Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Oddities and Items: From Biotech to LaserTech

Let's take a break from dour murmurs of geopolitical danger. How about the sort of breakthroughs that will save the day!

Like in what ways will technology shape the workplace of the future? Fast Company takes a look at: What Work Will Look Like in 2025

Tech advances will depend on our ability to mine efficiently... All right so the Chinese used clever market ploys and environmental-health carelessness to corner the market on rare earth elements, needed for high function magnets in a myriad modern devices.  Well, markets react...  “Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have created a new magnetic alloy that is an alternative to traditional rare-earth permanent magnets.” See elsewhere my posting about how other companies are getting licenses to mine manganese nodules under the sea, for their own heaps of rare earth metals.


Of course, in the long run Planetary Resources and its ilk will transform it all, by giving us access to riches from space.

 == Updates in Physics ==

This is actually pretty … cool.  A graphene film with thermal conductivity capacity that is four times that of copper may help remove heat from electronics, easing a real problem.  

A cogent and clear run-down on the current industrial situation regarding graphene, the miraculous – and highly-hyped – wonder material.  And now...physicists announce graphene's cousin, stanene -- a 2D layer of Sn -- tin atoms. And "black phosphorus."

Amazing electrically conducting fibers that can be reversibly stretched to more than 14 times their initial length and whose electrical conductivity increases 200-fold when stretched.


Some excellent physics videos!  This one introduces Quantum Mechanics!

Cracking the Nutshell: This delightful site dissects some very, very deep concepts of free will and quantum mechanics.

In a new study, researchers demonstrated that they could slice up and entangle each photon pair into multiple dimensions using quantum properties such as the photons’ energy and spin. This method, called hyperentanglement, allows each photon pair to carry much more data than was possible with previous methods. Quantum entanglement could allow users to send data through a network and know immediately whether that data had made it to its destination without being intercepted or altered.

While we're all tangled -up in quantum knots.... See me discuss entanglement, multiverses and the Physics of Free Will with two other astrophysicists - Brian Keating (UCSD) and Andrew Friedman (MIT) - in this fun shared lecture a couple of weeks ago at UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

== Transportation and Energy  ==

NASA has announced the successful completion of testing for its morphing airplane wing design. Known as Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) flight control surfaces, they replace a plane's conventional, rigid flaps with a flexible composite material.  Watch it flex and lift heavy weights!  

Based on the X-51 Waverider prototype tested in 2013, the U.S. Air Force is planning to build an airplane that travels at five times the speed of sound (about 3800 miles per hour), or Mach 5, going from New York to Los Angeles in just 30 minutes.  A system for machines, not us. Sorry.


You’ve watched astronauts create balls of water that hold together with surface tension, till the astronaut gulps it down? Well you can do that on Earth!  It takes a little kitchen chemistry.  Edible water bottles and the strange chemistry of spherification!  

Lightweight composite metal foams are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays, and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high-impact collisions. The finding holds promise for use in nuclear power plants and space exploration. 

Construction on the new lane of Egypt’s Suez Canal, which runs alongside part of the existing canal, started less than a year ago but is now complete.  Huh.  

A Japanese research laser is 100 meter long and it’s firing a beam as powerful as 2 petawatts. However, the powerful laser was only able to run for two seconds.  

Boeing's new Compact Laser Weapon System (LWS) is capable of generating an energy beam of up to 10 kilowatts that can, depending on the power level, be used to acquire, track, and identify a target -- or even destroy it -- at ranges of at least 22 miles. The weapon is designed specifically to track and attack moving aerial targets such as incoming artillery rounds, and low-flying aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.  Combine this with the new radars’ ability to track-back shells to pinpoint their origin, and we may be witnessing the end of Napoleon’s dictum that artillery is Queen of the Battlefield.  Of course the ones paying closest attention to all this?  Not Boeing’s customers or potential adversaries…. But sci fi authors.  

== Updates in Biotech ==

Phototonic PCR: UC Berkeley bioengineers develop an ultra-fast method to copy DNA using LED light: this may enable on-site DNA testing of smaller samples, such as blood left at a crime scene.

Pocket sized spectrometer Scio can analyze chemical composition of anything.. with data sent to your smart phone.

Smartphones are so smart...they can now test your vision!

Sites illustrating coolness in Biology!  Explore OneZoom: Tree of Life Explorer: Starting with browsable phylogenetics portrayed as a kind of fractal-branching tree. Lots of surprises.

Chinese surgeon has carried out more than 1,000 head transplants on mice and is now looking to test out the procedure on monkeys. After receiving its new head in a ten hour procedure – or would it be more accurate to say “its new body? -- the mouse could open its eyes and move around – but it died shortly after. Meanwhile… Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero gears up to make an announcement on what he believes will be the world's first human head transplant. Eep. Makes the Chinese guy look responsible. 

Telemeres are the end caps on chromosomes that act as decay buffers, protecting the genes. Some believe they are timing-clocks that wear down then cause aging. “Earlier this year, scientists were able to successfully lengthen telomeres for the first time by using artificial RNA to encode a telomere-extending protein. This was celebrated as a revolutionary step in “turning back the internal clock” of human cells.”  But I said it was not going to be that simple. Sure enough. Scientists have linked long telomere length with lung cancer. Psigh.

Dentists will be able to use 3D printing to create anatomically correct teeth, crowns and veneers.  Oh, the aggravation our kids will never know.  The wonders they will take for granted.


== Computers and Gadgets ==

Intel and Micron have announced XPoint, a brand new memory technology that is up to 1000x faster and 1000x longer lasting than conventional flash memory.  This could change things.  


When Microsoft's new Internet Explorer replacement, officially dubbed Edge, arrives with Windows 10, it will offer users some new features, including the ability to annotate webpages and share notes. "Baked-in annotation features could be one area that sets Edge apart, considering most Web browsers can't handle them without third-party plug-ins or extensions. In fact, it's somewhat unbelievable that this hasn't become a standard feature in Web browsers yet." Windows 10 users can keep track of what is and isn’t useful within each webpage or document without extra steps. They can underline, place arrows and circle specific parts directly on webpages as they browse. 

iFixit has a lot of great videos and PDF guides for repairing many different kinds of electronic gadgets.

== Miscellaneous items of interest ==

Chinese billionaire Li Jinyuan decided to take 6,400 of his top distributors on an all-expenses-paid trip to France, hoping to  generate a wave of publicity to help offset the $14.5 million he shelled out for chartered jets, 30,000 hotel stays and a private tour of the Louvre. With the number of Chinese taking trips overseas exploding -- they made more than 107 million trips outside the mainland last year, up almost 20% over 2013-- and with more Chinese going abroad, their nation has become deeply self-conscious about the image its travelers leave behind. And this is where *I* cash in! Tony Fisk, does this count as a class A 100% spot on prediction from EARTH?  To the registry-wiki!

While in the Central Kingdom… a study of nearly 500,000 Chinese people over seven years found that those who ate spicy food three times a week cut their risk of dying by 14 per cent compared with people who abstained.

Richmond, California police have been inundated with calls for help from people who feel under attack from space-based weaponry because of a City Council resolution passed last month, in support of a 2001 bill introduced by then-U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, in an effort to ensure that Richmond residents would not be targets of space-based weaponry. Versions of it referred to alleged technologies including chemtrails, particle beams, electromagnetic radiation, plasmas, extremely low-frequency or ultra high-frequency energy radiation and mind control technology. 

My Virtual Dream: Collective Neuro-feedback in an Immersive Art Environment” – was part experiment and part demo-art in Toronto.  More than 500 adults aged 18 and older wore wireless electroencephalography (EEG) headbands and participate in a brief collective neurofeedback experience in groups of 20 inside a 60-foot geodesic dome, along with spontaneous musical interpretation by live musicians on stage.


== Was that cool enough for you? ==

Lots of amazing stuff happening.  And it's tip of the iceberg. And those of you still wallowing in gloom?  How about this hypothesis.  That it's more your personality than our prospects, that determines your mood.

We face immense challenges.  Now join the immensely talented men and women who have a very real chance of solving them.

40 comments:

Alfred Differ said...

One of the things I love about this civilization is that we have to distinguish between unobtanium and notyetium.

I used to work on anything I thought would help push solar sails into a higher state of technology readiness many years ago and one of the things that used to bother me was the radiation damage the sail's brains would take over long missions. One can always try to by rad-hard equipment, but that just tends to slow the damage enough to make close-to-home missions feasible. Sails should be viable for a few generations if they are going to be useful for asteroid mining efforts. That means we need shielding and the associated mass penalty. Since the best shield for very high energy, broad spectrum radiation is one that dissipates the energy through several smaller collisions, multiple layers and depth between them is needed. Foamed metals seemed the best way to go since one might be able to arrange for them in-situ.

Notyetium is that stuff you can't make yet, but you can clearly envision a need for it that might drive its production. This civilization sees these things and does something about it.

John Kurman said...

Layered metafoams for radiation cloak?

Alfred Differ said...

Yah. The idea is to make use of a defense in depth strategy much like our atmosphere gives us against cosmic rays. Not much stops them without taking a lot of damage, but if you force lots of smaller collisions, you CAN stop the secondary and tertiary products or rely a bit upon their short half-lives like with do with muons. The metal foam idea struck me as a way to force more collisions earlier, but water is probably better for the sandwich layers.

Before sails fly with this stuff, though, I'm sure the folks who want a closer look at Jupiter and Europa will be interested.

Tony Fisk said...

Item: Photosynthetic 'leaf' cracks water into H2 + O2, with 22.4% efficiency, using nickel as a catalyst. (10% is considered a viable level, and the previous record, 18%, was achieved using exotic/expensive catalytic materials)

The predictions registry already has an entry about the rise of Han tourism. However, the reference links are no longer valid and the whole thing is starting to show its age. Before adding items from Existence and other sources in, I think the format needs a rethink.

raito said...

Flexible wings? How Wright brothers...

As for 3D printed dentistry, I'd prefer those new teeth from injected stem cells that were being researched a few years ago. Modern dentistry is great, really, but the ability to grow new teeth would completely rework dentistry as we know it.

Think back a couple hundred, or even a hundred years ago to dentistry then. Ever had dental pain? Now imagine a sizable percentage of the adult population having that sort of ache daily.

Couple that with modern medicine, and it's really no wonder things are better now. It's not easy to think rationally while in pain.

Alex Tolley said...

"Of course, in the long run Planetary Resources and its ilk will transform it all, by giving us access to riches from space"

No, no, a thousand times NO. It is time this meme was killed. There is no bulk material, such as platinum, that can be very profitably returned to Earth. At best we can flood the market with cheap material, but there really isn't anything that is in such short supply on Earth that needs space based resources to replace. Conversely, bulk materials that must be moved to space become very pricey, e.g. water becomes thousands of times more expensive at LEO than on the earth's surface. Space resources will therefore compete with launched bulk commodities.

The only scenarios where space resources will be really valiable on earth are firstly some new, impossible to fabricate, material that has useful properties, and secondly energy from space power systems (which may require space resources to build).

Almost every high value material being researched today is going to be used in tiny quantities, like the 2D cystals of tin, phosphorus, graphene etc. That is where the value is, and they do not require space based resources to build. Even the foamed metal discussed in the article, once thought to be only manufacturable in space can be made on Earth today.

Mining asteroids will become important, but primarily to those living in space habitats, not to people on Earth except indirectly.

Alex Tolley said...

3D printed teeth. Teeth can be made in situ by cutting porcelain. My dentist has a machine for doing so. 3D printing will only be useful if the replacement needed to be made of different materials, such as a surface treatment.

Alex Tolley said...

This spicy foods paper has become quite popular. A friend of mine asked me to review it for his company that sells capsaicin capsules. Unfortunately it has a number of flaws in methodology and there are a lot of alternative explanations for the phenomenon. I would love it to be true as I eat a lot of hot spicy food. But we know what Feynman said about fooling yourself.

Alex Tolley said...

Phototonic PCR: UC Berkeley bioengineers develop an ultra-fast method to copy DNA using LED light: this may enable on-site DNA testing of smaller samples, such as blood left at a crime scene.

Pocket sized spectrometer Scio can analyze chemical composition of anything.. with data sent to your smart phone.


It is considered good manners to acknowledge who points you to certain items. A lot of commenters have pointed out interesting links that are subsequently used in posts. I think I can count the number of acknowledgements on the fingers of one hand.

While I am carping, I noticed the last column contained a number of insults to your readers. Why don't you listen to your wife and change that behavior?

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...

The manufacturing of metal foams in itself is fascinating stuff. I think someone finally got the shortcut, from the looks of the material illustrated in the articles. One way was to get some simple polyurethane foam, infuse it with a low concentration of hydrogen, ignite it, the cell walls blow out but the strands on the edges of the bubbles remain. Then a slurry of solvent and either fine metal powder or metal oxide is introduced and it sticks to the surface of the strands. It's dried. Then the piece is heat treated, the residual polyurethane is burned out, and the slurry hardens in the furnace. If it's ceramic it's done. If it's ceramic that needs reduction back to metal, that's then done. The product has hollow strands, however.

Another method is to pack the desired shape with spheres and introduce the slurry into that, then dry the slurry. Then heat is applied and the spheres melt or oxidize out.

David Brin said...

Tony you do me a great service by maintaining the Brin predictions registry. Even in crude form, I am grateful and I point it out to folks who I’m trying to convince to do prediction registries on a larger scale. (Email me separately and I’ll send you a story. )

Alex, I believe you are assuming that space materials have to be returned to Earth by rocket. Imagine bubble-type return units… platinum bubbles that have huge surface to weight ratios… which would re-radiate heat of entry easily fast enough and compose its own parachute for a water splashdown, subsequently floating for easy pickup.

Hence the dynamic arguments aren’t valid. Of course this assumes a plausible but currently wishful tech to melt asteroids and blow such bubbles….

Not sure I need your finger-wagging, AT, since my wife DOES pre-vett my blogs. But sigh. My self image is as a thick skinned bastard who listens to crit. So crit-away. Part of me listens.

Alfred Differ said...

Landing large bubbles is one way, but my friends were also looking at very high altitude airships for controlled re-entry of large volumes. Tech would still have to be developed, but re-entry isn't so death-defying if one comes at the atmosphere with a very large surface area. Some combination of bubble and airship would probably work too since the bubbles might be made to float before they reach the ground.

Alex Tolley said...

Asteroid mining economics is about demand elasticity. For example, platinum is very expensive (> $1000/oz), but industrial demand is very inelastic, with jewelry representing the change in demand. Flooding the market with platinum will cause a price collapse. Yes the world might benefit from cheap platinum (just like it did with aluminum) but it will take a long time to establish new uses and increase demand by orders of magnitude. You cannot finance an asteroid mining company that way. It's a "Build it and they will come" pipe dream.


[In 1884 aluminium was priced around $300/oz (2015 $) but demand only increased rapidly with aircraft production during WWI, 30 years later. Today Al is $1500/tonne (approx $0.04/oz) with global production around 50 million tonnes].

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred - the airship reentry is JP Aerospace, correct? I'd be very interested in knowing if that approach makes sense. The primary problem is slowing down the ship from orbital speed to the the nearly zero of the atmosphere to prevent frictional heating destroying the structure, even well above the Karman line. Thoughts on that? It would certainly be a cool way to return to Earth from a space hotel.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim H. said...

Alex, I expect an off-planet mining industry and very little material coming dirt-side. I expect that material to be used out of the gravity well for all the projects that are too expensive to launch.

Alfred Differ said...

Once you inflate the thing in orbit, it's not quite right to think of yourself in orbit. The drag rate is so high, you spiral down quickly if you start near the ISS altitude or less.

The trick is to do it slow enough that the heat has a chance to get away, so move the gas within the envelope for convection cooling and you don't have to rely upon slower radiative cooling. It's the aerobraka idea with the intention of using the skipping lift you generate to do a lot of braking in the upper atmosphere. Think of the flat stone skipping off flat water on a lake. The stone slows quite a bit before finally biting into the surface and sinking.

I'm less worried about frictional heating destroying the surface than I am about dynamic pressures altering the structure's shape. Flat stones don't skip far if they flip and present a flat face forward. An airship makes an excellent sail if it changes shape the wrong way and then the deceleration rate climbs dramatically. Poof. Everything would shred and vaporize.

[I got to see what this was like during one of our tests on a smaller scale when a small dust devil passed over us while the vehicle was partially inflated. Our handlers were getting dragged into the sky. Scary.]

Alfred Differ said...

I'm not expecting dirt-side trillionaires from asteroid resources, but it is important to remember that lower commodity prices don't just change demands within known uses. They cause substitutions to occur in the recipes we use turning commodities into useful stuff. Dirt-side delivery of asteroid resources might make sense, but only if substitutions occur in ways I can't yet imagine.

No one WILL imagine the substitutions possible until they become possible. We might accidentally produce the trillionaires, but no sane investor is going to gamble a fortune on them being the one. We'd need another tulip craze or something like that before someone thought they could throw that kind of money around. I'm all for people putting their own money up to do this, but once I know who they are I'll look them in the eye for evidence of that craze.

David Brin said...

Aluminum is an excellent example. It is now used in vast quantities because vast quantities became available. Super-cheap silver and gold would find many, many uses. So would rare Earths that were solar refined instead of toxic chemical methods down here..

Yes, of course. It would likely only work if asteroidal resources were alo being used heavily for projects out there.

Alex Tolley said...

@Tim H. Agree. Water is my first choice of most useful commodity that is needed in space. It will be interesting if/when space resourced water replaces earth sourced water.

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred - so an airship will be able to be used for "aerobraking" and therefore to return from a space mission at orbital and escape velocities. Shape and attitude control will be critical I'm guessing. So the value will depend on how massive such a system would be compared to alternative approaches. It should work for a Mars landing too - takes away all that reentry excitement.

Alex Tolley said...

" I'm all for people putting their own money up to do this [asteroid mining]"

Which is why I disagree that Nasa should be going for an asteroid retrieval mission. This should be a job for a private company, as it makes little sense to try retrieving asteroids to cis-lunar space or for astronauts to practice taking samples of asteroid material. However, going to an asteroid as part of deep space mission to test flight hardware is fine. But apparently this is too difficult for Nasa.

A.F. Rey said...

Cool to see the video from "The Physics of Free Will." I do have one thought on the subject.

I am wondering if we'll be ever able to tell if we're living in a simulation or just a natural phenomena. Brian mentioned the idea that we may be in a sub-universe contained within a larger universe, one which may not have all the physical attributes of the larger universe. This, to me, sounds like a definition of a simulation; a pseudo-universe contained within another one, with some parts simplified so that it can be contained.

Will we ever know if a sub-universe was intentionally made or just happened?

(BTW, it was very good to meet you after the lectures. Sorry I had to lit out like I did, but you seemed to be getting into a far more important (and interesting!) conversation, and my parking meter was running out. Nice to see you again after 30 years--the last time I saw you, you autographed a hard-cover edition of "The Postman." :))

David Brin said...

Good to see you too!

Paul451 said...

Alex,
While ARM is ridiculous (I've likened it to sending out a fishing boat to tow an iceberg back to the Themes estuary so that Capt Scott could row out in a toy boat and stomp around on it pretending to be an explorer.)

However, the idea of NASA doing sample returns from asteroids (and comets, etc), or increasing the TRL of tugs, ISRU and mining systems, is completely within the role of government to assist industry, IMO. That, along with basic science, should be NASA's primary job. It's wasteful and useless nonsense like SLS and Orion that makes ARM ridiculous.

Paul451 said...

"Themes estuary"

Heh. "And this year's theme is 'A River In London'."

Jumper said...

Perhaps one day the creator of a simulated universe will go on trial for crimes against simulants. The question will, of course, hinge on intent.

Daniel Duffy said...

"Combine this with the new radars’ ability to track-back shells to pinpoint their origin, and we may be witnessing the end of Napoleon’s dictum that artillery is Queen of the Battlefield."

Traditional explosive filled artillery shells and misiles propelled by volatile fuel (which can both be exploded in mid-air by the heat of interceptor lasers) will simply be replaced by railguns hurling sold metal shot at high velocity. Their destructive power will come from the kinetic energy of impact. Being a solid mass of metal they will be impervious to lasers.

And so artillery and naval guns will return to the days of medieval bombards and pirate ships shooting solid balls of metal.

Daniel Duffy said...

If space solar power can be made competitive with ground based energy sources per kWh then mining asteroids to extract materials to construct solar power satellites will make sense. It remains the only practical and profitable terrestrial reason for mining asteroids.

Alex Tolley said...

And so artillery and naval guns will return to the days of medieval bombards and pirate ships shooting solid balls of metal.

See Clarke's "Earthlight". The battle at the end is between spacecraft with energy weapons and a moon facility firing white hot metal slugs. Maybe we will even see the reemergence of chain shot?

If space solar power can be made competitive with ground based energy sources per kWh then mining asteroids to extract materials to construct solar power satellites will make sense.

Maybe. As solar panels get more efficient and thinner, it may still be more economic to make the components on earth and launch them with low cost reusable vehicles. I recommend "The Case for Space Solar Power" by John Mankins. Exhaustive and a good soporific. He argues for mass production of small components to reduce costs and assumes F9H launch costs (IIRC).

Alex Tolley said...

However, the idea of NASA doing sample returns from asteroids (and comets, etc), or increasing the TRL of tugs, ISRU and mining systems, is completely within the role of government to assist industry, IMO. That, along with basic science, should be NASA's primary job. It's wasteful and useless nonsense like SLS and Orion that makes ARM ridiculous.

Nasa's current mission statement is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” (The Earth study has been removed by Republicans this year).

What does that mean for nasa activities? I see that as path finding - making maps of territory and resources, doing important space science, developing technologies for human and robotic craft to meet those objectives.

Does this include asteroid sample taking? Definitely as this is part of the mapping and science objectives.
Does this include developing tugs? Borderline IMO. Justified perhaps for space defense. Should be turned over to the DoD.
What about ISRU? Again, borderline IMO. I can see this as justified for refueling/repair of deep space vehicles. Proof of concept primarily, but bulk of work should be contracted out asap. There is a strong chicken and egg issue involved. As I've stated before, water is likely to be the most valuable resource. Nasa could justify water extraction for space facilities, although operations should be private.
Mining techniques and extraction? Again borderline. If there are profits to be made, that should be strictly private industry. Nasa should stop at asteroid mapping, structure and composition. They can facilitate private experiments on the ISS or conducted nearby.

The problem as we have seen is that today, apart from satellites, space activities are almost exclusively government domains. Private enterprise is trying to make some inroads, but it has been hard to find profitable markets, like space tourism. As we've seen, Virgin Galactic is many years behind schedule for simple sub-orbital flights. (The rate VG are going, full orbital flights by private vehicles will be available sooner, albeit at a very high price)

Alex Tolley said...

@Paul451 "I've likened it to sending out a fishing boat to tow an iceberg back to the Thames estuary so that Capt Scott could row out in a toy boat and stomp around on it pretending to be an explorer."

Excellent analogy. I love the imagery it conjures up.

David Brin said...

"Perhaps one day the creator of a simulated universe will go on trial for crimes against simulants. The question will, of course, hinge on intent."

Um Jumper, read my story "STones of Significance"!

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex Tolley: If you can get the de-orbiting airship to come to a relative halt above 30 km on Earth, the lessons you learn should work as a starting point on Mars. We tend to arrive there at speeds much higher than orbital speed, so there would still be some work to do.

As for mass it is best to think in terms like one uses for solar sails. It is mass density that matters as long as the structure remains fairly rigid. Ideally, one would change the shape a bit with speed.

One of the things we learned by doing it without really anticipating it was that a parachute was rather unnecessary for decent from 30 km if your mass density is low enough. One might pass through the speed of sound on the way down, but even a bit of drag across a large surface area like one gets with streamers is enough to slow something with little mass. It's the same idea as a spider falling from a tree, but with a really tall tree. What happens higher up doesn't happen at high acceleration and deceleration rates. Our test flights to 30 km with instrument platforms took about half an hour to get down after the balloon popped whether the parachute deployed or not.

So the idea would be to skip, skip, skip, stream. 8)

matthew said...

A brief technological / political interlude with particular interest to our host. Campaign Zero, an offshoot of the Black Lives Matter protests, has released their prescription for reducing police violence. It includes a call for body cameras, increased "witness" filming of police activities, and a nationwide implementation of a Colorado state law that allows citizens to sue police departments for confiscating or destroying video evidence. It's the last part that is transformative, IMO.

Other parts of the manifesto look to be interesting as well. Our host has called for a lot of these reforms. Interesting to see them being treated as high-level political news in the US.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/08/21/black_lives_matter_coalition_police_brutality_policy_proposals_campaign.html

Sorry for the brief thread-hijack, but this may be a major part of the political discussion in the next campaign.

Paul451 said...

Daniel,
"And so artillery and naval guns will return to the days of medieval bombards and pirate ships shooting solid balls of metal."

That still doesn't solve the problem of them being able to track the your shot back to the gun. If you don't completely destroy all of my rail guns on your first strike, I'll hit yours with my return fire.

Battles will be short. Side with the last working gun wins.

Alex,
"What about ISRU? Again, borderline IMO."

No, to me this is such a fundamental enabling technology (with the chicken/egg problem) that it is well within the role of government research to bring the technology into existence, and even provide an anchor tenant (a la air mail to aircraft).

"The rate VG are going, full orbital flights by private vehicles will be available sooner, albeit at a very high price"

Not necessarily. Once the F9R first stage is fully reusable, putting a Dragon capsule on top gives you a 7-seat suborbital hopper for maybe $200k in fuel, plus hardware amortisation and per-flight processing. Say a million all up. So less than VG's $200k. Moreso, it should easily reach a higher altitude than SpaceShipTwo (which may not even reach the Karman line) and thus a longer period of weightlessness. That's not only good for tourists, but handy for researchers testing designs in micro-g before committing to a full orbital shot; currently they are limited to 30sec pulses on the vomit comet (and apparently the new NASA contractor doesn't provide a very "clean" micro-g. Researchers are not happy with the loss of the in-house planes.)

(Well, obviously $140k per seat is still a "very high price", but no worse than VG.)

David Brin said...

Matthew thanks for that important link.

David Brin said...

Onward to space!

Yes onward

onward

Alex Tolley said...

@Paul451 Once the F9R first stage is fully reusable, putting a Dragon capsule on top gives you a 7-seat suborbital hopper for maybe $200k in fuel, plus hardware amortisation and per-flight processing. Say a million all up. So less than VG's $200k.

I hadn't thought of that. Interesting.