Wednesday, February 28, 2018

School Shootings are Not Getting More Common

An interesting study out of Northeastern University made little news today because it flies in the face of the common narrative.  The study was entitled, "Schools are safer than they were in the 90s, and school shootings are not more common than they used to be, researchers say".

While I always look for things that contradict what I think, or contradict the accepted wisdom, the mainstream media only wants to reinforce their narratives.  The work was done by James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern, and assistant Emma E. Fridel also of Northeastern University.

According to the study, mass school shootings were more common in the 1990s than this decade.
Four times the number of children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than today, Fox said.

“There is not an epidemic of school shootings,” he said, adding that more kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents. There are around 55 million school children in the United States, and on average over the past 25 years, about 10 students per year were killed by gunfire at school, according to Fox and Fridel’s research.
On a per capita basis, over the past 25 years, "about 10 students per year" works out to 0.18 deaths per million students per year.  Looked at that way, it really is rather safe in schools.   

You know that often-repeated lie that there have been 18 school shootings so far this year?  Dr. Fox brings the truth:
Since 1996, there have been 16 multiple victim shootings in schools, or incidents involving 4 or more victims and at least 2 deaths by firearms, excluding the assailant.

Of these, 8 are mass shootings, or incidents involving 4 or more deaths, excluding the assailant.
16 shootings in just over 21 years is a long way from 18 this year alone. 

This graphic, from the article, is a little tough to read, but each darker dot shows one person killed and each lighter dot shows one person injured.  Columbine stands out in 1999.  Sandy Hook in 2012 stands out for its extreme ratio of dark to light color.  The Stoneman Douglas shooting is on the far right (below the less-awful Kentucky school shooting).  Unfortunately, this graphic doesn't go to 1990, so that we could visually compare the early '90s to today. 

It's not just school shootings, which are the classic example of the kind of extreme story the media loves: bleeding children sell (Dana was right).  Mass murders as a general class have also been declining since the 1990s, just has violent crime in general has been declining.  

This graph is a little tougher to read because the vertical color bands are too similar, and it's a small dataset in time, but the bottom gray color shows non-shooting mass murders; at least 4 murder victims, excluding the assailant (all of these exclude the assailant).  The lightest "brick" color (on my monitor) represents a mass shooting; again, at least 4 killed.  The middle color is public mass shooting; with at least 4 victims - places like malls or transportation.  The darkest red is a mass school shooting with at least 4 killed.

I should point out that Dr. Fox is not a fan of the almost universally recommended approaches to fix the problem (which he doesn't see as a crisis).  He's opposed to hardening access control:
In addition to being ineffective, Fox said increased security measures of these kinds can do more harm than good. He called the suggestion to arm teachers “absurd” and “over the top.”“I’m not a big fan of making schools look like fortresses, because they send a message to kids that the bad guy is coming for you—if we’re surrounding you with security, you must have a bull’s-eye on your back,” Fox said. “That can actually instill fear, not relieve it.”
His co-author, Emma Fridel, said she's opposed to obviously armed guards (I am as well, but for different reasons; I think a random number of concealed carriers makes it harder than "just shoot the guard first").
After the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, schools across the country began holding active shooter drills in which they huddled together in a corner or hid under their desks. Such exercises—which may include someone walking around pretending to shoot students—can be very traumatic, Fridel said, and there is no evidence that they help protect students. “These measures just serve to alarm students and make them think it’s something that’s common,” she said.
Dr. Fox said that while he likes gun control he thinks nothing proposed will affect school shootings.
Banning bump stocks and raising the age of purchase for assault rifles from 18 to 21 are good ideas, and may lead to a decrease in overall gun violence, he said. But he doesn’t believe these measures will prevent school shootings. “The thing to remember is that these are extremely rare events, and no matter what you can come up with to prevent it, the shooter will have a workaround,” Fox said, adding that over the past 35 years, there have been only five cases in which someone ages 18 to 20 used an assault rifle in a mass shooting.
I heard of this study on Glen Beck's radio program today and searching for it tonight I can only find it in smaller and "new media" outlets.  We can take odds on whether a study like this would make it onto CBS/ABC/NBC/CNN/MSNBC/Fox and so on.  For now, we should spread it ourselves. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Meet The King of Junk Food Science

Ever get overwhelmed by the "he-who" studies about food that make the news all the time?  People who eat red meat X times a week are more likely to get Y; that sort of thing?  Meet the reigning king of junk science: Buzz Feed presents the story of Brian Wansink, the head of Cornell’s prestigious food psychology research unit, the Food and Brand Lab. If any one person could be responsible for so many of us saying, "Wait!... Didn't they say that was good (or bad) for us last week?", it's Brian Wansink.
As the head of Cornell’s prestigious food psychology research unit, the Food and Brand Lab, Wansink was a social science star. His dozens of studies about why and how we eat received mainstream attention everywhere from O, the Oprah Magazine to the Today show to the New York Times. At the heart of his work was an accessible, inspiring message: Weight loss is possible for anyone willing to make a few small changes to their environment, without need for strict diets or intense exercise.
To show an example, Buzz Feed leads with a story about a young scientist from Turkey, Özge Siğirci, and the task Wansink gave her.  Earlier, Wansink's lab had performed an experiment at an all-you-can-eat buffet in an Italian restaurant.  Some customers paid $8 for the buffet, others paid half price. After their meal, they all filled out a questionnaire about who they were and how they felt about what they’d eaten.
Somewhere in those survey results, the professor was convinced, there had to be a meaningful relationship between the discount and the diners. But he wasn’t satisfied by Siğirci’s initial review of the data.

“I don’t think I’ve ever done an interesting study where the data ‘came out’ the first time I looked at it,” he told her over email.
The problem is, that's not how the statistical techniques of science work.  You don't sift through tons of data trying to find a hypothesis to publish, you have a hypothesis and then set up an experiment to try to prove or disprove it.  More specifically, you try to disprove the Null Hypothesis; which says that your experiment made no difference and any differences you found are a random event.  Disproving the null hypothesis means your experiment worked.  Wansink is going about things completely backwards: he's looking at results and trying to generate a hypothesis that matches them.  

For example, he gave Siğirci  suggestions for how to massage the data, and would later publicly praise her on his blog for being “the grad student who never said ‘no.’”
First, he wrote, she should break up the diners into all kinds of groups: “males, females, lunch goers, dinner goers, people sitting alone, people eating with groups of 2, people eating in groups of 2+, people who order alcohol, people who order soft drinks, people who sit close to buffet, people who sit far away, and so on...”

Then she should dig for statistical relationships between those groups and the rest of the data: “# pieces of pizza, # trips, fill level of plate, did they get dessert, did they order a drink, and so on...”
Eventually, four papers were published about the pizza study.  All four have been corrected or retracted.  It might be catching up with him.
Wansink couldn’t have known that his blog post would ignite a firestorm of criticism that now threatens the future of his three-decade career. Over the last 14 months, critics the world over have pored through more than 50 of his old studies and compiled “the Wansink Dossier,” a list of errors and inconsistencies that suggests he aggressively manipulated data. Cornell, after initially clearing him of misconduct, has opened an investigation. And he’s had five papers retracted and 14 corrected, the latest just this month.

Now, interviews with a former lab member and a trove of previously undisclosed emails show that, year after year, Wansink and his collaborators at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab have turned shoddy data into headline-friendly eating lessons that they could feed to the masses.

In correspondence between 2008 and 2016, the renowned Cornell scientist and his team discussed and even joked about exhaustively mining datasets for impressive-looking results. They strategized how to publish subpar studies, sometimes targeting journals with low standards. And they often framed their findings in the hopes of stirring up media coverage to, as Wansink once put it, “go virally big time.”
As Susan Wei, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Minnesota interviewed for the article says, it's hard to tell if Wansink is stupid or corrupt.  Well, she was more polite than I am and didn't put it exactly that way:
Wei added. “He’s so brazen about it, I can’t tell if he’s just bad at statistical thinking, or he knows that what he’s doing is scientifically unsound but he goes ahead anyway.”
Longtime readers know that junk science is one of those things that really gets me mad; it's also something I've written about several times (example).  In a way, Wansink is just another example of the replication crisis hitting science, mentioned in that link.

A lot of people in the country really pay attention to these junk studies and try to adjust their life to improve their health and their family's.  There appears to be no attention in Wansink's lab to how good the science is, just that it gets lots of publicity and goes viral. 

It's a long article, but quite an interesting read if you're interested in the "replication crisis" in science, and some of the problems.  It looks closely at some studies Wansink's group is famous for and their problems, and it has interviews with some former students. 

Brian Wansink - AP Photo by Mike Groll - from Buzz Feed

Monday, February 26, 2018

Time for the Spring Planting

With February drawing to a close, it's time to get spring planting moving before it's too late.  Today Mrs. Graybeard and I took a trip to Wally World; going there instead of to the Borg because it coincided with another side trip we had to make.  Unfortunately, their tomatoes and peppers looked awful.  On the one hand, it would make the season more efficient because we couldn't kill them if they're already dead; I mean, think of how quickly we'd be done for the year.  On the other hand, though, that isn't the way we want the year to work out.

They had a pretty hibiscus with big yellow flowers, and since we lost one in Hurricane Irma, this will make a nice replacement.  Since it's on the south side of the house, I need to get this done early in the morning before it gets too hot outside.  Too hot in February?  Around here, the sun can always hurt you - I can recall getting sunburned on the shortest day of the year - and even though it's only going to be 80 (it was 87 by the car's thermometer on the way to Wally World), with the sun both on your back and reflected off the house onto your face, I have no desire to be out there until noon.

The month of February has been quite a bit hotter than our averages, although January marked the first time we've had frost in several years.  For the last week, the official numbers have tended to overnight low close to 67 and the high close to 82.  Averages are 52 and 74.  Thursday could see a high of 90, but it will then get closer to average for a few days.  I had just about given up on not having to run the air conditioner in the shop.

I tell new folks I meet from the more northern parts of the country to just think of our seasons as exactly backwards from theirs.   When people in the northern reaches, say Tennessee and north, are coming out for all their summer activities in April, I'm essentially going inside for the summer.  Likewise when they're knocking off their outdoors activities around Halloween, that's when I'm starting to think it's worth being outside.  They put up with their winter to get their summer, I put up with our summer to get our winter.  In the middle of their winter, nothing grows outside.  In the middle of our summer stuff grows, but we have to do hand to hand combat with bugs that start to resemble the ones in Starship Troopers.

(photo of me with a bug from the tomato plants last July - I'm the one on the right)

It's really going to be nice for a week, we'll definitely get everything planted. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The List of Companies Boycotting the NRA

Granted, not everyone who shoots is an NRA member, but Newsweek (via MSN) very handily put together a list of companies that don't want to do business with anyone from the gun culture.   I'm sure they intended it to gather more companies to boycott the NRA, but it's fair to reciprocate. 
Alamo Rent a Car
Allied Van Lines
Chubb Insurance
Delta Air Lines
Enterprise Rent-a-Car
First National Bank of Omaha
National Car Rental
North American Van Lines
Paramount Rx
I can only say that if they don't want my business, then I don't want theirs and I'll be joining in the boycott of all of these.  In practical terms that means checking this list and not spending my money with anyone on the list.  I'll try to keep it updated.   

As often happens, when the world starts to threaten not just the NRA but all of us as people, the NRA is having a membership rush now.

(The Federalist Papers)

[Edit 0952 EST 2/26: to add Lifelock.  Should have had included them in the original post]
[Edit 1942 EST 2/26: to add National Car Rental]

Saturday, February 24, 2018

CNN's Town Hate on Guns

The Federalist has the story of how CNN's Town Hall Hate on guns got off to a rocky start when one of the students accidentally asked Senator Bill Nelson (D. Uranus) an accusatory, inflammatory, and personally-insulting question that CNN had intended be directed to Dana Loesch.
“I had a question for Ms. Loesch but she’s not here yet, so, for her and the NRA, which she’s probably watching, and all of you puppet politicians that they are backing: was the the blood of my classmates and my teachers worth your blood money?”

Rather than chide the questioner for such a dishonest, partisan screed, Tapper immediately jumped to Nelson’s defense.

“Senator Nelson, you don’t have to answer that question,” he said. “Let’s move on to the next question.”

The crowd jeered, and the student was not happy. “Excuse me? I’m a student. I should –”

“I understand that,” Tapper interrupted. “But your question, I thought you were going to ask Senator Nelson a question. Your question sounds like you want to ask Dana Loesch a question in the next segment. And I’m happy to do that, if you want.”

Kinda makes double bind questions like, "are you still beating your wife?" sound tame by comparison, doesn't it?  "This... is CNN". I mean, do you think the kid came up with this herself?  More than one student has complained that CNN gave them scripts to follow and didn't want to hear their actual experiences or opinion.
Colton Haab, one of the students who survived last week’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, told the media he chose not to attend the town hall, because CNN tried to give him written questions to ask at the event. Haab is a Junior ROTC enlistee who personally helped dozens of students stay safe during the shooting by moving them to a more secure classroom and setting up Kevlar screens to shield students from bullets.

“CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted,” he told a local news outlet. “I expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinion on my questions.”
I didn't watch it.  I think anyone knew which direction this was going to go as soon as it was announced, it's just that CNN proved to be more despicable than even my expectations of CNN.  My expectations for CNN's professionalism make a pretty low bar, and they were so far below that they couldn't see it with high power scope.  If you're interested, The Federalist has a short interview and audio podcast with Dana saying what it was like from her point of view.

Glinda The Good Witch Says

Found in a file of stuff from December '15. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Parkland as Politics - Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste

Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel famously used that phrase in the early days of the Obama administration and it underscores a fundamental facet of fascism brought to life by Benito Musollini: everything is political.  “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”  Today, I had a realization about why the politics after the Parkland shooting have been so vicious.

1.  Democratic fund raising.  It has been widely reported that the Stupid Party has out-raised the Evil Party by $40 Million.  The Dems are in a hole for the midterm elections.  Gun Control is like catnip to the party base and by getting Bloomberg and/or Soros to fund a few bus rides for kids, they can turn on the money faucet from the base.   Did those donors not notice that when the Democrats had complete control of everything, they still didn't try for gun control laws?  How is Parkland different from Sandy Hook in the big picture, so that now it's time to ban all the things?  They didn't push gun control when Obama was in office because Democratic leaders knew that gun control votes hurt them in the past.

2.  The old line media is dying and this is a grasp to get back the power that they've had before.  They can still massively influence opinion because people believe them.  The mainstream media convinced the vast majority of people that Trump's tax cuts would do nothing for them, a direct lie now being shown as a lie, but they still had the power to convince them.  Other than Gell-Mann amnesia, I have no idea why it works.  Media will probably never re-attain the zenith of their power from the mid-60s, such as when Walter Crankcase could convince the nation we got our asses beat in the Tet Offensive, the opposite of the real situation.

There are no words for the horror that group of students went through, but they are completely wrong in their response.

This whole shooting incident is nothing but serial government failures for years.  Time after time, people "saw something and said something" but the government side did nothing. The schools could have had the killer arrested while still a student, but didn't.  A state psychologist said the student, who had just cut himself with a sharp object in a live broadcast online, was assessed as not a threat to anyone.  Since when is slicing yourself considered normal?  The county Sheriff lied about crime in county schools to make his office look good - and it's not just Broward county, it's widespread (H/T Gunslinger's Journal).  Sheriff's officers were at the shooter's house over 35 times and did nothing to head this off.  The FBI was supposed to respond to him being reported and didn't.  Finally, the last line of defense, the school resource officer charged with responding in just this sort of incident ran and hid while the students and staff he was supposed to be protecting were gunned down.

So faced with year after year, failure after failure, lie after incompetency, suddenly the answer is to give more power to all levels of government that got it wrong at every single step of the way?  I can understand this defective thinking with 15 to 18 year old kids, who aren't generally known for their maturity and judgement (which is why we make it hard for them to buy a car or enter into legal contracts in general), but I'd hope for better out of the adults paying the kids' way. 

It appears that Florida - in the last days of the 2018 legislative session - is going to try to ram some new laws through.  Because we all know that with 20,000 anti-gun laws, one more law or one different word is suddenly going to cause all the psycho killers to say, "By golly, you're right!  I don't want the fame and glory of killing my classmates!  I want to get a job flipping burgers at White Castle!"  One bill (7022) will raise the age to purchase any gun to 21, institute a 3 day waiting period (Broward county has a 5 day waiting period now) and ban bump stocks. I'm sure you couldn't measure positive outcomes from this with an electron microscope.

(bill 7022, screen cap from Gun Free Zone)

2000 years ago, the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote "When men are good, laws are meaningless; when men are bad, laws are worthless" (as I always heard it).  You will never get rid of killers because it doesn't matter what law you pass, criminals don't follow laws.  Laws only affect people who follow laws.  Psychos plan these operations for a long time.  The only thing proven to stop psycho killers is a rapid armed response.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I Think I'm Going To Say I Got This One Right

Back on January 10th, I did a piece on Bitcoin being in a bubble asking rhetorically if it was really a bubble.  I concluded:
I think that yes, it's in a short term overpriced situation.  I think it's possible, even likely, that there needs to be some period of sitting in a trading range and consolidating (strangely, I run across this guy saying the same thing).  People need to settle down a little get some of the fever out of the market.  I think a drop in price of as much as 50% is not out of the question.  However, I also think it has a good future; that there's a real place for cryptocurrencies and they will make a comeback.
We all know that Bitcoin crashed after that.  In fact, according to Coinbase, Bitcoin was already in the process of crashing on Jan. 10; it reached its peak on December 16th, at $19,343.  They show the price bottoming out on February 5th at $6914, which is well under 50% of the peak (35.7% of the peak).  Today, it's trading in the range of $10,000, which is on the order of 51.7% of the December peak, so still off about 50%. 

Is the bloodletting over?  This is harder to say, but playing technical analyst a bit, here's the last month of closing prices with a trading range I've drawn in. 
The decline is obvious, as is a turnaround after the Feb. 5th minimum.  The price has been pretty well confined by that increasing price channel - until this morning to be precise.  The next few days will probably tell the tale of whether or not this is a "dead cat bounce" and the price will drop some more, or if that bottom line is close to a "support line" that the price doesn't go below and it continues back up.  It's entirely possible it stays in a trading range around $10,000 for a longer time (six months?) before going up or down.

Remember my definition of technical analysis: drawing lines on a chart of prices and then thinking those lines mean something.  

Bitcoin remains an interesting puzzle.  Right now, it seems disconnected from its real intent, but I still think cryptocurrencies do have their place in the long term, big picture.  I firmly believe that there will never again be the equivalent of the increase in price from the legendary first pizza order (10,000 coins for 2 pizzas - now $100 Million), but that an increase from the price paid today is entirely possible.  Now much?  I have nothing to base that on but gut feel, which I'm clearly no good at (if I was good, I would have bought bit coins when they were a few bucks).  If you're looking for the next big shot at making thousands of percent gains, look somewhere else, but gains more like other investments are still possible.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Struggling To Find the Truth

Item the first:  Did Trump ban bump stocks?  That was the buzz starting last night about this time.  By morning everyone was on the story and you couldn't get five minutes of a talk radio show without someone saying, "Trump lost me on this one".  Or the converse, "I'd give up bump stocks for national reciprocity" - or something.  But it really looks like Trump did nothing about bump stocks.  John Richardson at No Lawyers, Guns and Money linked to the entire text of the memo.  I excerpt it here.
Accordingly, following established legal protocols, the Department of Justice started the process of promulgating a Federal regulation interpreting the definition of “machinegun” under Federal law to clarify whether certain bump stock type devices should be illegal. The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on December 26, 2017. Public comment concluded on January 25, 2018, with the Department of Justice receiving over 100,000 comments.

Today, I am directing the Department of Justice to dedicate all available resources to complete the review of the comments received, and, as expeditiously as possible, to propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns.

Although I desire swift and decisive action, I remain committed to the rule of law and to the procedures the law prescribes. Doing this the right way will ensure that the resulting regulation is workable and effective and leaves no loopholes for criminals to exploit. I would ask that you keep me regularly apprised of your progress.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

That's not banning anything.  It's saying, "hurry up and review the comments you received to your NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making)" that closed on January 25, and make a decision.  Then it says create a possible rule and prepare an NPRM banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.  It doesn't say what the answer should be or put the words in anyone's mouth to ban bump stocks or anything else.  If there's one thing I'm sure of, banning bump stocks would do nothing except hurt some small companies or run them out of business. 

Is this just Trump playing the media like Itzhak Perlman on a Stradivarius?  Make them act like they like him for nanosecond? 

Item the second:  What about the other gun control proposals going around?  Raising the age to buy a long gun, or the ever-popular "Universal Background Checks"?  Quinnipiac released a poll yesterday saying
Support for universal background checks is itself almost universal, 97 [to] 2 percent, including 97 [to] 3 percent among gun owners. [added "to" - SiG]
I've always heard that when this particular question is asked, the vast majority of respondents don't understand what it means, and that when the questions are detailed, support for things like background checks for private sales drops down to the 50/50 range.  Once it's explained that there is no "gun show loophole".  This poll doesn't expand on that.

The poll is staggering and really looks like it could indicate trouble coming.  There's wide support for an assault weapons ban, mandatory waiting periods to take home a gun you purchased. 91% of Democrats and 69% of independents think it's too easy to buy a gun in the country.  There's a clamor for more laws, to make it harder to buy and keep a gun.  The amount of defective thinking is simply mind-boggling.  It's difficult to read the results because they're spread over dozens of screens, but interesting reading.

Of course, it's just one poll and I know nothing of systemic biases in it.

It's obvious if you spend 10 seconds listening to these kids in front of the president or the Florida legislature that they're being played by someone.  They don't know what they're talking about and either state things that are blatantly wrong, or just emotional junk.  Who's pulling the strings?  Bloomberg?  Soros?  Don't know, don't care.  Everything on the media since the shooting has been nothing but politics.  If the kids are actors, they're not particularly good actors; they're over actors. 

I think No Lawyers, Guns and Money, had a QoTD that's a perfect way to end this:
Just last week, Congress was calling on Tide to change the design of the Pods so teenagers would stop eating them. This week, teenagers should determine gun policy.

Slide Fire AR-10 Bump Stock, the SBS-308.  I'll be honest, I never particularly cared enough about these to buy one, but if someone wants one, I don't see the problem. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I Think This Is My Favorite 2018 Olympics Story

This is the story of Elizabeth Swaney, a 33-year old American skier who by studying what it takes to qualify, persistence, dedication, and setting goals for herself, is skiing for Hungary in the 2018 Winter Olympics still underway in Korea. 

By all accounts, Elizabeth is a mediocre skier, but that didn't stop her dreams of making the Olympics.  She learned what she had to do to make it and did everything she needed to do.
Swaney's half-pipe run on Monday involved one quasi-trick, no air, and a last-place finish. She frequently did not clear the top of the half-pipe. She qualified for the Olympics by leveraging her grandparents' Hungarian birth to attend International Ski Federation World Cup events, where she regularly finished among the top 30 skiers because fewer than 30 skiers showed up to compete.
One commentator I heard said that, unlike the stars of her sport, she'd show up at small events.  Some of them were so small, they didn't have 30 skiers.  That guaranteed she'd finish in the top 30. 
International Ski Federation judge Steele Spence told The Denver Post, "She would compete in [events] consistently over the last couple years and sometimes girls would crash so she would not end up dead last."
The Guardian puts it this way:
A Harvard graduate who once ran against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the race to be California governor, Swaney only started skiing at 25 and has been driven ever since in her quest to compete at an Olympics. After raising funds through online donations to help fuel her Olympic ambitions, Swaney managed to qualify for Pyeongchang due to the sheer volume of competitions she attended.
OK, so she's not a great skier.  So what?  It doesn't appear that "great skier" was her goal.  Her goal was being there - at the Olympics, in the athlete's village, living the life of an Olympian.  She made her goal through persistence and hard work.  I just can't find fault with that.  Lots of athletes compete for countries other than where they live and train - you see it all the time.  She's Hungarian by their laws, she qualified by rules everyone acknowledges are the rules. 

Liz Swaney photo from Instagram

Back in 2014,  US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, gave a commencement speech to the University of Texas at Austin.  It has become a speech that was talked about a lot then and still bears paying attention, or watching the video.  It's called the 10 Life Lessons From Seal Training.  I think number 10 describes Liz Swaney perfectly. 
10. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.
“In SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see. All you have to do to quit – is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT – and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.”
Reword that somewhat to "If you want to achieve your goals, don't ever, ever quit".  She set a clear goal, figured out how to get from nowhere near the goal to achieving it, and never, ever, quit.  In an Olympics mostly filled with celebrity Trump Derangement Syndrome, fawning over the North Korean Propaganda Minister, defining "not medaling while gay" as winning everything, I think I like Liz Swaney best of all.

Monday, February 19, 2018


I haven't said anything about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week down in Parkland.  I know the area and was in Parkland about a month ago (drove through it); it's about 7 or 8 miles from where my brother lives and along the route we used to drive from his place to my mom's house.  A couple miles closer to where I lived in the late 70s/early 80s.  Not that it's particularly relevant. 

To begin with, if you want to see a truly epic fisking of "we're coming to take your guns", see Raconteur Report's perspective, but there are lots of others people talking about this.  If anything, I see the result of a Feinstein-like, "turn them all in, America" as being worse (for them) than he says.  And, as McThag said for so many of us, I'm sick to death of being blamed for things I had nothing to do with.

The media and the Evil party (pardon my redundancy) are without exception saying we need to do something ("ban all the things!") and have completely steadfastly avoided mentioning anything that might actually work.

In intervening days, I've heard a few of the kids from school sounding very rational - as a counterpoint to the political demonstrations where the Useful Idiots staged a die in.  What's that awful smell?  Is it the DNC?  George Soros?  Michael Bloomberg?  What's the difference? 

With surprising regularity, comedians "get it" far more than their serious counterparts (exceptions for certain so-much-smarter-than-us late night comedians).  Saturday nights at 10 PM, Fox News channel runs the Greg Gutfeld show.  It's a time I frequently find myself sitting in the living room finishing up an hour of guitar practice, so I frequently end up watching. 

Greg's regular panel of commentators includes former professional wrestler Tyrus, who has also been a teacher and a personal bodyguard (to Snoop Dog).  He actually had a pretty good summary of what will work and I'm going to paraphrase madly.  He started by saying that just as 9/11 changed air travel forever, we need to change schools forever.  First, schools need access control.  One of the kids I heard said the killer walked onto campus from a nearby field (it tends to be woodsy in Parkland) and then into a doorway to a stairwell on school property.  That's where he started the attacks.  Nothing to block just walking into the building.  No locks, no searches, no "scanning in" with a card, no combination locks, nothing.  Why is that banks have access control, along with every other institution you can name, but not every school?   

Let's leave out the TSA grope and Perv-o-scan, though, and maybe just scan backpacks.  

Second, much like the air marshals on planes and arming pilots, we need to empower any teachers who are already concealed carriers and get them more training.  We're not talking about arming teachers, just helping those who have the ability to be better.  Guys like Coach Feis, who was a CCW carrier, but forbidden to have his gun at work, and so died because of that.   Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd made news over the weekend for saying he's going to train any teacher that wants it.  They call it their Sentinel Program and it was adopted by Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida last year.  And my favorite part:
He acknowledged that some would not agree with his plan. However, he also noted that those who criticize have not offered alternatives, saying: “OK, Einstein, you got a better idea?”
Third, the media has to stop giving these horrible losers wall-to-wall news coverage.  They want their picture everywhere.  They thrive on being notorious for carrying out the worst shooting evah.  That's one of the reasons they do this.   Yeah, it's big news, but for cripe's sake, could you not show his picture every 5 seconds, like not show it at all?  And don't mention the guy's name.  He wants fame, not anonymity. 

Every other place that has things we value is protected by armed guards.  One "resource officer" isn't enough for a school the size of Stoneman Douglas - or anything much bigger than a one room schoolhouse.  Tyrus threw around the number that he understands approximately 435,000 veterans of the current wars are unemployed.  Many, if not all, are well trained in the use of firearms and would be easy to integrate into the school community.  Help the vets and help protect the kids in one move.

Frankly, while the talk about more screening for mental illness has some sense to it, it also raises my hackles about 4th amendment problems.  I was working on a long piece on this, but this guy on WRSA covers a lot of it.  As always, who decides and on what grounds?  What test?  Is there actual due process?  Do you get committed because a neighbor who's pissed off about your house/yard/car/dog/kids calls you in to the sheriff?  When the the Broward County sheriff's office is saying that people should call them when their neighbor comes back from the gun range instead of the grocery store (23:30 to 24:00 in that video), is that the kind of thing that gets you locked up for mental issues? 

It's hard to sum this up, but let's try this:  there are things we can do that will work, and then there's meaningless gun control blather.  All we're hearing in most of the media is things that we know won't work.  We need to try to push the discussion in the right direction. Give the PTB a little clue by four. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Blogiversary Time

It's time to announce that it's my:
OK, technically, my blogiversary is Wednesday because the first post I ever did was Sunday, February 21st, and Wednesday is the 21st.  On the other hand, I've traditionally posted about it on a Sunday because all across most of my reading list, Sunday is relatively quiet day.  On the other, other hand, I don't think I would have guessed that I'd be here posting pretty much daily for eight years back on that February Sunday so any day is a good day to notice. 

I didn't even do a blogiversary post last year.  I forgot.

Blogger tells me there were 1817 discrete pageviews yesterday, and most days I get a count in the range of 1500 to 1600.  I don't look every day or even every week, so I'm sure I miss a lot.  There could be days over 2000.
Pageviews all time history:         2,873,175
Total posts  (including this one):         2710
Most popular post of all time: A Little More About .308 vs 7.62x51 with 16,810 views
Most popular page of all time:  My AR-15 From an 80% Lower with 17,969 views
Thanks for stopping by.  My aim, as I regularly say, is to be a full service blog, so you never quite can tell what you're going to find next time, whether it's a picture of Alice Cooper and Colonel Sanders, or a discussion about antennas.  To make it worth every cent you pay to visit. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Introducing the Next Project

The book I ordered is in and I've started ordering the metals I don't have for the next project.

As is so often the case, the metal I ordered ended up being a fraction of the shipping.  The metal was about $18 and the shipping $30.  On one piece in particular is an extreme example, 3-1/2" diameter aluminum to turn down to 3-3/8", and about an inch thick.  The smallest piece I could find at Online Metals was a "random length" piece of bar, just guaranteed to be between 10 and 12" long, for $65.  Then I found this seller on eBay that would sell a 1" thick slice for $5 and $7 for shipping.  Even though the shipping is still more than the metal, it was nice to get it for $12 instead of $65 plus shipping. 

Frankly, Online Metals has gone from my "Go To guys" to "I'm not so sure about this" because of the shipping.  Again, the shipping was $30 for no more than (being generous) 4 pounds of metal that fits in a box that's 12 x 6 x 6".  The Postal Service tells me they'll ship it across country as 2 day priority mail "Regional Flat Rate Box A" at $10.18. They made it worse in my eyes by shipping the three pieces of metal in three boxes from three different warehouses with three different delivery dates.  Yes, I realize that the labor to gather the metals and put them in a box costs them something and they need to cover that cost, and I realize that the way the shipping industry works, they'll get different rates depending on a whole gaggle of factors. 

Griping aside, I have enough on hand to get started.  I also expect I'm going to go through this a few more times before I'm done.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Little Look at the Heavy Lift Landscape

The launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy 10 days ago created a lot buzz online with dozens of people posting their own video captures of the Tesla Roadster in space.  Even conservative commentator Bill Whittle's channel did a half hour Right Angle show through the launch, marveling "this really happened!"

This week, ARS Technica presents some numbers to think about in a piece called, "The Falcon Heavy is an absurdly low-cost heavy lift rocket".  They compare the costs of the Delta IV Heavy, NASA's Space Launch System, and the Falcon Heavy.

For the baseline, SpaceX prices the Falcon Heavy rocket, with reusable side boosters, at $90 million.  For a fully expendable variant of the rocket, which is required for payloads and orbits that are so challenging that the boosters can't be recovered, the price is $150 million.  That includes a calculated maximum of 64 tons to low-Earth orbit.  The Heavy has not been DOD-certified yet, but SpaceX says its rocket can handle all known Department of Defense reference missions.
Only the Delta IV Heavy rocket, manufactured by the United Launch Alliance, also has this capability today. It is more expensive, but how much more is a matter of some debate. On Twitter this week, the chief executive of the Colorado-based rocket company, Tory Bruno, said the Delta IV Heavy costs about $350 million per flight. This figure, however, is strikingly lower than what Bruno cited during a congressional hearing in 2015, when he asserted that, "A Delta IV, depending on the configuration, costs between $400 and $600 million dollars."

Moreover, the costs referenced above by Bruno exclude a "launch capability contract" worth about $1 billion annually, which the US government pays exclusively to United Launch Alliance. Based upon current law, this contract payment will phase out in 2019 (for Atlas rockets) and 2020 (for Delta rockets), which should increase the costs allocated to each mission. Finally, in 2019, United Launch Alliance will make the last flight of a Delta IV Medium rocket. Once this variant is retired, all of the Delta's fixed costs will fall on the Heavy variant. This will push the per-flight cost above $600 million, and perhaps considerably higher, in the early 2020s.  [Bold added - SiG]
Bottom line, according to ARS, the DOD may have to pay half a billion dollars more for a single launch of certain military satellites on the Delta IV Heavy versus the Falcon Heavy.  The Delta IV Heavy has a longer track record than the Falcon Heavy, eight successful missions.  With the kinds of missions the DOD launches, they might think the more expensive rocket is a better investment for their Billion dollar payloads.  One wonders how long that might last.

The wildcard is NASA's Space Launch System, which will out lift even the Falcon Heavy.  It is, however, still in development.  The SLS is an impressive system, and a family of boosters (pdf warning) the smaller one of which has more liftoff thrust and payload than a Saturn V. 
However, these improvements come at a very, very steep price. Consider just a single data point: NASA annually spends about $2.6 billion to develop the SLS rocket and ground launch systems for the massive rocket at Kennedy Space Center. The SLS rocket was originally supposed to launch in 2017, but now the maiden flight of the SLS booster has slipped to 2020. That is understandable; most large aerospace rockets experience delays. However, the cost of a three-year delay is $7.8 billion.

For the sake of argument, consider the costs of this three-year delay against the lift capability NASA could have bought by purchasing Falcon Heavy rockets from SpaceX in 2018, 2019, and 2020. That $7.8 billion equates to 86 launches of the reusable Falcon Heavy or 52 of the expendable version. This provides up to 3,000 tons of lift—the equivalent of eight International Space Stations or one heck of a Moon base. Obviously NASA does not need that many launches, but it could buy several Falcon Heavy rockets a year and have the funds to build meaningful payloads to launch on them. [Bold added - SiG]
ARS states that in practical terms, NASA has paid nothing for the development of the Falcon Heavy rocket. In fact, by leasing its unused Launch Complex-39A to SpaceX for Falcon launches, the space agency has said it saves about $1 million in annual maintenance costs on the historical launch complex.  The numbers leave a former NASA deputy administrator saying:
"The question is really, why would the government continue to spend billions of dollars a year of taxpayer money for a rocket that will be unnecessary and obsolete?" Lori Garver, a deputy administrator of NASA from 2009 to 2013, told Ars. "If the US continues this travesty, it will siphon off even more funds NASA could otherwise use for science missions, transfer vehicles, or landers that actually get us somewhere."
Without a doubt, the successful test of the Falcon Heavy lobbed a metaphorical hand grenade into the launch business.  Even the Director General of the European Space Agency said they'd better start developing "disruptive ideas" to counter competitive pressure in the aerospace industry.  

There's no mention of the Blue Origin New Glenn booster, and no explanations, so while I know it's going to be big, perhaps they haven't released data to compare to the other vehicles.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Little Interlude

After 3 hours in the dentist's chair, and the area being a lot more sore since the local anesthetic wore off, it's a good night for a short, light posting. 
Don't know where I got this; it was in the file I keep for nights like this.  If it's yours, I'll gladly credit you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Science Photo of the Year

Look closely at the center of this photo:
There's a small dot visible in the apparatus, between the two turned-metal rods that taper down to tiny pins and the the two trapezoidal features that come down from the top and up from the bottom.  That bright spot is one single strontium atom, fluorescing in ultra violet light. 

The Engineering and Physical Science Research Council of the UK, EPSRC, has named this the photo of the year for 2017.  The description begins:
An image of a single positively-charged strontium atom, held near motionless by electric fields, has won the overall prize in a national science photography competition, organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, from the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes surrounding it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet colour the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph. The winning picture was taken through a window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.
Note that it said the distance between those two metal pins was about 2mm.  A quick lookup shows the atomic radius of a strontium ion to be around 220 picometer; so since that's about one 9 millionth of the gap, how is it that we see it?  I believe (but they don't say) that the atom itself is too small to see but the fluorescence is too bright to not be captured - much like star light at night to your eyes (on an angular basis, the star is far too small to see).  
David Nadlinger, explained how the photograph came about: “The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the miniscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality. A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot.”
My guess is his calculations involved the amount of light the atom would be re-emitting.

If you haven't seen individual atoms, they've been imaged regularly for since about 1981 with non-optical methods.  IBM famously spelled out their initials by dragging individual Xenon atoms into place to form the letters on a nickel crystal in 1989.  We could go into pages about what "seeing an atom" means, but that's probably better left for another time.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Interesting Play Day at the Range

I've written here many times over years about reloading and, since last summer, about my Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor that I got on a good sale last July (and even through another six months of sales in the gunny world, still a good price though not the very best).  Naturally, those two should go together, and the idea of doing precise handloads for the RPR has been at the front of my mind.  I bought dies for my RCBS Rock Chucker before I even had the rifle and have added some Berger "Elite Hunter" bullets in the 140 grain size the rifle seems to like.  The hardest component to acquire has been what seems to be the consensus choice for best powder, Hodgdon H4350.

NRA's Shooting Illustrated did a story on the 6.5 Creedmoor and keeps using the analogy of the "Perfect Storm".  On powders, they say,
... consider Hodgdon’s H4350 propellant. ... In the early days of production, Hornady, which makes reloading tools and components as well as ammo, published recommended hand-load data on the boxes of factory ammo using H4350 powder. Millions of shooters discovered that it worked so well, their search for the perfect handload started and ended right there.

In a normal handloading world, that would be a footnote in the cartridge introduction for future reloading manuals. In this perfect storm, it means there is a world-wide, multi-year shortage of H4350. Hodgdon is making and shipping more of the stuff than ever, but this huge popularity has caused the demand to far outstrip supply. It’s gone on for years and shows no signs of abatement. I have never seen anything like this and neither has Chris Hodgdon. He tells me that the company breaks records every month for the amount of H4350 shipped and still can’t meet demand, all because of the 6.5 Creedmoor. One cartridge, used almost exclusively for one purpose, is driving the H4350 market to unheard of heights. That is something the shooting world has never seen before.
I can verify that I've been looking for H4350 on every "Powder Sale" to cross my email since July and have yet to see in stock anywhere.  To date, I've had my best results with 140 gn Hornady ELD-M rounds, and I think it was one that talked about reloading with H4350 (I swear I recall seeing that on one of the first boxes I bought).  Chris Hodgdon goes on to recommend another powder his company makes:
Chris Hodgdon recommends using Enduron IMR4451. He told me, “It’s relatively the same burning speed as H4350. Enduron is temperature insensitive like H4350, plus it has copper-fouling-reducer technology.” 
IMR4451 seems to be more available, but ordering powders and working up loads is Research and Development, and other powders might be worth looking at.  Reloader 17, and the newer RL16 may be better (according to what "they say").  IMR4350 is another to investigate.  The only two rifle powders I have on hand are Hodgdon Varget and H4895.  Neither is recommended - but might produce serviceable reloads.

One of the things people recommend, and one that has come up around here a few times, is to use a chronograph.  A week ago last Saturday was my birthday, and I finally decided to treat myself to one, the MagnetoSpeed Sporter.  Today, I thought it was a good day to try it out at range.  Since I don't know anything about it, nor did I particularly trust it to work "first time, every time", I brought my AR and two boxes of factory 55 grain FMJBT PMC ammo, along with my Savage Scout rifle and a box of Winchester 7.61x52 147 grain.

Unlike most chronographs, the MagnetoSpeed design straps to your barrel, and instead of detecting the bullet by optical means, senses it with a magnetic field.  The Sporter model differs from the "big brother " V3 model by including fewer options for attaching to the gun, so I suspect it isn't as versatile for things like pistol reloads, but that's lower priority to me.   Besides, I think that stuff may be available - or copyable if you know someone with a machine shop. 

The advantages over the typical chronograph are substantial: no tripods to carry and set up, no wires between the tripod and shooting bench, no susceptibility to light and passing cloud shadows, no need to have the range go "cold" if the wind blows the tripod and chrony over.  The disadvantage is that the weight on the end of the barrel is going to mess up its harmonics and affect your point of impact.  It seems that might make the load development process a bit more iterative.  Develop a given speed and then test that speed without the Sporter hanging from the barrel.

The ultimate solution to that is probably something like Lab Radar, which has all of the same advantages as this, but doesn't hang from the barrel and change the point of impact.  At over 3x the price, a Lab Radar is not in the cards for me for the foreseeable future.  

One of the attractions of the MagnetoSpeed system is that they have a small accessory to allow you to download the captured session to your Android or iPhone device, and a free app in Google Play or iTunes store.  The app makes looking through the data you've taken easier than clicking through it on the control box that the sensor plugs into, and can then email the date to you as a Comma Separated Variables (.csv) file to load into your favorite spreadsheet program.  For example, here's the spreadsheet from the box of Winchester 308 I shot. 
Synced on: 2018-02-13 12:14:06

Series 2018-02-13_12_14_06 Shots: 18
Notes Winchester 147grn Mil Spec .308

Min 2787  Max 2861
Avg 2819  S-D 19.2
ES 74 

Shot Speed

1 2826 ft/s
2 2825 ft/s
3 2818 ft/s
4 2839 ft/s
5 2795 ft/s
6 2832 ft/s
7 2861 ft/s
8 2815 ft/s
9 2809 ft/s
10 2797 ft/s
11 2817 ft/s
12 2829 ft/s
13 2844 ft/s
14 2830 ft/s
15 2823 ft/s
16 2808 ft/s
17 2787 ft/s
18 2793 ft/s
---- ---- ---- ----
The ES value is Extreme Spread, or (Max - Min); S-D is the standard deviation of the series.

I feel pretty comfortable with the MagnetoSpeed now, after the first trip.  It gave me a couple of absurd values across two boxes of .223 - real WTF? values that you throw out when you see them.  In my case, it had one round at 4419 fps and the other at 3960.  If you care about the analysis and stats, you can do those in your spreadsheet.  I did.  It seems like the way to approach this might be to load eight of each weight of powder; four for the chronograph and four for a group.  Or three each with two spares. 

Now if I could only get my hands on a pound or two of H4350...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Rand Paul Was Right

Rand Paul famously shut down the government briefly in the early hours of the morning on Friday to make a point.  This prompted washed-up, old singer Better Midler to tweet, "where's Rand Paul's neighbor when we need him?" in apparent yearning for the days when his neighbor assaulted him for no apparent reason.  Senator Paul was quoted as saying,
“I don’t advocate for shutting the government down, but neither do I advocate for keeping it open and borrowing $1 million a minute. In fact, the statistics this year are closer to $2 million a minute,” Paul claimed. “This is a government that is horribly broken.”
He's right.  In fact $1 million a minute is too optimistic.  The official number from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED) is that in 2017 the US ran a budget deficit of $666 billion.  The conversion is easy, and if you count every minute of the year (all 525,600 of them), that gives a spending rate of $1.27 Million per minute.  The budget plan is projecting a deficit of $800 billion in FY '18.  That's $1.52 Million per minute.  The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), an independent think tank, projects that the deficit for FY '19 will balloon to $1.2 trillion in FY 2019, or $2.3 million per minute. 

Data from FRED, projections from CRFB, posted at the Daily Caller's Fact Check.

Long time readers will know that I'm a deficit hawk and believe this is eventually has to stop; a classic example of "things that can't go on forever, won't go on forever".  The amount of borrowing has to eventually hit a stop.  The world isn't infinite, and neither is money that's worth anything. 

These, though, are unprecedented times.  First and foremost is that while the market appears to have firm foundations for the first time in a long time; to borrow a line from Tom Aspray in Forbes:
Therefore, those who look at the market from a fundamental standpoint  have trouble turning bearish right now, since the only fundamental concern is rising rates, while earnings and the economy are strong.
Simply, in a week the major indices retreated back in time two months to the second week of December.   The companies that were reporting earnings were reporting good, solid earnings and there's no reason to think they're less valuable than they were two weeks prior.  There's simply no reason to dump those stocks.  Unless the concern is looking forward into the year and wondering if the Fed is going to raise interest rates more than originally slated.  Very simply, money chases yield and if bond yields go up, that would tend to move money out of the stock markets and into bonds. 

Why would the Fed raise interest rates?  That's their response to too much inflation and the Fed seems institutionally unable to separate its own currency manipulations from inflation or recession.  For the last decade they've been telling us inflation is under 2% as we've paid more for smaller packages and watched what appears to be 8 to 10% inflation every year (Shadowstats, in 1980 terms, bottom graph).  None of that bothered them, but increases in wages have them ringing the klaxons and preparing for disaster.

Trump is the first president I can think of who has specifically stated he wants to raise wages for the middle class and there's evidence it's happening.  Rising wages are something that Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke before her always talked about as if it was the apocalypse.  One of the main aims of the Fed seemed to have been to keep wages from rising - and they seem to have been effective at doing it. 

The point is, though, Rand Paul was right.  The country is borrowing more than a million dollars a minute, and that can't go on.  It might not crash this year, or next year, but it will sooner or later and it's better to try to land a crippled aircraft than wait until its really desperately awful trouble.  The answer, as it has always been, has to be to stop kicking the can down the road, and start cutting spending and working toward balanced budgets.  Which requires being adults, and very, very few in Washington have shown that tendency - as the president's proposed $1-1/2 Trillion dollar infrastructure plan shows.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Explosive 3D Printing Industry

That doesn't refer to the industry undergoing explosive growth, it refers to the 3D printing of explosives.  Machine Design covers the story with input from Los Alamos National Labs (pdf warning). 

Whether for movie special effects, planned demolition, or as weapons, it should go without saying that explosives are serious business.  To borrow a phrase from shooting, the two worst sounds in the world are silence when it's supposed to go BOOM and BOOM when it's supposed to be silent.  Despite centuries of work with explosives and the modern use of high speed cameras and computers, there still is much to learn about how explosives work on the shortest time scales 
TNT is susceptible to unplanned detonation. This led the team at Los Alamos to develop insensitive high explosives (IHE). These explosives can be hit with a hammer, dropped, or thrown into a fire and not detonate. This might ruin some Hollywood movies, but it might also ruin a timed detonation.

Making an explosive more difficult to detonate when there’s an accident also makes it more difficult to detonate intentionally. Explosives such as TNT’s behavior are largely controlled through hot spots. Introducing inclusions, such as air bubbles, into TNT will trap air inside, causing it to compress and rapidly heat up. The uneven flow into and around these bubbles results in points of intense heat called hot spots. These hot spots largely control the energy necessary to initiate detonation in TNT and other high explosives.

This is where 3D printing is disrupting explosives. With the ability to control material, and voids, Mueller’s [LANL's] team looks to control the release of energy through a sophisticated arrangement of hot spots.
Switching to LANL's explanation for a few words:
During detonation, a chemical reaction zone (CRZ) races immediately behind the supersonic shock wave; the shock-compressed voids in the CRZ generate hot spots and in turn initiate the chemical burn reaction. Because a shock front will move through different materials at different speeds, the type, size, and distribution of hot spots (collectively referred to as the hot-spot profile) can change the size and speed of the CRZ as it travels through the material—this affects the strength of the subsequent blast.
If you've ever seen a cross section  of a 3D print, they have varying amounts of porous space in them. This is primarily for strength and prints made for higher stresses are more solid, but porous space in the explosive mix can help researchers learn about how the explosion forms and propagates.

(A look at the inside of an object as it's being printed shows the support structure - International Science Times)

It's also allowing them to experiment with new materials and create new explosives.

A couple of thousand miles away in Indiana, Purdue university researchers are using inkjet-type 3D printing to experiment with their explosive blends.
“It is really just an assembly of commercial-off-the-shelf technologies,” says Jeffrey Rhoads, professor of mechanical engineering and principal investigator on the project. “The key is formulating the proper ‘ink’ and then integrating these components in a way that allows for appropriate mixing, precise printed geometries, etc.

“Our solution is to combine two components as we’re printing them. We can have a fuel and an oxidizer in two separate suspensions, which are largely inert. Then with this custom inkjet printer, we can deposit the two in a specific overlapping pattern, combining them on a substrate to form nanothermite.”
Allison Murray, a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering, built the custom inkjet printer.  The feed is a tube that can be electrically constricted to control droplet size while the table moves under the print head.  She says, “The stage can move with a 0.1 micron precision, which is basically a thousandth the width of a human hair.” 

Still, they're working with thermite material, which is still exploding, once the proper stimulus is applied. says the newly developed 3D printer works by depositing both a fuel and an oxidizer (two largely inert colloidal suspensions of nanoaluminum and nanocopper (II) oxide in dimethylformamide with polyvinylpyrrolidone) in an overlapping pattern, combining them on a substrate to form nanothermite, a metastable intermolecular composite with small particle size.
The resulting nanothermite reacts just as quickly and powerfully as thermites applied in traditional ways.  “It burns at 2,500 Kelvin [over 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit],” said Murray, “It generates a lot of thrust, a lot of heat, and makes a nice loud shockwave!”
The link to Purdue includes a high speed camera video of a couple of demonstrations, and it's always slightly hypnotic to watch high speed photography of things exploding, even if they're small explosions inside a lab.

Purdue's aim is to make handling small explosives, like the air bag detonators in cars, safer to handle and more reliable.  The military, though is looking at ways to make bigger explosives safer and more reliable for everyone handling them.  Much bigger explosives.
“In order to maintain the U.S. nuclear deterrent at a level appropriate for the 21st century, technicians in the Pantex Additive Manufacturing Program have spent the past five years evaluating and implementing dozens of applications for additive manufacturing.

“The team works with a Connex 500 for polymer-based designs and uses an SML 280 for metals. Components that once took weeks or even months to machine can now be made in mere days. The fruit of the team’s labor is evident across the 16,000-acre facility in the hundreds of fixtures now being used. In 2014, the Additive Manufacturing team received an esteemed Defense Programs Award of Excellence for its work.”
In addition, the ability to print complex shapes lets users take advantage of topographical optimization, meaning material is only added where needed. This would be expensive, time-consuming, and in some cases, impossible with traditional processes. In a life extension program for the B61-12, which is a nuclear weapon, topographical optimization is able to make a new fixture that saves cost, weight, and time, while increasing strength.
(LANL photo)

I find this interesting because of the spillover into new fields that follows the introduction of a new technology.  As the Purdue article said, “Energetic materials is a fairly understood field, and so is additive manufacturing.”  Taking advantage of the additive manufacturing techniques to produce exactly the characteristics of  an explosive that are wanted for study is neat combination of the two.