavalry, William seized Pevensey and marched to Hastings, where he paused to organize his forces. On October 13, Harold arrived near Hastings with his army, and the next day William led his forces out to give battle. At the end of a bloody, all-day battle, King Harold II was killed–shot in the eye with an arrow, according to legend–and his forces were defeated.

William then marched on London and received the city’s submission. On Christmas Day, 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned the first Norman king of England, in Westminster Abbey, and the Anglo-Saxon phase of English history came to an end. French became the language of the king’s court and gradually blended with the Anglo-Saxon tongue to give birth to modern English. William I proved an effective king of England, and the “Domesday Book,” a great census of the lands and people of England, was among his notable achievements. Upon the death of William I in 1087, his son, William Rufus, became William II, the second Norman king of England.


    • A longship is a longship is a longship. Good design for the type of waters around England. The fabled ‘White Ship’ which sailed from Barfleur, Normandy, before the reign of Stephen/Maude was a ‘longship.’ Excellent design for blue and brown water. Able to handle waves and to be used in rivers and great for landing on shoaling beaches.

      • What I meant to say is no matter who made it, a longship or vessels based upon longships are, well, longships.

  1. Nothing wrong with your neurons…that’s some seriously good science thought. Love it!

    Sinema- Only in America do they make teeth like that (line stolen from “A Good Year”). Bright, obviously. Personal proclivities aside, honestly, I don’t care which side of the plate she bats from, I care what she does, and so far I like her. My guess is she will go R, and Bannon does know what he’s talking about, and I like his style, solid Christian man unafraid to fight the scumbags.

    This [from the link] stuck out for me (filed under “Isn’t he special.” Typical): “Sinema spoke at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville”.

    That guy needs to retire, can’t stand him, or Graham, or a bunch of the others who like the attention. If she switches I hope MCConnell doesn’t ruin her.

  2. Sinema- If she goes Republican, I’ll give better than even odds that it’s strictly an act.
    Her past performance has been sub-par as a politician of either stripe.
    Listen to her speak without a script and she shows herself for what she is…an air-headed, blithering idiot that neither holds conservative opinions, nor understands them.

  3. Ahh physics, gotta love how the universe runs. Thank you for the practical refresher. There is a lot to be said for kinetic energy. Between “Project Thor” and its Rods from God (thanks Dr. Pournelle), Lazy Dogs, and later using live guidance heads on inert bombs, the US has used kinetic weapons for a while. I wonder what Space Force is doing?

    Great history lesson, that’s what I like about this site, practical and eclectic knowledge!

  4. So the radiation (gamma rays) from a nuclear weapon that has been accelerated to near the speed of light would get columnated, doppler shifted, and would be more energetic in the direction of motion.

    Not to be too much of a pedantic a*****e but the word is collimated, meaning aligned or made parallel. Widely used in optics, and I can see how that would be the word here.

    Like the others have said: the physics of relativistic nuclear weapons and English history in one place is quite the combination.

    • I can’t grasp the mechanism by which it gets collimated (we use collimators in our laser welders) but it seems to me that a nuclear blast in space doesn’t have enough material to throw around to be as destructive as one planet side.

  5. So as one approaches the speed of light a bb gun becomes a powerful weapon. I’m sure that there is no defense contractor money in that though.

  6. One of the SF series I loved was the Berserker Wars by Fred Saberhagen and the weapon used was called the “C+ Cannon” which fired lead shot at almost light speed to devastating effect. Much like you stated above, it is much more plausible than the nuke blast at relativistic speeds.

    MSG Grumpy

    • And there is the Jack Campbell (pen name of John Hemry, LCDR, USN Ret.) “The Lost Fleet” series where “grapeshot” is among ships’ armaments. Because when the ships themselves are moving at nontrivial c-fractional speeds, running into a cloud of ball bearings will ruin your day. (I don’t recall the handwavium that let cruising ships shrug off random space debris, yet remain susceptible to grapeshot. I mean, if you have some “repulsor field” or “gravitic wedge” or whatever, why doesn’t it protect against grapeshot?)

      Still, an enjoyable series. I liked Hemry’s “JAG in Space” quartet as well. Our hero Paul Sinclair is a junior line officer (OSWO – Open Space Warfare Officer) and NOT a JAG, but he keeps getting sucked into the courtroom. Also, I think the lessons on leadership and how to function in a hierarchy as a junior officer — when you are vastly ignorant about many real-world things that your enlisted know far better than you — would be good reading for medical students and interns.

      The Lost Fleet is set in a far far future with hundreds of human-settled worlds and interstellar “jump” capacity. (But people are still people, with hopes and fears and self-doubt, but also duty and heroism and self sacrifice. There is still politicking and backstabbing, and distrust between career Navy and career politicians. Marines and Navy still regard each other as different species, but will generally band together in a bar fight against planet-based “Ground Forces”. And people still fall in love despite themselves. Ultimately the story is about persons, and not “The relays clicked silently in geosynchronous satellite X12RR1 high over the Indian Ocean and it began to transmit a coded sequence.” [Twenty pages about the cryptography of the encoding scheme, and the orbital mechanics of geosynchronous orbits, and a digression about the development of the X12 series of satellites, with a secondary digression about metallurgy for space applications, follow. Although none of these things have ANYTHING to do with the plot.] (BTW, since several authors hang out here, no one reading this should suspect that I’m criticizing them as an author. Unless you are Clarke or Asimov. Hmmm. Recent David Weber can be offended if he likes, come to think of it. A pity he only wrote nine books in the Honorverse; I really liked those. Yes, nine. Just like there is only a single Matrix movie, and only two Predator movies. The rest are banned from my head-cannon. Honorverse went to hell after Eric Flint got involved with the “genetic slavery” and freaking “WEB DuBois”. FFS. And Weber’s own recent Honorverse stuff could probably be trimmed by about 50% of word count and be better for it. “Too successful to edit” is apparently a real thing. And this is coming from a guy who LIKED “The Apocalypse Troll” and even “The Path of the Fury”. And whatever his update/pastiche of Poul Anderson’s classic “The High Crusade” was called — I liked THAT well enough too. Ah. “The Excalibur Alternative.”)

      The JAG in Space series is set in a Solar System-only near future without “artificial gravity” where the ships might be approximated by a big submarine in space, if only you could figure out some sort of drive to make it go.

      Can y’all tell I’m working really hard to avoid the Actual Work I had planned to do today?
      mea culpa.

      • Honorverse – you were getting tired of the plot line core dumps? I sometimes wonder about the arguments authors get into with their characters, each one insisting on more screen time and more say on their dialog and actions.
        I’ve got both “The Apocalypse Troll” and “The Excalibur Alternative” around here somewhere – every time the kids read them they appear in new places 🙂

          • @LL: While you were improving your mind by reading original historical documents I was reading web comics. /hangsheadinshame

            @EB: Yeah, QC went off the rails with all the “AI” characters. Weird that more than half of the AIs act like idiots. I wonder if Jeph Wossname wanted to write stupid people with bad impulse control (for some reason) and his sociopolitical beliefs got in the way, so ….

    • Harald with an ‘A’ lost to Harold without an ‘eye.’ Easy to understand.

      Or, H with a beard lost to H with a mustache, who lost to W without facial fur.

      • How about the South Always Wins?
        Norwegian Harald Hardrada [1] (latitude 60° 07′) is defeated by Harold Godwinson of Wessex (51° 24′) who is in turn defeated by William the Bastard (48°53′) of Normandy.

        PS thank God for the Gulf Stream, eh? Burlington, Vermont, which is pretty darned northerly in these United States, is only 44.48° and it’s fairly chilly there in winter.

        [1] I’d like to think that Poul Anderson’s Meresian character Brechdan Ironrede takes his epithet from “Hardrada”. (In the dominant Meresian culture, the leader of a clan is not called the “Head” but rather the “Hand”. The psychosocial implications of this difference are doubtless critically important.)
        Brechdan Ironrede, the Hand of the Vach Ynvory, walked forth on a terrace of Castle Dhangodhan. A sentry slapped boots with tail and laid blaster to breastplate. A gardener, pruning the dwarfed koir trees planted among the flagstones, folded his arms and bent in his brown smock. To both, Brechdan touched his forehead. For they were not slaves; their families had been clients of the Ynvorys from ages before the nations merged into one; how could they take pride in it if the clan chief did not accord them their own dignity?


  7. Yep, the math works, and the 1kg of lead would actually be much more deadly, as the point of impact would not be able to distribute the ‘blast’ effectively, regardless of the shielding used.

    • And it does not even take into account that nuclear weapons are nowhere near 100% efficient. The energy disparity is even worse. They end up blowing themselves apart before the reaction is complete. Pretty much blowing out their own candle.

      Definitely agree on the later Honorverse books; going for word count.

      “The Apocalypse Troll” and “The Excalibur Alternative” are both well worn paperbacks on my bookshelves. Need to get the Kindle editions, pages in the paperbacks keep falling out.

  8. Your explanation is valid. There’s also thermal radiation from the extremely energetic release, but your point about the extra energy caused by this amount of matter being used for a nuclear blast vs the kinetic energy it already has from it’s velocity, is the key point. We used to watch what happened as the particles in the Main Accelerator went “Relativistic” at Fermilab. We could observe the particles gain mass faster than their velocity increased for the same amount of accelerating energy put in to the beam.

  9. Feel like I’m back in college physics with all you guys…fascinating nonetheless. And h/t to those who understand the science…very cool indeed.

    • I used to hand-fabricate the most advanced beam sensors in existence. It was quite an interesting job (I was a Tech on the RF System), but didn’t pay all that well. It was the first place I ran smack into “Affirmative Action”, which held me back, while “others” got promotions and raises.

      I went back into Industry…..

  10. If anyone needs to switch to the republicans it’s Manchin. Schumer just played him like a fool and he’s left holding his dick whining, “But you promised!” Sinema is an enigma….can’t figure her out.

  11. And that’s the problem with anything that is a significant level of sub-light speed. It becomes more an expression of Energy versus a function of Force, which, as all math/physics geeks understand, is the difference between function of velocity squared vs function of velocity, given an equal amount of mass and assuming one is not continually accelerating said physical object. Yes, there will be some ‘drag’ in various directions due to gravitational objects, and some slowing due to drag from ‘thick space’ (for definitions of thick in space, being more particles and such than in ‘normal’ space.)

    In John Ringo’s book “Claws that Catch,” the good guys fire a huge depleted uranium penetrator at the bad guy’s super ship, said penetrator fired at like 10% of light speed. That right there, just the speed, allows the penetrator to do massive damage when it hits. Then add in the special goodness of DU basically self-forging itself by sluffing off the damaged outer parts, and the DU catching on fire, and, well, that’s gonna leave a mark. A big, burning, huge rent deep into any ship.

    Now, considering it takes more and more power to go faster, staying low in the percentage of light-speed seems to be the way to do it. 10-20% and fire dense materials (like DU or tungsten or iridium) and that’s really all you need.

    Or you can fire small particles at very high percentages of light speed. Basically take the CERN, mount it on your ship, and chuck very high-speed particles. Same effect, but takes lots more energy to fire small particle very very very fast than it takes to fire large chunks at just very fast speed.

    Now, of course, when you are firing at a significant distance, speed of your projectile will become a factor. Lead time AND light time both come into play. You are looking at an object that’s already moved from the position where you’ve ‘seen’ it. So your targeting computer has to take distance very much into consideration as to where guessing the enemy might be when your fire finally reaches the potential intercept spot. Whether you are using lasers or that 105mm howitzer mounted on your ship or anything between, the lead or lag time between when you fired and when you may hit is something you have to consider.

  12. Maybe if I had even a basic grasp of physics Sci Fi would interest me. Way over my head. However advanced our human weapons become the basic, “No plan lasts after the first contact with the enemy” will still rule.

    • I’m still wondering if I put a tannerite plug inside a potato then run it through the launcher would it explode on launch, impact, or neither?

      • It would have to be quite an impact because shock detonates it. Unlike C-4, which requires a #10 blasting cap, a bullet will send tannerite high order.

      • Paul I don’t think it would go off at all. My experience with tanerrite is not large, maybe 40- 50 ish shots but in most case 22 LR did not set it off. 17HMR set it off but only those little 25 cent sized targets. 17 HMR would not set the 1/2 pound jars off. Thirty eight did not set it off and neither did 45 ACP but 5.56, 6.5 Creedmore, 7.62 and above always set it off. These were on different days and the weather may have had an affect, don’t know. If I remember right the directions say the bullet has to be moving something like 1200 fps. Could be wrong, haven’t messed with it this year since it has been so dry here.

        I have heard that if you shoot at a 1/2 pound jar of tannerite that is positioned at the bottom of a 5 ft piece of 8 inch diameter Sonotube (little mouse hole so you can see what you are aiming at) it will launch an 8 inch ball positioned in the tube to quite a high altitude, like out of sight, never see it again high. Impresses the grandkids.

      • If the launcher is low pressure, lower than needed to boom the tannerite, then no explody when launchy. Same with impact, it would have to be going as fast or faster than pressure needed to boom tannerite. Might need some detonator that detonates with enough shock to boom the tan.

        Feel free to experiment. Take careful notes and report back to us, please. 🙂

      • Doesn’t Tannerite need a fairly high energy impact to initiate? I thought subsonic and most pistol round wouldn’t set it off.

      • I think it was the physics department at Kansas University that created a supersonic potato gun that used compressed air as the driving force.

        • Good stuff gentleman, and experimentation may be in order, even if I was being a bit tongue and cheek yet curious from a physics perspective. (Sort of an 12 year old “hey, lets try this”). I’dbet there’s a YouTube with some guy asking the same.

          I know small 1” dia. snaptop cases filled will go off when struck with a 22LR, but direct hit only…grazing, no. And mess up the backboard while making a nice boom. But a good sized plug encased in a potato, launched and hitting? Not enough point energy for detonation or velocity, even if you manage to hit a rock on the freefall.

          EdC, I do have some Sonotube…that takes Estes Rocket fun to the next level.

          • You have a lot of potential. If only you’d been given military-grade stuff to play with to indulge your inner pyro. The standard military (after you’ve been exposed to the freedom of whatever sort of special forces) is a sort of stuffy, regimented, non-experimental gig, so that wouldn’t have worked for you. At least that’s my guess.

            Fun with PETN (Pentaerythritol tetranitrate) as a breaching agent, or as a car bomb (improvised explosive) that can be used in the field in a clandestine setting opens up a new world for those who enjoy that sort of thing.

            I recall my first IED class (where I was taught to make them, not necessarily to disarm them), and the light went on. “Can I do this every day?”

            “That’s what you’re being paid to do.”

            “Can I build another EFP, please?”

            “Oh, ok, just one more.”

          • Ok, rereading this to MrsPaulM and it’s seriously funny, even funnier when one realizes you guys, and me too, are being sorta kinda maybe serious…well, okay…totally serious.

            Good chuckle. Much needed. (Gotta go check the prepper shelf to see if I have a half pound jar left…it’s rainy here, perfect for experimentation.)

        • See “Smarter every Day” on YouTube. Destin and friends built a supersonic cannon using compressed air and created videos of the process. God stuff.

          • @Beans…..Who didn’t? Paul’s comment about Sonotube and Estes rocket engines brought back some memories of attempts to “improve” the Estes engines. I think I was about 14 when I learned the difference between a solid-fueld rocket engine and a pipe bomb can be as subtle as a little extra of this, a bit less of that, and hey…let’s try this.

            Had some spectacular failures, one of which (three stages, no less) obliterated my little launch tower. I think the PD may have been called, too….

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