Open Thread 165

Another pilgrimage to the Fortress Monastery.

* AFGHANISTAN. Apparently internal frictions amongst the Taliban, with Pakistani-backed hardliners winning out and filling the Cabinet exclusively with Taliban (in so doing breaking their commitment to form an inclusive government). Meanwhile, its former CB head notes that Afghanistan has no means of printing its own currency. I suppose this and capital controls ($200 daily limits on withdrawals) explains why the afghani hasn’t devalued more against $USDC; as such, we can expect the inevitable economic crunch to manifest itself in unemployment and wage arrears.  Contra Western propaganda, the Taliban remains universally unrecognized, including by Russia and China.

You often hear people talking about the supposed trillion dollar reserves of REMs in Afghanistan. In reality, there is nothing “rare” about Rare Earth Metals. The only constraint is cost of production, and it will always be cheaper in places like China or Kazakhstan where you have cheap electricity and low security costs.

Hugh-Jones, D., & Abdellaoui, A. (2021). Human capital mediates natural selection in contemporary humans (No. 2021-02). School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.


Woke Sexism: Women 2-3x More Likely to be “Targeted” for Crimethink

Since the end of the Bush era, disinvitations and cancelation campaigns have become the near exclusive preserve of the Left, with the range of opinion warranting such attacks spreading beyond the traditionally taboo HBD/IQ nexus to encompass more and more areas, such as affirming the existence of physiological differences between the sexes. According to a recent report from FIRE, this reached a crescendo during the Trump years, with the number of “targeting incidents” rising from 24 in 2015 to 113 in 2020.

As Noah Carl points out, the Left is massively overrepresented in academia relative to the right, by a factor of at least 6 to 1. So the disparity in targeting attempts actually conceals what is in fact an almost entirely one-sided campaign. Each individual “right-winger” in academia is about 10x more likely to be “targeted” than a “left-winger”. Moreover, while Noah is perhaps too politic to point this out, I would add that even to the extent that the “Right” engages in “cancelation” campaigns, it is typically to defend Israel – the one culture war besides banning the abortion of Down’s syndrome fetuses that modern American conservatives seem to really care about.

Still, assuming you haven’t been living under a rock the past few years, there’s nothing particularly new or interesting about any of this. But what did strike me about the report is the following observation by Cory Clark:

Although only 30% of targeted scholars were women, when targeted, women were slightly more likely to be terminated than men (29% vs. 23%). And when women do piss people off, they REALLY piss people off. The four largest petitions were all against female scholars.

Now this one is a more novel and interesting observation. And it suggests a lot of internalized sexism. Going by those percentages, 35% of the “controversial” scholars terminated for political reasons, are women (30%29%/(30%29%+70*23%) = 35%). This doesn’t sound all that bad or unexpected, but only so long as you don’t ask the question of how underrepresented women in particular are in the at-risk group. What percentage of female academics can be classified as controversial in the first place, relative to men? Almost certainly way less than 35%.

This isn’t even a supposition. According to Heiner Rindermann’s 2020 survey, women accounted for 17% of the experts in intelligence research – the single most consistently replicated, but also the most controversial, area of psychology (whereas they constitute 50%+ of psychologists as a whole). To take a more concrete example: While highly multiracial, the Advisory Board of Mankind Quarterly is 10% female (2/20). This matches the general 10% seen across “Coffee Salon” type environments characterized by the combination of intellectuality and some degree of “discordance” from societal norms and mores. Reality is, women are much less likely to make “controversial” comments or observations, and when they do, they were generally couched in much “nicer” language. Moreover, that 10% rears its head even in the sex distribution of academics who are most committed to supporting free speech:

All this implies that female scholars are something like 2-3x as likely to face repercussions for saying anti-Woke things than are men (10-15% free speech/anti-Woke, 35% punished for it).

Incidentally, this also syncs with Douglas K. Murray’s recent observations that women opposed to transgender maximalism tend to get bullied more than he does:

After all, countless female authors have written articles expressing scepticism towards the transgender movement — many of them more moderate than my own. Yet almost every time, I have watched in horror as online and offline mobs are stirred up against them and not me. Julie Bindel, Kathleen Stock, Selina Todd, JK Rowling, Abigail Shrier, Helen Joyce — some of these women have been subjected to physical assault; the rest threatened with it. …

Last year, for instance, [Owen] Jones was one of the more prominent figures in the witch-hunt against the then Guardian journalist Suzanne Moore. … There is now a pattern. This week, Jones targeted another exceptionally talented female writer, Sarah Ditum, for the same reason: she disagreed with him about trans issues.

But this time, people started to notice the trend. As the Left-wing journalist Helen Lewis — formerly of the New Statesman — observed, it is becoming increasingly clear that Jones only seems to go for female journalists.

Now I suppose there is a kind of evolutionary logic to it. Women not only tend to be, but are socially expected to be more conformist/”conservative” than men (it’s less risky and men are more expendable). They also have thinner skins (both literally and metaphorically). Social pressure has more of an effect on them.

So it’s darkly amusing how even (especially?) SJWs intuitively know this and act on their “internalized sexism” as befits their status as modern-era witch-hunters.

Nonetheless, this does add an important caveat to the observations/complaints about female overrepresentation in SJWism that is often made in “anti-Woke” and especially “Alt Right” circles. On the one hand, since women are naturally much more conformist then men, there is nothing surprising about this – conformism is, by definition, loaded towards observing the norms and enforcing the mores of the dominant culture, so your opinions about it will naturally depend on your assessment of how “good” or “bad” said culture is (which happens to be Wokeism in the modern West). However, apart from that, there remains the highly “traditionalist” and, in this particular context, highly ironic social expectation that women in particular should not dare stray beyond the boundaries of Woke discourse. Even more curiously, this social expectation seems to be most assiduously policed by Woke men like Owen Jones. And as if that wasn’t enough, amongst the anti-Wokes, there are also some people who want women mostly or entirely removed from the public sphere. This is, of course, a highly marginal position amongst the many diffuse groups who constitute anti-Wokes as a whole, who range the gamut from classical liberals and rationalists to old school conservatives, Gamergaters, and the Alt Right. However, those who do hold such views, most notably the “groyper” wing of the Alt Right who have recently discovered their profound affinity with the Taliban, also tend to be its loudest elements (and journalists are most happy to exhibit them). Not the sort of people whom women who are otherwise inclined towards Woke-skepticism would generally want to associate with or enable, and understandably so.

Putting all this together, it becomes rather less surprising that women tend to be so much more Woke in the US (specifically in the US). Both nature and the social environment push towards that outcome.


American Gas Burners, Russian Nuclear Starships

mal comments on a post from last year:

Well, there’s nothing wrong with current Russian commercial space program such – they are launching OneWeb satellites now and there’s a Korean one thats supposed to go on Angara. SpaceX does have more launches but thats because they launch their own Starlink constellation and Russian Sphere is not there yet (Russia needs to invest more in Space Simulation chamber for payload testing and development, they are building 2500 m3 one which is better than current 1800 m3 or even European 2400 m3, but no match for destroyed USSR one at 8,000 m3 or American at 20,000 m3).

On market pricing, Russians still dominate. Proton market price is $65M/22 tons to LEO, or $2,950/kg. Reusable Falcon price is $50M/15 tons (due to fuel return requirements), or $3,330/kg. Russians are cheaper and more efficient due to more stages on Proton vs Falcon.

For space tourism, Soyuz is more reliable, has a kitchen and a toilet, and ticket price of probably $30M/seat ($80M NASA price). Russians were charging $20M per seat a decade or so ago, even with inflation and upgrades i don’t see Soyuz pricier than $30M. It is also good at orbital mechanics so its fast to ISS. Current NASA contract pays $100M/seat to SpaceX ($2.4 billion/6 launches/4 seats each). I’m sure it will be cheaper in the future, but I don’t see them beating Soyuz prices for a decade.

In the near future though, this is going to change. Starship is huge and will dominate cost per kg. At that scale, opportunity cost of return fuel will be minimized and reusability will finally make economic sense. With refueling capabilities, Starship will dominate local space, and Russia doesn’t really have anything comparable. The good news is Starship is a fairly simple construction (a flying steel grain silo) so Russia should be able to just copy it. No shame in that.

So to answer your question. Aside from marketing hype and propaganda, current Russian commercial space offerings are highly competitive with US. In the near future, when Starship will be able to deploy any satellite on any orbit in local space and keep deploying them by the 100’s and 1,000’s, Russia will not be competitive anymore. Starship is a game changer. In the far out worlds, asteroid belts etc., chemical gas burners such as Starship will hit the limits of physics and Russian nuclear electric plasma accelerators will dominate the deep space.

I like to say, this is the biggest irony on Earth. Elon Musk, electric car guy, invented the best gas burner. Russia, known as planetary gas station, invented the best electric space propulsion system.

He talked of more recent progress here.

At an international expo ‘Archimedes’ in Moscow Keldysh Center (Russian research institute) demonstrated experimental device for radiation of waste heat into space. Device is dedicated to thermal regulation of spacecraft. I’m not sure if it’s a panel or fiber based one, or maybe even a droplet (panel is worst, fiber is OK, droplet is the future).

And speaking of the devil, it looks like Russians solved the droplet dispersion problem back in 2017. This guy solved it, to be exact.

Topic starts at around 6:20. To recap for non Russian speakers. Any moron can build a nuclear reactor and launch it into space, its easy to do. So why then the largest single power unit in space is about 20 kW? Because while producing electricity in space is easy, dissipating waste heat is not. Space is like a giant thermos that insulates well. The only way to get rid of heat is through radiation. Conventional way is radiator panels, but it’s extremely inefficient as their size requirement grows two orders of magnitude faster with power level increase. Past few hundred kW, those panels will weigh more than all the rest of the spacecraft put together.

To improve heat radiation efficiency, we must move from 2D panel to 3D geometry. Hence the droplets, as small droplets maximize surface area to volume (mass) ratio. This will allow for orders of magnitude lighter cooling systems and therefore high power output (nuclear reactors are very light compared to the weight of the cooling system they require). The droplets are made as you pass diffusion pump oil through an atomizer basically.

However, there is a problem. Small droplets accumulate static charge by picking up free electrons from space. This causes them to repel from each other and that makes collecting them back after they cooled off very difficult, and this results in coolant mass loss. That was the problem with Kaplya-2 experiment on the International Space Station back in 2014. There were a number of proposals put forward (external electromagnetic fields, plasma feed to neutralize the droplets etc) but they are all cumbersome, unreliable, or require expendable materials which makes them unsuitable for years long operation.

A simple, robust, and permanent solution to the problem is to illuminate the droplets with UV light at around 140 nm wavelength. This will trigger photoelectric effect that will kick off the excess electrons from the droplet. Unlike external electric field, there is no danger of over-ionizing the droplets and stripping too many electrons which will cause the same repulsion problem. No complex control is needed. All it takes is about a dozen UV lamps and those will condition the droplets for easy collection and minimize coolant losses.

The rejoinder is that local space is commercially attractive (Starlink is the obvious one… perhaps passenger and cargo transport, if the more optimistic projections pan out).

The tons of money made from this can be recycled into more ambitious projects.

Can the same be said of deep space? Asteroid belt mining has been often speculated about. But most resources are very cheap – and have been becoming much cheaper relative to the size of the world economy.


Homicide Rates in Africa

Charles Murray was widely lambasted a few weeks back for this Tweet:

Indeed, Sub-Saharan Africa isn’t that bad according to official homicide stats. For instance, Burkina Faso and Benin claim 1.3 and 1.1 /100,000 homicides, respectively, per year (from UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s International Homicide Statistics via World Bank).

But Africa is a demographic black box. For instance, we literally know more about births/deaths in mid-18th century Sweden than we do for much of Black Africa in the 2010s. WHO estimates of S.S.-African homicide rates exceed official stats by several factors.

GLOBAL STUDY ON HOMICIDE 2019: Homicide trends, patterns and criminal justice response (h/t The g Factor)

“Official” estimates are completely unreliable; where they do exist, the WHO estimates homicide rates to be many, many times higher than the official statistics. The average of the official statistics and the WHO statistics produces the graph on the right.” – (h/t The g Factor)

International prevalence of common crime (theft and assault). Each dot is a country in that region.
What % of people report having suffered a theft or assault in the past year in surveys.” (h/t @whyvert)

Source: van Dijk, J., Nieuwbeerta, P., & Joudo Larsen, J. (2021). Global Crime Patterns: An Analysis of Survey Data from 166 Countries Around the World, 2006–2019. Journal of Quantitative Criminology.


Open Thread 164

No Sovoks → 500 Million Russians

Matt Yglesias might want a billion Americans. But there would have been 500 million Russians in the absence of the Bolshevik Revolution, as was predicted by Dmitry Mendeleev in a 1907 book.

Putin, who it is now very clear reads my blog and Twitter, recently said as much himself in a meeting with schoolchildren in Vladivostok:

In our country, the Russian statehood disintegrated twice during the 20th century. The Russian Empire ceased to exist after the 1917 revolution. Russia lost huge territories in the west and north but gradually recuperated. But later, there followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Why? We should closely analyse all this and find what triggered those dramatic events. Had they failed to happen, we should have had a different country now. Some specialists believe that we should have had a population nearing 500 million people. Just think about it. Today, we have 146 million. If these tragedies had not occurred, there would have been 500 million people.


This isn’t a neo-Tsarist “what if” fantasy.

It is a direct computation of what population trends would have been like in the absence of the multiple catastrophes that Russia experienced during the thirty years from 1917-1947*.

  • Civil War, famines, emigration: 10M+
  • Collectivization famines: 5-7M
  • Political repressions: 1M+
  • World War II and Nazi occupation: 27M
  • 1947 famine: 1.5M

The result is that the combined population of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus was hardly any higher in 1946 (97M+33.5M+7.5M=138M) than it had been in 1916 (92M+35M+7M=134M). This was in a region which had a TFR of 6 children per woman in 1913.

Of course to this figure of ~280M+ Russians within the borders of the modern RF should be added 100M (much more Russified) Ukrainians and 20M Belorussians for a total population of 400M.

This is if anything a lower bound because it assumes that fertility patterns would have otherwise remained unchanged. Possibly a surviving Russian Empire/Republic would have had an earlier demographic transition to sub replacement fertility, as happened in Germany from the 1970s and Italy from the 1980s, due to faster economic development. On the other hand, it could be expected to have had a slower demographic transition earlier on, due to the absence of collectivization and no male/female post-WW2 disparity, and it would not have experienced the fertility-shredding social cataclysm that accompanied the Soviet collapse in the 1990s-2000s.

It is understandable why most Russians are not pining for a third revolution.

Демографические катастрофы ХХ века by the (late) demographer Anatoly Vishnevsky (from this book). Updated version here.

Open Thread 163

I was at the Army-2011 expo this week. Very cool, sort of like a military-themed Geek Picnic.


Ukraine Shuts Down Independent Media

Since the start of this year, the Ukraine has mounted an accelerating campaign to shut down all “pro-Russia” (apostrophes because more often than not they’re not so much explicitly pro-Russian, as merely less anti-Russian and more oppositionist than the mainstream) media. Examples include:

  • This February saw the shutdown of three TV channels (112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK) linked to Viktor Medvedchuk, an opposition leader, in a move that was praised by the US Embassy in Kiev. He is now under house arrest under treason charges based on undisclosed evidence from the security agencies.
  • Popular anti-Maidan blogger Anatoly Shariy was charges with treason and hate speech and now has political asylum in the EU.
  • The foremost opposition website was shut down in August (chief editor Igor Guzhva now has asylum in Austria), which is the 4th most popular news site in Ukraine. Next to zero Western attention, while a ton of ink was spilt over the Russian news site TV Rain merely having to declare its status as a “foreign agent.”
  • Most recently, Zelensky signed a decree ordering ISPs to block access to the websites of 12 Russian news organizations, including Vedomosti and Moskovskiy Komsomolets (which ironically sooner lean liberal). This extends Ukrainian restrictions beyond Russian state media organizations like RT, which were banned long ago, as well as blocks on Russian social media from 2017.
  • There are now discussions about shutting down the TV channel Nash, which is considered to be the last opposition Ukrainian channel.

This of course comes on the heels of the decree blanket banning Russian language schooling across Ukraine in September 2020.

I don’t suppose any of this is too surprising. President Biden has signaled that the US will be retreating from its imperial commitments, at least outside the West Pacific, giving the Ukrainian elites an additional impetus to accelerate the consolidation of the Ukrainian nation as an anti-Russian project.


Commie Anti-Vaxxers

Politics is tribal. “Conservatism” is situational. And so you can get some “unlikely comic book crossovers” if looking at the world through country-specific ideological prisms.

According to one recent poll, the most pro-vax Russians are United Russia (i.e. the most pro-Putin) voters, presumably reflecting the official state position which is and has always been pro-vaxx. 55% are now vaxxed, 28% planning to.

That is, precisely the opposite of what Western propaganda and the Russian liberal activists who feed it claim.

(While United Russia’s electorate is the most elderly these days, this doesn’t explain most of the differential, since the gap in pro/anti-vax sentiments between age groups in Russia is, unfortunately, one of the smallest ones in the world).

Liberals (Yabloko and “New People”) and nationalists (LDPR) are in the middle. That they are broadly comparable is quite astounding by Western standards, where anti-vaxx has become the standard “Far Right” position from the US to Germany, while liberals have made a cult out of double masking, total lockdowns, and similar inanities in a heroic attempt to catch up to rightoid idiocy. This clearly reflects the fact that Russian liberals feel alienated from society and exhibit low trust in official state positions, which especially expresses itself in Sputnik V skepticism (i.e. the one anti-vaxx position that Western liberals endorse). Clearly there’s a converse effect with respect to nationalists, whose natural inclinations towards conspiracy thinking are instead muted by patriotic sentiments towards “made in Russia” Sputnik V as well as the pro-vaxx position held by a state that isn’t overtly hostile to them as in the West.

Funniest of all though is that KPRF voters who are the most anti-vax: 51% say they haven’t and will not vax. My anecdotal impressions (“Communists tend to be some of the most active anti-vaxx agitators in Russia, so it is morbidly amusing in a way how they are helping kill off what remains of their fading electorate“) turned out to be exactly right. Communists aren’t huge fans of either the “Putin system” or the “Western globalists” so their positions also make sense, at least from the perspective of “your brain on ideology.”

Some differences on socio-economic policies aside, these commie populists seem to be the equivalents of America’s anti-vaxx Christian radio hosts, down to the red caps:

/r/russia: “The leader of the Yaroslavl communists, Alexander Vorobyov, died of COVID-19. Vorobyov was opposed to compulsory vaccination, in the photo he is depicted as a protester holding a poster “Compulsion to vaccinate is a crime.

Yaroslavl oblast has long had one of the lower vaccination rates relative to other regions, despite hosting a large and prosperous regional capital and having the highest IQ amongst Russian regions outside Moscow/SPB. This Vorobyov fellow seems to have had quite a successful activist career until its untimely end.

But hey, then again, maybe it works. The KPRF is polling better than it’s done in years:


Open Thread 162



  • The terrorist attacks today. The Taliban did free all those Islamist militants, not all of them would have been strictly suborned to the Taliban themselves. What’s so surprising?

  • Notable foreign relations developments. Tajikistan has adopted a cold tone to the Taliban, accusing them of gong and has reportedly supplied the NRF holed up in Panjshir.

  • Opinion polls from Russia and anecdotal evidence from China confirms that the Taliban is not popular there.

  • Dan Hardie with survey of Afghan Central Bank history. Last time the Taliban ran a Central Bank, they canceled the issue of new notes and its governor spent more time on the battlefield than in his office. Certainly very Bronze Age.

  • Peter Turchin cliodynamics-centered explanation of Taliban takeover.

Why Do Afghan Men Wear “Eyeliner”?

* Taliban finds ever more diverse fans expanding to Chechen Islamists (Kavkaz Center) & Ukrainian Neo-Nazis (Azov).