There is the smell of barely suppressed panic in Atlanta's air

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution….

Technically, we’ve been in at least a moderate drought for more than a year. In August, the drought was upgraded to a D4, or exceptional, level. That’s the top of the drought scale, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. And based on global weather patterns, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects below-average rainfall for at least another year.

Suddenly, you can almost feel a bit of panic ripple through official circles. If the drought doesn’t break, there’s now talk of reservoirs eventually running dry, of drinking water supplies possibly endangered. And last week, the state banned all outside residential watering in the metro area, as it should. But it’s late in the game, and we should have done a lot more a long time ago.

This is going to become an increasingly big issue. Everyone wants to move south because they love the weather. But somehow, they just magically expect the drinking water to follow them from the North. To make matters worst, they waste tons of water keeping their lawns a northern shade of green even in high summer.

They just don’t get it. In the north the grass has to die in winter. In the south, it has to die in the summer. Fighting this is a fool’s game that you are going to lose in the long run.

Why playing in the dirt makes you feel good.

This just goes to prove what I always thought. You should not use gloves when working in the dirt.

From the BBC….

Exposure to dirt may be a way to lift mood as well as boost the immune system, UK scientists say.

Lung cancer patients treated with “friendly” bacteria normally found in the soil have anecdotally reported improvements in their quality of life.

Mice exposed to the same bacteria made more of the brain’s “happy” chemical serotonin, the Bristol University authors told the journal Neuroscience.

Common antidepressants work by boosting this brain chemical.

Essay of the week: 10/28/07-11/3/07

This week’s essay of the week is shorter then most, but it should please the nerds in the audience. The essay is called How to Take Down the Power Grid. The author is a white hat hacker (they called him an analyst, but it is obvious that the dude hacked things) who used to work for the National Security Agency.

I am no expert, but the essay rings true to me. Especially since someone who works as a programmer at a large utility told me that a lot of critical data was being outsourced to Russia companies.

Today, the Chinese are facing serious fuel shortages

From Yahoo news..

According to Shanghai’s Xinmin Evening News Sunday, numerous petrol stations along the major Shanghai-Hangzhou highway were jammed with vehicles after they had run out of supplies of diesel.

The report also said people hoping to depart the city for weekend outings had difficulty finding petrol stations selling supplies Sunday morning.

In some parts of the country, commuters were being limited to purchases of only 100 yuan (13 dollars) of petrol, or were forced to buy premium fuel due to shortages of low-octane petrol, various reports said.

Truckers were also finding it difficult to tank up with diesel at a time when seasonal demand was expected to rise due to the ongoing harvest season.

The most maneuverable modern jet fighter in the world

Unless you are a real military nerd, you probably have never heard of the Su-30 family of warplanes (the number of variants in this family of fighters can get confusing, but they are all pretty similar). But if an American fighter plane is ever shot down by a hostile jet in the near future, it will probably be a Su variant that does it.

This is not just the opinion of an armchair general. It is also based on the results of the US Air Forces own studies according to this quote from Aviation Week and Space Technology…

THE SCENARIO in which the Su-30 “always” beats the F-15 involves the Sukhoi taking a shot with a BVR missile (like the AA-12 Adder) and then “turning into the clutter notch of the F-15’s radar,” the Air Force official said. Getting into the clutter notch where the Doppler radar is ineffective involves making a descending, right-angle turn to drop below the approaching F-15 while reducing the Su-30’s relative forward speed close to zero. This is a 20-year-old air combat tactic, but the Russian fighter’s maneuverability, ability to dump speed quickly and then rapidly regain acceleration allow it to execute the tactic with great effectiveness, observers said.

If the maneuver is flown correctly, the Su-30 is invisible to the F-15’s Doppler radar–which depends on movement of its targets–until the U.S. fighter gets to within range of the AA-11 Archer infrared missile. The AA-11 has a high-off-boresight capability and is used in combination with a helmet-mounted sight and a modern high-speed processor that rapidly spits out the target solution.

Positioned below the F-15, the Su-30 then uses its passive infrared sensor to frame the U.S. fighter against the sky with no background clutter. The Russian fighter then takes its second shot, this time with the IR missile, and accelerates out of danger.

“It works in the simulator every time,” the Air Force official said. However, he did point out that U.S. pilots are flying both aircraft in the tests. Few countries maintain a pilot corps with the air-to-air combat skills needed to fly these scenarios, said an aerospace industry official involved in stealth fighter programs.

Computer simulations are not the only thing that leads people to believe that Su-30’s could shoot down current American war planes. Recent exercises against the India’s Air Forces have lead to the same conclusion. From an article in Inside the Air Force…


i>Although service officials have been reluctant to detail how the Indians performed against the six F-15Cs from the 3rd Wing that participated in Cope India, Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) said in a Feb. 26 House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing that U.S. F-15Cs were defeated more than 90 percent of the time in direct combat exercises against the IAF.

Officials from the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf did not provide specifics about how their aircraft fared, but said the experience is causing the service to reevaluate the way it trains its pilots for air-to-air operations.

“What happened to us was it looks like our red air training might not be as good because the adversaries are better than we thought,” Snodgrass said. “And in the case of the Indian Air Force both their training and some of their equipment was better than we anticipated.”

“Red air” refers to the way the Air Force simulates enemy capability in air combat training. Because the service has assumed for years that its fighters are more capable than enemy aircraft, the U.S. pilots that simulate the enemy, known as “red” forces, in air combat training are required to operate under rules that constrain their combat capability.

“We have always believed that our technology was superior to everyone else’s technology, that we would fight a somewhat inferior adversary, so we have had to supply a simulated adversary from our own resources; we call that ‘red air,’” Snodgrass said.

The key to the Su-30 family’s success has been Mikhail Simonov’s focus on super maneuverability. To learn about this concept you should read this interview with Mr. Simonov. Since he is in charge of the Su program, you can’t expect him to be objective. But given the success of his planes, it is worth reading. In the interview Simonov explains such things as how super maneuverability can make a plan invisible to radar for a short space of time and how super maneuverability helps with getting into firing position.

Why is it worth learning about the Su-30 family of fighters?

This quote from Global Security says it all….


i>On 30 July 2007 the Jerusalem Post reported that Iran was negotiating with Russia to buy 250 Sukhoi Su-30 “Flanker” fighter-bombers. Israeli defense officials were investigating the potential Iran-Russia deal, in which Iran would pay $1 billion a dozen squadrons’ worth of the jets. Iran would also buy 20 Ilyushin Il-78 Midas tankers that could extend the fighters’ range as part of the deal. The move was seen as a response to the new American plans to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to potential Iranian adversaries in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. This report came soon after other deals to sell advanced Su-27 and Su-30 combat fighters to Indonesia, Malaysia and Venezuela.

And of course, India (which puts Israeli electronics in their Su -30s), China (which makes them under licenses), Algeria, and a number of states that use to be part of the former Soviet Union also fly these planes. The fact that an increasing number of countries are flying the Su-30s is one of the main reasons that US Air force feels that the F-22 is so critical to future America air superiority. I imagine that some time in the future we will find out if the F-22 has any greater success against the Su-30 family then the F-15 has had. After all, the developers of the Su-30 are not sitting on their hands.

If you are the type of person who prefers visual information to the written word, watch the u-tube clip below of a Venezuelan Su-30 going through its paces. Without doing at least some reading on the SU-30 family, I don’t think that you will recognize the maneuvers that you are seeing (especially since the camera zooms in so much that it is hard to keep your sense of perspective). But it should still give you some idea of why the Su-30 family are the most maneuverable fighter planes in the world.

Edit: Old clip was taken down by whoever put it up. Below are two new clips.

The Cobra maneuver from far enough back that can see what it looks like.

and a longer clip showing all the same maneuvers as the old clip except that that camera is zoomed in so much it is harder to understand what the plane is doing.

On the importance of credit insurance

A quote from the evil MSN

But people keep giving him the same silly line, that it’s all been discounted, which is a variation of “it’s contained.” He says that there are more dark-matter downgrades to come and that some of the insurers of credit may find themselves in serious trouble as credits go bad. He points out that if the insurers get into trouble, then all of the credits they insure obviously will worsen.

For those who don’t know, there is an absolute mountain of paper that trades where it does only because it has insurance. Sort of like the paper that traded where it did because it was supposedly AAA, and that rating turned out to be worthless. Any AAA, AA, A or whatever rating that’s based on insurance may not be worth the paper it’s written on.

It’s a lesson that hit Merrill Lynch (MER, news, msgs) hard. Witness the subprime fallout behind the company’s sobering third-quarter earnings report. Merrill wrote down about $5.8 billion of $14.2 billion in what’s known as super-senior subprime assets — the stuff that’s supposedly above AAA and bulletproof.

When asked on the conference call if everything was marked where it could be sold, there was no answer, leaving folks with the idea that there was plenty of stuff still marked to model. And you can be sure that if Merrill Lynch has this problem of potentially mismarked paper, so do all of the brokers and probably some of the big banks. This is a huge deal. (Memo to nonbelievers: The problem is spreading, it has not been discounted and it has not been contained.)

To end on a more positive theme: If you think of the return to sanity as a positive development, there’s reason to be encouraged by Investors Intelligence’s report, which recorded the most lopsided sentiment reading in many years. Last week, bulls stood at 62% and bears at about 19%. For anyone who’s been around the stock market for any length of time, that is a clear warning sign.