Locklin on science

Things the US establishment got wrong about wuhan-coof part 2

Posted in corona-chan by Scott Locklin on May 1, 2022

All the things they got wrong as of August 2021 listed here.  Hoping I don’t have to write another one of these, though not optimistic. I’ve been writing this stuff down since the last shitpost on the topic, so some or most of it will seem irrelevant now. Really you can stop reading now; people were at each other’s throats over this crap, literally until February 24 when Putl0r cured the world of corona-chan. The Empire of Lies (aka the US establishment) hasn’t acknowledged that it basically goofed everything up, and is presently engaged in distracting you with more nonsense. I’m here to remind everyone what unbearably incompetent morons they all are.

Most important thing in the world. I had the wuhan coof. Considering the debauched life I’ve lived, it scarcely seems possible I survived, but survive I did (as a probabilist, I gave myself 999/1000, which is about my probability of dropping dead in a given year at my age). It started as a dry cough, which I attributed to the faggy little cigarillos I occasionally smoke. I was then sick for approximately 3-4 days, at which point I was back in the park smoking cigarillos with my pal “Henry.” Henry suggested I avail myself of the abundant local public health facilities in case my still nasty sounding cough was the ‘rona after all. It turned out it was. Shit I noticed: it made the skin on top of my head and back sore in an uncanny way. I think it also gave me a fever, but I didn’t have anything ’round the house but a pulse oximiter until I was mostly over it. I also felt run down for maybe a week afterwords, where I would wake up feeling amazing, but slowly develop more achey symptoms over the course of the day. Nothing terrible; cough got a bit worse and I felt ratty, so I just took nyquil and went to sleep. My doctor made me not exercise for a month until he was able to stick tubes up my ass and X-ray and probe every inch of my body to tell me what I already knew: I am in reasonably good health for a man of my poor moral fiber. Incidentally my little illness  occurred a week after writing about how badly the establishment fucked up. It sure did seem for a while like the lizard men were sending assassins with old timey bug-spray pumps filled with ‘rona after unbelievers, but I’m pretty sure I either caught it from wresting with a sleazy woman or having some other tests done in a hospital.

Because I am a meathead, I popped more than my usual allotment of vitamins and so on for the duration of my illness. Doxycycline and quercetin both seemed to have an acute effect; I popped the doxy thinking I might have had a lung butter infection from a dirty mask (likely a big chunk of Spanish Flu casualties). One of my dudes recently had this problem and I didn’t want to bug my doctor over the weekend. Doxy almost immediately made me feel better.  As it turns out it seems to have useful antiviral properties as well (which I knew about), and kills off whatever other nasty bacterial shit might be living in your lungs. I take vitamin-D and an assortment of minerals and other vitamins as well, which I double up in times of sickness. Oh yeah, I also have used NAC for years as a hangover pill; I took some of it, and it seemed to loosen up the lungs a bit. Fuck you FDA; I’m out of your reach now. Double fuck you to Gupta-weirdoes who insisted I join you in your conformist and possibly dangerous follies: look on my insanely superior immune system and despair. I also have long-haul symptoms: it seems to have cured my presumably previously arthritic joints, which are now smoothly operating as they were in high school. Thank you based wuhan-coof. I’m making a joke about it, but it was a fairly puzzling and very strong effect. Google hasn’t turned up any studies about this, so it’s quite possible that the doxycycline killed off some chlamydia of the joints or something, though I mention it in case there were others, or if someone would like to look for such effects. I would have willingly subjected myself to an illness of that severity (unpleasant, but normal) to fix up my joints.

Variants: both delta and omegatron variants were attributed ridiculously high rates of infection, as far as I can tell, through a statistical artifact. The same statistical artifact, more or less, that made corona-chan appear to have a 10% fatality rate at the beginning of the pandemic. We’re not measuring the spread of variants; we’re measuring the spread in test (for the variant) availability. Of course each variant looks higher in infection rate (aka basic reproduction number R); the supply chains for genomic sequencing tests are improving each time we roll out a new one.  People start looking as soon as they get the heads up, so they see it; this phenomenon “spreads” faster than the virus itself does. Same story with prior variant spreads. A guess on my part, but arguably a pretty good one; for a while you could see a phenomenon called “muh flurona” where someone might have flu and covid at the same time …. because they now have PCR tests which test for both. Lol, retards.They again have oddly specific “just so stories” on how the variants came about -aka supposedly omicron came from an AIDS patient in Botswana. I believe that about as much as I believe in the bat sandwich idea they pitched the first time. Each variant was supposed to be even more teeth chatteringly scary, as pitched by “experts,” but it appears evolution works as expected and they’re evolving to be more harmless. Assuming it wasn’t another lab release designed to get us to herd immunity (remember the very specific just so story about Botswana AIDS patients), in which case, well done sirs: please report to the penitentiary immediately where the rest of us can keep an eye on you.


Vaccines: effectiveness. I called it publicly in August 2021, though it was obvious by June or so: they do not work as anything resembling a sterilizing vaccine. From a public health point of view: they do not work at all to prevent spread of disease. For the first few weeks, your immune system is actually depressed; attacking your own body for making spike protons. You get a degree of immunity after that, maybe a bit more than a degree if you are an old person, and then …. nothing. Most of my vaccinated friends has had the disease by now.  You can see it in the overall statistics. The vaccine rolled out, and a fairly high number of people took it; in the US, something like 70% of the adult population. Higher in other countries. Yet Covid deaths in 2021 are higher than the previous year,. Incredibly, this is blamed on the ‘unvaccinated’ who appear to have nothing to do with the situation. If vaccines did anything useful in preventing the spread, the case count would be lower.  You need some pretty fancy statistics to report otherwise. Intervention has been done; everything got worse.They tried to blame the unvaccinated and “variants” on the failure of the vaccines, but it doesn’t work that way. I’m pretty sure, based on the statistics from the trial data (everyone interested should read the original study), they never really did much that was useful, but even if they were 100% effective on the first variant and negative effectiveness on omegatron (as appears to be the case, presumably via original antigenic sin). The people calling the shots should have thought of that. That’s why they get to call the shots; they’re supposed to know more than neurotic hippy mamas and Ray Peat fans who have a vastly better track record in this matter. Whether or not you can blame “the variants” for making vaccines useless, the fact remains that they are useless: the mandates and passporting nonsense must stop immediately. People responsible for these mandates and totalitarian measures must be removed from positions of authority for failure, and preferably subjected to Nuremberg style courts for crimes against humanity. And yes, vaccines were supposed to lower the deaths and quash the spread; don’t let them try to do revisionist history here and claim that “vaccines” were supposed to only “reduce the severity.” It is abundantly obvious they didn’t even really do this, at least on a public health scale. Despite everyone declaring victory, US excess deaths look to be about the same in 2022 as they were in 2020 and 2021. More on this later.



Vaccines, boosters: yeah, well, if they don’t work, getting more of something that don’t work isn’t going to work either. It absolutely boggles my mind that the MRNA technology which is a completely silly fucking idea, the one thing it has going for it: you can deploy upgrades almost as easily as iphone upgrades. But they don’t. You’re getting the same shitty and irrelevant 2019 spike protein as was on nature’s menu in 2019. Meanwhile, virums don’t give a fuck, because humanity has never defeated any lung borne ailment.

Vaccines, dangers: well, it doesn’t seem to be as bad as the tinfoil helmet brigade thought it might be: so far anyway. Red deer conspiracizing aside, we know now that the vaccines do cause problems with the circulatory system: particularly with the  young. They also cause problems with the nervous system, but it appears the circulatory problems are the worst things so far. While there are numerous studies claiming vaxcucks, even adjusted for demographics live longer than the unvaccinated, there are very troubling indications this is the result  of systematic miscategorization of vaccine status.  There’s plenty of anecdata at this point as well: soccer players dropping dead and tennis players not feeling well and dropping out is rare enough it makes the news every time it does happen. Seems a lot less rare this year. I think Steve Kirsch is overestimating the dangers of the Covid vaccine, but he’s probably closer to the mark than “the establishment.” BTW, “establishment” types who have their tits in a bunch, please give me your estimates for serious illness or death from these fake-vaccines. Yeah, that’s what I thought: you have no fucking idea.

Vaccines are more effective than natural immunity. This one was trumpeted to the skies by the media in hopes of …. I dunno, maybe driving up Pfizer’s stonk price. 50+ coauthors ought to be your first hint there is something wrong with this turd. They didn’t publish the raw data, the second. Looking at the data they did publish, it doesn’t actually say what the headlines or the conclusions said. You can read more about it here if you care, but the whole thing is laughably insane. Of course the fact that every other study on earth came to the opposite conclusion as well as a vague understanding of how immune systems and vaccines work (hint: vaccination mimics natural infection on your immune system by subjecting it to virus parts) were evidence enough this assertion/paper is baloney. Getting covid and recovering is not only is more protective than vaccines at peak vaccine effectiveness, the effectiveness of natural immunity seems to increase over time. There were all manner of assertions along these lines; also that vaccines somehow help people who were already over the illness: they were all wrong.


Vaccines will cure inflation. People actually said this. I assume it was issued (please note original was removed) from the secret lizard narrative command center, then dropped because it didn’t play well in the A/B testing., as they mercifully have stopped saying this.

Mucosal immunity isn’t important. Your schnozz and other mucus membranes are  an important part of your immune system. There are all manner of immune systems in your different mucus membranes, and you can design different vaccines to stimulate immune responses in them. For example, nasal vaccines are broadly protective of the entire upper respiratory tract. When you inject things into your epithelium, you basically get no immune response in your upper respiratory tract. Covid “vaccines” have so far been injected into your epithelium, which is probably helpful if the virus breaks through into your circulatory system, but it doesn’t do much to prevent you from the virus setting up shop in your schnozz and lungs. Roughly speaking; from physics you can understand why the vaccines might prevent death in severe cases, but don’t prevent you from getting the damn thing in the first place. This is probably also why flu vaccines are not particularly effective.

Treatments: They finally have some treatments in the drug pipeline. They’re claiming results almost as good as the literature on ivermectin, which “the establishment” (aka pharma industry representatives) has been disparaging as “horse paste.” One of them, Merck’s molnupiravir, causes birth defects. Ivermectin doesn’t. ( EDIT ADD: Molnupiravir might be placebo for Merck stockholders.) Remdesivir hilariously still has no evidence for effectiveness (lower than the hydroxychloroquine level of statistical significance) at doing anything but making Gilead’s CEO more wealthy, but is widely prescribed and approved by the FDA. Monoclonal antibodies appear to be effective depending on the varient, and probably should be given out more widely, earlier, just like what Joe Rogan did. Incidentally, while I’m at it ….

Joe Rogan is now America’s doctor. The things he says make more sense than any mainstream media or public health authority. He has provided a platform for people who apparently know what they’re talking about, as well as people who don’t, and seems to have come up with a reasonable treatment modality by listening to smart people when they’re right and ignoring retards. Mind you, Joe Rogan smokes DMT and talks to grey machine elves. He is a stand up comic who smokes enough weed to tranquilize elephants and used to have a job making people eat worms and do other stupid human tricks. I’m pretty sure he believes in ancient astronauts and his primary hobby is training to pull people’s arms off. Yet somehow, perhaps by virtue of having high normal testosterone levels, he has more common sense and a bigger audience than the entire media, political, medical establishment of the world’s Hegemon. This is of course absurd and terrifying. We’re lucky to have him, as he seems to be a decent and curious person with a backbone; something almost entirely missing from legacy media figures. Congrats Joe; you deserve it. For those of you who are horrified by this, you could do a lot worse.

America’s doctor


Lockdowns/Mandates/Vaccine Passports: Lockdowns did absolutely nothing for disease spread. Vaccine mandates or passports are simply totalitarian theater: we know the vaccines don’t help prevent transmission or getting it, and are somewhat harmful. The worm-like authoritarians calling the shots keep implementing such things presumably do so to make it look like they’re doing something, and because they’re afraid of what will happen to them if they don’t go along with the nonsense. Normal people were denied access to public facilities, including the right to work, for no apparent reason. Some countries have literally made concentration camps, and we’re supposed to be OK with this. There used to be all this mystery around why regular people went along with communist or nazi atrocities. This is not a mystery any longer: we’ve run a real life Milgram experiment and now we know who the baddies are. People advocating for this nonsense are actual totalitarian numskulls living among you who would send you to the extermination chamber because they’re afraid. It’s the real life Banality of Evil; the mask Karen next door who rejoices in the suffering of normal people. Sure some of them you could always tell there was something wrong with them, but an awful lot of it seems to be regular people who happen to be invertebrates, or whose lives are so fucked up and pathetic they enjoy being sadistic to others. The nice thing about the interbutts and databases is it can be conveniently recorded who was naughty and who was nice for future reference.

Supreme court is intelligent. They count as “the establishment.” At least some of them are evidently insanely stupid. Sotomayor thinks (as of Jan 8 2022) there are 100000 children on ventilators (the actual number is closer to 0), Covid deaths are at an all time high, and Omicron is deadlier than Delta. She also thinks vaccines are safe and effective, but is afraid of being in the same room as one of her colleagues who is also vaccinated but refuses to wear a mask because he’s not a hysterical bullying nitwit. Breyer thinks a vaccine mandate would prevent 100% of US cases, rather than 0% of US cases as turned out to be the actual number. Kagan thinks vaccines and masks stop transmission of covid.  I assume this sort of thinking is common among affirmative action beneficiaries, hysterics and victims of the last two years of bullshit, but all of these beliefs are false. I guess it could be worse.

The BMJ is disinformation for questioning vaccine trial data integrity. The report can be found here. The claim that it is disinformatsya can be found here. As a result, people couldn’t share something published by the British Journal of Medicine on social media. As far as can be told, because the wrong people took notice of it. I guess we’re supposed to think Pfizer is beyond reproach despite their long history of fraud and paying kickbacks. What this seems to be, is, in fact, news: the type of investigative journalism that would be published everywhere in normal times because pharma companies are mostly crooks who don’t give a shit about your health.

The pandemic is such a great victory for the technocracy we want even more technocracy. Some of the tinfoil helmet types get very worked up over Klaus Schwab and his cabal of comfortable slacks wearing goons and their ideas for the “great reset.” Aka the same numskulls who fucked up the pandemic and made everyone miserable for the last two years think they need even more power for the next time this happens. While there may be some imbeciles who believe this, there were imbeciles who think you can cure rabies by making tea from the hair of a rabid dog. I think most of us have had enough, and if that lot doesn’t want to end up hanging from the gibbet (which they all probably deserve somehow), they need to, like, take a long vacation. Preferably among normal people rather than their deluded lizard counterparts.


Partial admissions by the establishment: the last half year or so have seen a few of these, basically because you’d have to be an absolute moron to not notice the crap they’re asking us to do doesn’t work. Since nobody is actually taking responsibility for anything, and most of it is mealy mouthed prevarication, rather than groveling admission,  they’re all worth noting.

For example, the CDC now admits herd immunity is impossible using the current technologies. Iceland admitted this months earlier and instituted a characteristically humane and decent set of policies as a result. The CDC doesn’t actually admit they should stop doing things that don’t work, or set out any common sense goals we can meet moving forward, but it’s a start.

The CDC also admits that PCR tests are kind of meaningless because they can stay positive 12 weeks after an infection; something that was a conspiracy theory and “disinformation” before, even though it was very obviously true: the man who invented it even said so. Various others have finally noticed high PCR cycles are shitty tests. Oh yeah, the CDC also got caught literally trying to change the cycle threshhold for vaccinated people to make it look like the vaccines were working. That’s sort of an admission about PCR tests that tin helmets had been deplatformed for saying for a year and a half earlier.

It’s OK for people who have covid to treat patients. They still have to be vaccinated for some reason. Actually this isn’t an admission which is at all true, it’s insane, but it’s a sort of admission of failure.

Isolation time is now 5 days instead of 10. Why? Don’t know, nobody’s telling us! Maybe Delta’s CEO bullycided Rachel Levine? The important thing though is the admission that these numbers are nonsense they pull out of their ass.

Yeah, it’s airborne all right. Duh. A 5 year old could have told anyone that in February of 2020.

Might be wrong can’t tell:

US Military claims to have super vax to protect against all present and future variants: I mean, how could you not trust the US military? To be fair I have no real way of knowing what’s going on here, or why they made such an outlandish claim. The results are extremely preliminary, consisting of test tube assays. There’s a phase-1 trial including 29 people (control group 5 people), all of whom are under age 55, so they do seem to be setting themselves up for “nobody died” levels of success. Really though, the best signal this is probably baloney or harmful rat poison is the way the cock-holsters in the media regurgitated this press release as if we’re all saved. Using their historical performance in reporting facts, this probably means it doesn’t work and is worse for you than smoking banana peels.


Weird stuff ‘diseases from space’ edition:

Imagine if you worked at an Antarctic base. Your coworkers were all vaccinated, tested multiple times and quarantined multiple times before arriving; for a total of something like 20 days quarantine. You’d think you are pretty safe from covid right? Well it turns out, no, not so much. That’s just bizarre. It’s also an extremely important case study: vaccines, tests and quarantines do not work, even in the best possible circumstances.

Weird2 ‘ham planet’ edition:

It may be that my instinct to lock up fat people and let everyone else outside was correct. In addition to dropping dead of ‘rona more, the virus actually reproduces in adipose tissue, making them possible super-spreaders. Either way, Joe Rogan’s suggestion of making fatties into normal specimens is a better public health intervention than forcing everyone to take muh “science juice<tm>.”

Weird3 early sightings: there is some weird evidence that ‘rona was circulating a long time before people started chimping out about viral videos from China showing numskulls faking like they were sicker than they are to jump the queue to the hospital. For example, Barcelona toilet water had DNA from ‘rona in January, where the first cases were not until February. French and Italian blood samples seem to have ‘rona in them in September of 2019. These were ELISA tests on samples where people had some kind of severe lung problem. If you want to think about something really crazy; something corona-virus looking was spotted in the summer of 2017 …. in crop samples. I have no idea; maybe it’s a coincidence. It sure is weird though. All of this is of course quite remarkable and has terrible implications for our “elites” mitigations.

A modest effort at data science:

I looked at two data sets during this pandemic; the early cruise ship data which helped me nail the IFR, and the CDC data on pneumonia deaths. Early on, I decided to discount the pneumonia deaths (which are Corona-chan, Flu, and who knows what else), and just look at deaths. Dead people are, by definition, unpolitical. Labeling them is political. I showed my work in a gist that approximately nobody looked at in my last note on this subject, so I’ll do it a little more explicitly this time. Here is the gist for the updated calculation. Note that this is an incredibly naive analysis and there are all kinds of models you can festoon it with to get more accuracy. I’ll try to note the defects in the calculation as I walk you through it. On the other hand, it is also a useful analysis which provides bounds on what’s going on and how effective the “experts” have been in preventing extra deaths and illness.

Here is a plot of US weekly deaths.

The first thing you should notice is the last couple of weeks of 2022 are not completely counted yet. This is a sort of sample bias pervasive in their data. You can totally understand how it works; it’s work that gets collected on the local level and bureaucratically reported up the pipe as time goes on. The cool thing about the CDC is they actually capture this by reporting the counts at each week, so you can estimate the historical reporting delay and so on. Anyway, we can ignore this effect, since we have plenty of other data. You can download the data sets every week,  check them into your local githubs and make sure they’re not changing the world underneath them (I did; I’m paranoid).

You can see from the raw weekly data set that there have been bad flu years in the past, but the rona virums was worse. It’s also not insanely bad compared to total yearly deaths, which, in a normal year is something like 2.8m. My model for how many people should die in a normal year is very simple indeed: it’s the yearly average of all the years before 2019. In this data set, the figure is 2,845,815 expected yearly deaths. You’ll note that in general, annual deaths in the US have a slight upward trend. That’s because Americans are getting older, due to the boomer population bulge. There are ways of compensating for this; I won’t bother, as it’s a second order effect you can fiddle with to try to weigh the scales in favor of whatever you’re arguing for.

So, if you want to know how many extra deaths per year since corona-chan and its associated “expert” health interventions, just take the mean value per year, subtract off your model of expected annual deaths, and that’s the toll we paid. Since we only have data up to the 15th week of 2022, we’ll scale the values by 52/15. Again, the last few weeks are underestimates, but since it’s a timeseries and winter is worse than summer and spring, this will probably be pretty close to the real value.

I’ll just state what the values are since none of you will run the gist:

2020 extra deaths: 500,361

2021 extra deaths: 612,546

2022 (predicted) extra deaths: 561,459


What can we learn from this? Well, for one thing, we learn that despite lots of people in 2021 and 2022 being vaccinated, about the same number of people died. You could argue the pandemic is more endemic in those later years, and 2020 was the most locked down year, but…. the numbers are about the same. You could draw all kinds of  wild conclusions from this. One conclusion is inescapable though: the public health interventions, lockdowns, health passports, vaccines as condition of employment, censorship of competing views, all of it is a big, giant failure. The numskull “experts” who imposed the last two years of evil on us failed.

There are all kinds of arguments people make with politicized data, but at the end of the day this is the number people give a shit about. Did more people die, or fewer people die? Well, in 2021 anyway, more people died. The only acceptable answer for these goons is “fewer excess deaths.” You know, like happened in Sweden in 2021. The country that did nothing (they did vaccinate people). Go look for yourself on https://mortality.org


It sure looks like 2022 will be more of the same. As I said the last time, the technocratic managerial state, the main western governmental system since 1945, has failed.  Our “expert class” -more or less the same morons who fomented a war in Ukraine earlier this year, have demonstrated themselves to be numskulls at best, sadistic vermin at worst. Wherever they are on this spectrum, they deserve something between the pillory and the gibbet. Though at present, you retards have fallen for it and are already on to the Next Thing.

Astronomical anomalies 2

Posted in astronomy, Corliss, Open problems by Scott Locklin on April 23, 2022

Part 1 here. Honestly, astronomy is so filled with weird shit, this could be an infinite series.

Tabby’s star and friends. The last few decades have found plenty of exoplanets more or less by looking for wobble and periodic dimming of the star. As such that caused folks to do more widespread surveys looking for periodic dimming.  The project which organized this detected all kinds of cool exoplanets. Tabby’s star, discovered by Tabetha Boyajian, has a highly irregular dimming pattern for which nobody can give a decent explanation. A cool thing about astronomy is there is a lot of historical data kicking around nobody has had a look at as well, so they were able to find out that this has been going on for a long time by looking at antique photographic plates. Existing stellar theories do not account for this sort of fluctuation. Everything from dust rings to comet clouds to asteroid swarms to alien megastructures has been proposed to explain these weird variations, but nobody has the slightest idea what is going on. The most likely explanation (published by Miz Boyajian) is that it’s dust, but nobody really knows. This sort of thing is a lot of fun as it was really kind of an amateur thing. Corliss also noticed the general effect (AOF2) before this survey, and further ones have been detected over time. Wakipedia has a convenient list of some of them. The Random Transiter is a popular one that seems particularly odd. Speaking of which, the weirdest known star of them all:

Przybylski’s star. I ran across this looking at John Baez twatter feed for some reason (I think I was looking for something relating to his uncle). This star is also oddly variable. Worse, it is missing what you’d otherwise expect of iron and nickel in its composition due to its type. Solar models are sort of baseline facts for observational astronomy and all kinds of stuff is derived from them, so deviations from elemental composition are a big deal. Weirdest of all, it has all kinds of weird elements in it. Lots of rare earths which you never see in solar spectra; Przybylski himself discovered these. Worse, in 2008, some spectroscopists had a look and discovered all kinds of weird radioactive elements; including ones which are not supposed to exist in nature. These things are only supposed to exist in reactors or by merging neutron stars I guess (what are the chances of that happening?). It contains Einsteinium which has a half life of only 400-odd days. How does this happen? Some have speculated its weird motion and weird elemental composition could be explained by it having a neutron star nearby. Others suggest it is a garbage dump for an advanced alien civilization. Finally, the spectroscopists who discovered all those weird lines in Przybylski’s star might have been smoking crack. I think the wakipedia entry is fairly useless, but this series of blergs by Jason Wright  was pretty good.


Wolf Rayet stars (AOF4). These were considered  anomalous in Corliss’ time,  I guess they’re now considered a normal phase of stellar evolution in large stars, though I think that’s just because they’ve been around a long time. What makes them weird is they’re big, very high temperature and the emission lines of helium, carbon and nitrogen are broad, meaning there’s some large Doppler-shifting velocities going on in the photosphere. Maelstroms of high energy chaos. They’re an old discovery: 1867 by Charles Wolf and Georges Rayet (in Paris, lol; imagine astronomers discovering things in cities now). They’re also rare, meaning whatever they are, they are probably short lifespan objects. The accepted hand-wavey idea behind them is that they’re really big, have exhausted their core hydrogen and sort of semi-exploded leaving behind lots of helium and other fusion products. It could be considered a fizzled supernova, a stage towards supernova explosions, or a form of supernova which happens outside the visual spectrum. The first one blowing up into an actual supernova was detected just this year.


Anomalous Cepheids (AOF6). Cepheid variable stars are a common form of pulsating star which astronomers understand reasonably well and use for all kinds of handy things. They’ve been known about for hundreds of years, and are an important basis for figuring out distances of other objects and groups of stars in the universe. The mechanism is thought to be fairly well understood; it has something to do with the opacity of doubly excited helium. Some of the Anomalous Cepheids have weird multi-frequency variations, and others have weird mass ratios compared to the ordinary run of Cepheids.

Bright Carbon Stars Rarity (AOF8). Carbon stars themselves are pretty rare, but it seems odd that there aren’t more bright ones. The simple model is that a carbon star is an old and sickly red giant with more carbon than oxygen in the atmosphere due to changing internal reactions. You’d expect to see similar red giant to carbon star brightness ratios, but you don’t.


Impossible triple star KIC 2856960. I found this one in the fun catalog of anomalies called “the Breakthrough Listen Exotica Catalog” by some SETI guys. I don’t think it’s a particularly good candidate for SETI listening (nor are most of the other things they list), but it is kind of neat, and everyone loves lists. This one comes from the Kepler satellite data, just as Tabby’s star did, and there is no way for 3-stars to satisfy Newtonian physics and match the observed data. There is a weird way for a 4-star system to do so, but only if you have a weirdly resonant 4th body, the resonance of which can’t be detected. Not the weirdest thing in the world, but it’s an excuse to mention the BLEC reference which I may draw upon in a future. Lots of weird radio and gamma ray anomalies there. Plus they list other stars with odd elemental abundances (though none as weird as Przybylski’s star).


Ruling engines and lapping the ultimate screw

Posted in Design, metalshop, Progress by Scott Locklin on April 16, 2022

The story of the ruling engine is one of those bizarro incredibly important things that has slipped into obscurity, only really known by people still directly involved in this sort of thing. I was briefly involved in this area working at LBNL’s Advanced Light Source, measuring diffraction gratings, their efficiencies, and attempting to estimate how well they’d work in presence of error. I promptly forgot almost all of it in favor of learning how to pants goth girls or whatever I repurposed that set of brain cells for, but it’s still in there rattling around somewhere.

Diffraction gratings are those little rainbow thingees on your credit card. Or if you’re old, you remember the rainbow patterns on CDs, those were sort of ad-hoc diffraction gratings. Ultimately it is a set of very precise lines across a mirror substrate. There are all kinds of profiles and shapes of diffraction gratings for different purposes, but they all work roughly the same way. Different wavelengths of light are reflected into different angles via constructive interference. The simple grating equation is \sin(\theta_m)=\sin(\theta) + m \frac{\lambda}{\Lambda} where m is the diffracted order, \theta_m is the angle of the diffracted order, \Lambda is the periodicity of the grating, and \lambda is the wavelength of the light diffracted.


This is a long winded way of saying if you reflect light on a grating, it will make a nice rainbow pattern. If you make a slit out of razorblades (this is basically what people use) perpendicular to the first order diffraction angle, you get a monochromator or spectrograph, depending on how you use it. This means you can resolve narrow lines in the spectra of whatever it is you’re looking at. Of course, nothing is perfect, least of all diffraction gratings. There’s a figure of merit in spectroscopy called resolving power; R = \frac{\lambda}{\Delta \lambda} where \lambda is the approximate wavelength of interest and \Delta \lambda is the narrowness of line you want to resolve. It’s easy to show that R is proportional to the number of coherently illuminated perfect grating lines, and that any error in grating line shape or tracking will cause R to be smaller. So  if you want to discover quantum mechanics, you need to make some nice lines otherwise you’re wasting your time. Oh yeah, and obviously if you want to resolve smaller wavelengths of light, say, in the UV, you need to rule your gratings with smaller lines.

Over complex representation of a monochromator or spectrograph

Now a days we have a number of ways of making gratings, but the first way (still important and used) is using a ruling engine, which is a very fine machine tool which mechanically draws lines on a substrate using a diamond anvil. The first important such tool was Rowland’s mentioned several times now; literally the machine that launched American physics and made quantum mechanics possible. There were gratings made before, but Rowland’s was the first to make useful gratings repeatedly. For decades it was the only one capable of making decent gratings; like a machine made by super intelligent alien beings that nobody else can figure out. For decades after this, all the subsequent ruling engines that worked were Rowland designs. The first successful ruling engine which wasn’t a Rowland design is the topic of the rest of this blog; that invented by the underappreciated experimental physicist John Donovan Strong (I’ve definitely been in the same room as him early in my career, but I can’t say I remember anything about him –his book is amazing BTW). This is the type of ruling engine still used today, more or less, with some additional complications of using feedback mechanisms made possible by electronics over the years. I’m following Strong’s article from 1951 as well as a couple of  Scientific American articles.

The original Rowland machine was a sort of overgrown and ultra precise metal shaper (or for a more familiar example; a grocery store meat slicer). Strong took his design cues from the much more uncommon metal planer. The difference, Rowland’s machine advanced the relatively heavy grating blank using the precision screw, making the screw subject to mechanical deformation and stick slip, while moving the diamond using ways that could wear out.  Remember, this thing is making long, straight lines, very precisely on the order of 1000/2000 lines per millimeter; a perfect line every 500-1000 nanometers. Real nanotechnology; not the imaginary kind done with Schroedinger’s equation and pixie dust. For contrast, an atom is around a tenth of a nanometer. While they call the latest semiconductor technology 14nm, it’s really more like 100nm, and diffraction gratings built with screws were doing that, over much larger areas than a defect free wafer more than 140 years ago using doodads such as these very precise screws. There were seven major sources of error with this design in absence of mechanical or manufacturing defects, to give an idea of the type of thing involved here; they were referred to as the “seven demons.”

  1. Stick slip/lubrication forces of the various moving parts caused large irregularities.
  2. Wear in the various parts of the engine were also hugely important; the carriage might travel miles in ruling a grating and the Rowland carriage was a big beefy object.
  3. The metal parts also contain locked-up stresses from creation from raw ore to machining; as the machine ages, the stresses relieve and the perfect surfaces deform.
  4. Creep also takes place from external forces; sag, motion, weight support.
  5. Any vibration may cause bad gratings to be made; one worker correlated his grating defects to the swaying of trees outside the building (this is huge with optics in general, especially in current year with all kinds of machinery around and driving by).
  6. Dust of course is a big problem; get dust under the diamond cutter or in the screw/nut interface and you’re, well, screwed.
  7. Finally, the heat radiated by a human body can cause sufficient creep in the engine to ruin a grating.

Strong’s gizmo obviated the stick slip problem by moving the diamond rather than the grating blank, removing the ways for moving the diamond, and improving both the lubrication of the screwing mechanisms, and the alignment techniques.  His thing used two precision screws to advance the diamond, and as they’re pointing in opposite directions, they can cancel out pressure and sag errors as well as angular “fanning” errors in the grating ruling (Rowland’s machine had microradian misalignments that borked the resolving power via this fanning effect; a microradian across a few inches is easily a wavelength of green light). Downside; you need two nice screws instead of just one.

Strong’s exposition was fascinating. He points out that precision in his day was entirely “primitive methods.” Aka geometry, averaging and lapping compounds. The dividing heads on the screws for making microscopic motions were self lapped in place on an oil bath. Instead of a kinematic mounting system for moving the grating, he overconstrained it with multiple ways which averaged out to a nice straight line.

Strong was a great scientist who understood machinery and tooling in great detail. He also had a couple of helpers he credited with his success. One of them was Wilbur Perry, an engineer trained at WPI. Before he went to school he made a bunch of telescopes, and was a proud member of the Springfield Vermont telescope makers society, which still maintains a clubhouse. Let me emphasize the implications of this: a tiny town of a few thousand people had a telescope makers society at the turn of the century, when telescopes were still high technology, and they endowed it well enough it is still physically there. That’s sort of like a small town of a few thousand people having its own privately owned MEMS fab in the 1990s when this became a more common technology. Social capital is highly underappreciated and they had lots of it in those days. Strong himself got many of his ideas for the ruling engine from hanging out in a club he founded with John Anderson (the previous John Hopkins Rowland engine driver); the “100-to-1 shot club.” Some nice oral history before it fades away: an interview with Henry Victor Neher:

NEHER: This was a small group that was formed at Caltech in about 1934 or ’35. The
way it originated was this. John Anderson, who was at the Mount Wilson Observatory, had an office at Caltech when he was working on the 200-inch telescope, back in the thirties. One of the members of the staff was a young fellow by the name of John Strong [professor of physics and astrophysics, 1937-1942], who had his experimental equipment in the same room in Bridge as I did. John Strong was over talking to John Anderson one day. John Strong was always interested in ideas of one sort or another. He was an inventor if there ever was one. John thought that there ought to be a group that considered far-out ideas of one sort or another.

INTERVIEWER: For example.

NEHER: Primarily ideas connected with something scientific or mechanical, or something of that sort. And John Anderson said, “Well, what you are suggesting is to discuss things that have one chance in a hundred of working.” And so, this is the way the 100-to-1 Shot Club was formed. They got a group together which consisted of John Strong, John Anderson, Russell Porter, Roger Hayward—who did that picture up there above the fireplace—and then some others not connected with the Institute, like Byron Graves. And there were a couple of patent attorneys in the group.
Well, I didn’t get into it right away. I guess it was about 1936 or ’37 before I became associated with it. We met once a month at various members’ homes. It was mostly discussions of ideas in connection with astronomy or with physics. There may have been some mechanical things. One of the members was George Mitchell, who designed and made the Mitchell camera that was used in Hollywood for years. Another was George Beadle [professor of biology 1946-1961], who joined after World War II.

INTERVIEWER: Did anything ever come out of it?

NEHER: No. It wasn’t meant to be that. It was just a place where you could just discuss anything you wanted.


Or as Strong himself put it:


We called it the “100 to 1 Shot Club.” We met at various member’s houses at Palomar; in the Mohave Desert; etc. — about 6 or 7 times a year. It was called by the name mentioned to indicate that our considerations (like: Does the water spin in a contrary way in the Southern hemisphere when it runs out of the bath tub? — etc.) were restricted to topics that were fantastic by a factor of 100:1 over scientific. The dozen members included: Trim Barkelov — patent council for Paramount Pictures Roger Hayward — artist and architect Victor Neher laboratory roommate George Mitchell — millionaire manufacturer of the Mitchell camera; a former Hollywood camera man Byron Graves — an amateur astronomer and retired executive from Ford Co. in Detroit John Anderson — my boss Jack McMorris — a chemist (and disappointed concert pianist) George Worrell — successor to Mitchell at the Camera plant Milton Humason — astronomer I mention this because it was a group worthy to go down in history.


The importance of such clubs can’t be overestimated. They’re everywhere in the annals of technological history; from Wernher von Braun and company’s rocket club, to the famous Lunar society, to the X club even the Bohemian Club was responsible for the US nuclear weapons program. Most great human ventures have started in some sort of men’s club. And yes, they were/are men’s clubs, u mad? As my pal BAP put it, only the most depraved ancient Greek tyrants would ban men’s associations:

A brotherhood of men in this form is the foundation of all higher life in general: there is a certain madness, an enthusiasm that exists also in a community of true scientists or artists…. it is totally forbidden in our time…. the dedication, severity, focus and enthusiasm necessary to sustain true scientific enterprise are forbidden because they make women and weaklings uncomfortable.

Back to badass screws, Wilbur Perry of the Springfield Telescope Club eventually got a job running the Rowland engines at John Hopkins and was widely recognized as a genius and meticulous engineer with perfect hands. Strong hired him for this expertise. His fellow technical  coworker was Dave Broadhead, another optics hacker who made complicated telescopes in his spare time, and at one point made a living crafting roof prisms for the war effort, something he picked up in his spare time from reading magazines. He literally made them in his basement. His education, as far as I am able to determine, was reading popular science and popular mechanics magazines, going to the library and fiddling with things. Broadhead is the kind of guy I keep harping about; the careful working class machinist craftsman who basically no longer exists in American society. . Strong at one point asked him for a pair of 36″ parabolic mirrors, which he literally made in his basement 30 days ahead of a 90 day schedule. So, for the ruling engine project, he was a shoe in. He was working class to the bone; treating his employers to venison dinners from deer he shot himself when they’d come visit his basement workshop in upstate New York. I have to wonder what his descendants are up to these days. Hopefully not shooting heroin which seems to be the primary avocation in that part of the world.

Broadhead was a wonder, like many of this class of instrument builder machinist. More importantly though, we have a fairly good first hand view into how he did it; all the steps. Nobody really documented how Rowland and his guys built his doodads. He wrote some post-facto notes down, but nothing in detail. Broadhead’s adventures in fine screw craftsmanship was much better documented. Broadhead’s first step in building the thing was rebuilding his basement South Bend lathe. Scraping the ways and refitting all the parts until it could hold a 1 micron cut. That’s 1/1000 of a mm. As Broadhead put it. “It’s an old lathe, but instrument makers use such lathes for centuries, just scraping ’em over -which they’d have to do even with new ones, for this work.” Scraping of course was the manual technique used to make a flat surface back in 1800 when Maudslay invented the screw cutting lathe. Mind you a South Bend lathe is not considered a toolroom lathe; it was mostly used for light work and was popular with hobbyists for its relatively low cost. According to one account “I journeyed to Wellsville and found Broadhead peering downward through a 50-power toolmaker’s microscope attached to the lathe. The tool was smoothly peeling off a shaving only one micron thick. Without the microscope it seemed to be cutting nothing”


To remove stress in the screw blanks, he had two garbage cans with inner cells, one for heat the other for dry ice,  so he could stress relieve the screws before the finish cuts. He dipped them in what he called “tincture of skunk cabbage” (overheated Mazola corn oil at 400F, 100F) and “hobo cocktails” (dry ice and alcohol at 10, -60 and -100F). He did this stress relief cycle 50 times per screw.

When he moved on to lapping, he rigged up a tape recorder which kept a record of the torque  of the screw being lapped in its giant split nut. This way he could keep track of progress on the lapping process and the recorder would tell him when there was a burr or requirement for more lapping compound. Mind you this is a 1940s era tape recorder, so in addition to being a great machinist, he must have known a thing or two about electronics back in the vacuum tube era. He also rigged up a motor mechanism and ran the thing on his wall in his basement.

Apparently the whole new ruling engine worked the first time, which is a minor miracle. A hugely successful scientific breakthrough done with a sort of miniature Klein type-1 organization. More of a Klein type-1 A-team;  a common type of group for successful experimental physics ventures. The origins in a couple of men’s clubs and a couple of obscure working class geniuses makes it all the more sweet.

It’s also an object lesson in why current year can’t have nice things. No men’s clubs thanks to various vile and pathetic tyrannies. No working class craftsmen making things in matter. No physicists who understand how a fucking screw works (who worked on the Kansas wheat harvests).  And tens of thousands of nincompoops fiddling around on a computer instead of learning how matter works with the eyes and fingers. The very idea of using such mechanical creativity by talking to other artificers and hammer and tongs precision work is anathema to current year bugmen. I’m pretty sure they’d find a way to call the whole project sexist and racist because they don’t understand how a fucking screw lap works either.

That is the biggest advance in the grating art that I am responsible for. I also made an advance in the lapping of lead screws that is recognized in industry. I developed several techniques which are useful in precision machine tool practice. And that was a consequence of the work on ruling engines. But my work on ruling engines, in a sense, was supernumerary, because now the control of the relative position of the ruling engines components is accomplished by interferometry. Here Harrison was the pioneer.

From ancient Gears and Screws to Quantum Mechanics

Posted in Design, metalshop, Progress by Scott Locklin on April 10, 2022

The geared mechanical clock, like the pipe organ and the Gothic cathedral is a defining symbol of Western Civilization. Division of the day into mechanically measured hours  unrelated to the movements of the sun is a mechanical symbol of the defeat of the tyranny of nature by human ingenuity and machine culture. The hours of the day used to be something measured locally by the position of the sun. The liturgy of the hours of the Catholic Church caused north-western Europeans to go all spergy and design intricate machines to tell the monks when to say their prayers, rather than using arbitrary times. After all in the sperdo north, it’s often cloudy or dark very early or barely at all: you need something better than the sun to tell the time.

There’s an oldest surviving clock; that of the Salisbury Cathedral (allegedly 1386). It’s an interesting enough looking mechanism, foliot and verge escapement (the first known mechanical escapement for counting the seconds); you can see it running here. These early clocks had the advantage over water clocks in that you didn’t need to haul water up the tower, and they didn’t freeze in the cold northern winter.

One of the interesting mysteries of technological history; nobody knows where gears came from. A gear is sort of like a wheel, or a pulley system, both of which existed long before the gear. There are claims that the Chinese had them before anyone else; the south-facing wagon is a postulated example, though the first document of it was by Yen-Su in the 11th century, long after such mechanisms were in common use in the West.  As with most of early Chinese history, this isn’t well documented and it may have been nonsense. Unless they influenced the Greeks directly, which doesn’t seem to have ever happened otherwise, the Chinese developments weren’t important in a world historical context.

As with most things, the first documented gears are Greek. Aristotle wrote about them in his physics book around 340BC -around the time of Alexander the Great. Ctesibius was first we know of to write about the things (~250BC) being used in interesting ways; his stuff all lost, but written about by later thinkers; he also invented the pipe organ. It has been suggested that water wheels using lantern pinions were the first gears: we learn of them via Vitruvius (probably originally Ctesibius). We know that Heron of Alexandra had well developed gear trains; he described some effectively like the backgears in a lathe. Archimedes invented the worm gear and pinion used in modern clockworks; possibly also the spiral bevel gears used in differentials.

The most shockingly advanced early geared mechanism is the Antikytheria mechanism. It’s one of those things people didn’t for some reason expect, but if you read old astronomy books, I’m virtually certain such mechanisms are much older. The epicyclic theories of Eudoxus (375BC) and Callippus (330 BC) were pretty explicitly gearworks; later expanded by Hipparchus and Claudius Ptolemy, who was contemporary with the Antikytheria mechanism. It’s entirely possible there were no gearworks before Posidonius (maybe) brought us the Antikytheria mechanism. I suppose it’s possible there were no gearworks after. But it seems vastly more likely we didn’t just randomly pick up a unique space alien technology toy off the sea bed, and there are probably more such treasures still buried in other places, perhaps even sitting somewhere in a Museum storage closet.

My pet theory, for which there is exactly zero evidence, is that gears were very ancient and lost with the late Bronze age collapse. Certainly they had brasses and small drills and the ability to fabricate elaborate objects out of much harder materials. Since the Greeks didn’t mention where they got the basic gear idea, I’m assuming it existed before they started making more clever versions of it. I suppose such things could have existed in some other culture (Sumerian, Egyptian, whatever), but it’s my pet theory; feel free to come up with your own.

The Screw might have been an invention of Archimedes as well, though some historians attribute it to a more forgotten artificer called Archytas (my pal Eudoxus‘ teacher from the time of Plato). Screws were used in the Mediterranean region for olive and grape presses. There is a widespread misapprehension that the science of the ancient Greeks was some kind of theoretical construct: not so. The mechanical and scientific ideas of the great ancient philosophers and the Alexandrian Museum were used by ordinary people on a daily basis. From screw presses to waterwheel contraptions, the Hellenistic and Roman world benefited from the applications of Greek thought.

Gears allow one to change the plane of rotary motion, or the angular velocity of the rotary motion. Screws turn rotary motion into linear motion, generally considerably stepped down in velocity. You need both to make something like a modern clock or a mechanical lathe. Screws are commonplace now and used everywhere, but they really are a wonder. An inclined plane wrapped around a cylinder. Early screws were made with tools like hammer and chisel, with taps and dies made in the same way, various kinds of ingenious mechanisms to assist the process.

Making the first set of standardized and precise screws took until around 1800, culminating in Henry Maudslay‘s screw cutting lathe which was one of the most important inventions in human history. The screw cutting lathe required a screw and gears, combined together on a rigid lathe bed. The lathe bed is effectively a plane, allowing for precise motion. You can make these with a chisel and scraper/file out of arbitrary chunks of steel or cast iron; hobbyists still carve and scrape their own lathe beds. The leadscrew allowed the cutter to automatically move along a piece of rotating stock to cut another thread in a piece of rotating stock. Changegears allowed one to cut arbitrary threads from stock, by altering the ratio of screw linear motion to workstock rotation. With all these ingredients you can move a cutter along a piece of rotating screw blank an arbitrary amount, making arbitrary pitch screws. What’s more, you can amplify the accuracy of your leadscrew to a certain extent. There are heroic tales of Maudslay creating his master leadscrew that are in their own way as glorious and Promethean as Benvenuto Cellini casting his Perseus statue.

Maudslay is one of those guys who created a whole center of excellence around himself; he was a blacksmith/locksmith who built a classic Klein type-1 organization. He invented all manner of clever devices we now take for granted, from micrometers to various kinds of steam engine and telescope; he was even involved with the father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel building machines for his various ventures. Maudsley’s students (it wasn’t a school, it was a high technology business) went on to make numerous further innovations and form their own high technology companies. Joseph Whitworth invented all kinds of machine screw standards (BSW still in use today) machine tools and measuring devices, guns and so on and became enormously wealthy. Joseph Clement built the first version of the difference engine.  William Muir manufactured machine tools, Richard Roberts made locomotives and  power looms, and James Nasmyth invented the steam hammer and shaping machine.There aren’t any substantive books written about this amazing group of men, and the one I know about is expensive and out of print, but if done properly it would make an excellent case study of a Klein type-1 organization. All of these guys were giants of invention and industry and they all got stinking rich inventing new technologies and increasing man’s power over nature. There’s a sort of pamphlet about Maudsley available on archive, which is slightly better than nothing.  I assume there were contemporaries who wrote about them, but they’re mostly forgotten today.

Back to screws; using a screw, you can precisely position things on a nanoscale. I’ve done it, using these little buggers called picomotors. You can buy big giant screws made in temperature controlled oil baths which are capable of similar tricks while retaining their accuracy as well. It boggled my mind when I first read about how this is accomplished; basically the same way most mechanical accuracy is achieved; by lapping with abrasives. You can read all about it in the old Wayne Moore book “Foundations of Mechanical Accuracy.”

Which brings me back to Henry Rowland, father of American physics. It was Rowland who invented the techniques for creating the ultra precise nanoscale screw by manually lapping the screw in a giant split nut. He did this to create diffraction gratings using a “ruling engline.” Diffraction gratings are responsible for the origin of modern physics, as scientists needed them to resolve atomic spectra. And of course as I said in the previous blog, Rowland was by his own self largely responsible for American physics activities in general.

The story of the ultra-precise screw and ruling engine is so insanely awesome I’ll dedicate a later blerg or two to the topic.