Saturday, March 05, 2016

Space Ventures - and news from the universe!

My recent space-related postings have been - well - upbeat!   In that I believe 2015 was by far our best year exploring the cosmos.  By far.  And prospects for 2016 are superb.

Now, let's dive into some of those amazing prospects... and then remind ourselves and our neighbors that the sick, sick gloom merchants out there - (you cynics know who you are) - will not drag us down to pessimism and despair.  We are a superb civilization... as human civilizations go... with incredible potential. 

All we have to do, to flourish, is snap out of this funk and realize what we are. We are amazing.

== Cool endeavors! == 

First off, congratulations SpaceX for successful launch of a major communications satellite to GEO.  Big league credibility. And almost sticking the barge landing was not same-old.  Landing a first stage that had just flung a heavy cargo toward GEO is exceptionally challenging. Every one of these is historic.

And helps us toward bolder things. Example: Space Based Solar Power SBSP is a way the United States can take leadership—in space, on energy, on climate change.  I've known folks innovating and exploring these concepts for decades and vital arguments rage on.  Indeed, we all have to root for land-based sustainables to continue their amazing improvements in cost and efficiency... and yet, we'd be fools not to invest also in farther-"out" approaches. Indeed, lately some of my friends have made some real headway in showing SBSP to be increasingly plausible as a future tool set for becoming an even more spectacular civilization.

Aiming to attract more companies to headquarter in their small country, Luxembourg has passed a law protecting ownership rights of companies based there that extract stuff from asteroids. The United States has already made similar moves. Last year, President Obama signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law. This recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain. The Space Treaty still bans ownership of the asteroids themselves.  But you can profit from what you extract.

With the Hubble Space Telescope aging, many hopes ride upon the 2018 launch of the James Webb Telescope, a vastly ambitious and potentially powerful endeavor that will flagship an array of marvelous observatories that you built, with half a percent of your taxes.

Now read about WFirst, a planned infrared telescope whose capabilities will be awesome! Only when you look at an artists-rendering of WFirst, do you get a bit of déjà vu?

Unmentioned in this otherwise fine article is the reason why WFirst looks so much like Hubble! Because it is the first of two “new Hubbles” that were donated to NASA by one of the US intelligence agencies, when their reserve inventory of spy satellites became obsolete. And yes, clearly they come from the same "family" of spacecraft... and for the obvious reasons. (Does kind-of imply that Hubble itself was a “beard” for a spy satellite program, all along, ah well.) Sure this gift was a good thing!  But it also gave NASA a real headache, coming up with an extra half a billion dollars, in order to refit these multi-billion dollar gifts for scientific use. What a world. 

Solve this easily. Vote this year to make America science friendly again. Nothing makes our choice more starkly clear than the War on Science.

Oh. Lockheed is now doing design work on the proposed Cis-Lunar work station, to orbit the Moon and allow studies of both lunar and asteroidal samples, both manned and in autonomous modes.  This is the right focus and the right goal.

Sure, not all new space ventures get off the ground. Escape Dynamics sought to do “external propulsion” using microwave beams to propel a spaceplane to orbit. The theory is very promising. But that apparently wasn’t enough. Well, well. This idea will not go away.

== What have we learned recently? ==

What a universe!  A vividly clear, edge-on view of a proto-planetary disk cloud around a young star has raised a real puzzler. While clearly in the process of forming a new planetary system, this belt of dust - looking like a 'flying saucer' - seems to be far colder than our models say it should be. 

Astronomers already know about two sizes of black holes: stellar-mass black holes, formed after the gigantic explosions of very massive stars; and supermassive black holes (SMBH) often found at the centers of galaxies. Now there are signs of an intermediate size BH near the giant at our galactic center.  Interesting piece.  Even if it is Fox News… reporting on science. 

Stephen Wolfram dabbles dazzlingly into Black Holes and General Relativity.  I am privileged to know a fair number of people who are way, way smarter than me.  

The most luminous galaxy in the Universe - a so-called obscured quasar 12.4 billion light-years away - is so violently turbulent that it may eventually jettison its entire supply of star-forming gas, according to new observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).  

That star, 1800 ly from us, that has experienced a flickering 20% dimming recently roused speculation about “alien megastructures.  While the astronomers studying it only mentioned it as a lesser possibility, attention sure has been drawn to its behavior, which is unlike any other F-type main sequence star.  Now the fact that it is relatively close by led a researcher to check photos back to 1890, finding the decline goes that far back, making the “giant comets” explanation seem to decline in probability.  So far, SETI dishes haven’t picked up anything suspicious.  But the attention speaks well of our civilization, at least some of whose members haven’t forgotten how to be fascinated.

In Spanish… an article about SETI and the crazy offshoot that wants to send “messages” to ETI. Including comments by yours truly.  Chime in if the Spanish article is good… or bad.

A fascinating article describing what we’ve recently learned about the size, shape and stellar types of the four major spiral arms that make up our Milky Way Galaxy.

Could we spot the signatures of large volcanic eruptions in the light-curves from earth-like exoplanets?  

== Within our own Solar System ==

In the not-too-distant future, we may sail over the dry surfaces of Venus! NASA's Landsail Rover could launch in 2023. The 400 lb "Zephyr" rover has a rigid vertical wing covered with solar sails, and high-temperature electronics designed to withstand the scorching temperatures on the Venusian surface, says lead scientist (and fellow science fiction author) Geoffrey Landis. 

NASA'S New Horizons probe sends back gorgeous photos of the frozen canyons of Pluto's north pole region.

What did we leave behind on the moon? See this Lunar Artifacts Map, created by Steve Pestana from NASA data.

Spores in Space! Researchers placed Antarctic deep-rock fungi in 1.4 cm wide cells on a space station platform called EXPOSE-E, which simulated Mars and extreme space conditions. A large fraction of the spores came active after a year of exposure. 

After a just-completed year in space for astronaut Scott Kelly, here are seven milestones of his time in orbit.

Inspirational!  A woman astronaut – an Italian space traveler with the European Space Agency – is also a science fiction fan, and she uses this as a basis to give a TEDx talk about what living on the International Space Station is like.

And finally... see the first official drawing of the U.S. Air Force's B-21 bomber. And yes this is space-pertinent. It used to be our money spent on aerospace black projects would result... maybe once per decade... in taxpayers getting to see something cool that they had paid for. It has now been a very very long time since anything like that has been revealed, even though we know that there have been huge advances in hypersonic and waverider and other super-techs. The excuse has always been the need not to give any help to potential foes, and that's understandable. But the accompanying philosophy has answered: "if adversaries DO know about something, then the American public should know at least that much."

Come on fellahs and gals.  Show us something cooler than a fuzzy artists conception of a super B-2. Make us feel we're the kind of folks building Star Trek. We really need - right now - to feel that way again.


donzelion said...

My recent space-related postings have been - well - upbeat!

Reminds me of my own experience reading The Economist (or listening to it) - wordy, heavy, thorough, well-thought out critical articles, for hours a day, and then closing with Arts & Technology (and an obituary) - the 'cheerful stuff.' Small wonder that for so long, comics and sports drove eyes to printed news (while local classified ads financed so much of it).

(Does kind-of imply that Hubble itself was a “beard” for a spy satellite program, all along, ah well.)
Re Hubble - yes and no. The engineer who designed Hubble's original glass for Hubble explained in a lecture to me and a small group that his challenge: takes many years (originally, decades, but by Hubble's time, 'merely' 4-6 years) to polish glass properly for such a telescope, which they'd started in the early 80s, then Challenger blew up. New safety protocols required cutting the payload by 20%, which meant tossing the glass and starting over (using a 'waffle iron' approach to pour the glass, rather than the more pristine original strategy - which could get 80-90% of the fidelity, but which every astronomer would pooh poof). That glass itself MIGHT be recycled for other purposes...but wouldn't naturally be used for such applications. But the glassmaking technology (and non-glass alternatives he helped develop)...THAT was very much used for multiple different agencies.

I'm a big fan of Steven Johnson's series, "How We Got to Now" - for covering the crazy tinkerers, the crackpots, the experimenters and mostly unknown heroes who helped tweak, twist, enhance, and improve until a world that would have been unrecognizable could be created. Perhaps a fair number of these folks were depressed and discouraged, but still, they heroically looked past claims that "Society is falling! We're a wretched species!" Um, maybe so, but how many people do you know who died of cholera?

Far more appealing than sports or comics, at least to me. ;)

Anonymous said...

> The United States has already made similar moves. Last year, President Obama signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law.

Ahem. Credit where credit is due:

Sponsor: Rep. Kevin McCarthy [Republican, CA-23]

David Brin said...

When there is absolutely no way that the plantation lords have any interests at stake - and when no class or political enemies seem likely to benefit - some republicans actually vote for good things. And hence astronomy is one of the few sciences that gets some GOP support. But there is a third factor, laziness. It had better not demand much time or thought. These GOP Congresses have been the laziest on record. This bill took up about a page.

donzelion said...

Which portion of the SPACE Act did McCarthy add to those measures Bush Sr. had signed onto the books in 1991?

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Fisk said...

Hubble may be getting old, but it's still chalking up discoveries.

Jumper said...

The cislunar station plan seems to call for something we haven't seen before: a craft designed for sporadic human staffing interspersed with dormant periods. Simple, but we haven't done that before. I don't count link-ups with unmanned modules in the space of single missions.
I don't know enough about radiation effects on equipment and electronics to know how hardened unmanned craft need to be to robust after years but obviously the various probes are proof against it. I would prefer the ISS be lifted into lunar orbit rather than burn up one day, even if it took a long time and was unmanned during that phase. Once in lunar orbit it would last for centuries.
On radiation-hardened computing:

Robert said...

Going off on a slight politics bent.

Claims that 47% of Americans don't pay income tax are false.

43% of Americans didn't pay federal income tax in 2013, but did likely pay other forms of taxes. Only 14% of households pay neither payroll nor social security taxes. Of them, around 2/3rds are over 65 and are retired. So you see all these memes about freeloaders leeching off the system and deciding how hard-working Americans' tax dollars are used ignores the fact that it is ni-impossible not to pay taxes of some sort... and also ignore the fact that a person who is taxed $20 out of a $200 paycheck has far less money available than someone who is taxed $2,000 out of a $20,000 paycheck (one only has $180 left for expenses and the week, while the other has $18,000.)

A little education goes a long ways. If you see something that is designed to stir up sentiments? Double-check and verify.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Many of the pointing fingers towards various politicians or govmt. employees (over their unpaid taxes) also leave me yawning. They'll end up paying, and the country gets a good return via penalties and interest. I know this personally. In fact you all won't be getting that great deal from me anymore: I'm paid off. Never got a compromise; paid it all plus all the interest. You all got a good deal from me. Not any more.
BTW many IRS seizure happen after death. No "at the point of a gun" happens then.

Deuxglass said...

Star KIC 8462852 is something I find particularly interesting. I was a very active Planet Hunter for three years and spent an hour or two each night looking at light curves. The link Dr. Brin gave says that because the star has steadily dimmed over the last 100 years and therefore excludes a swarm of comets but it could be consistent with a collision between two planets each in very different orbital planes. The star does has a companion, an M-dwarf that either could be in orbit around the star or could just as easily be a star passing by. It is 885 Au from KIC 8462852 and in both cases could have perturbed the orbits of planets in both systems. If the planets did collide a few hundred years ago then the dimming could come from the spreading cloud of debris. It looks like we are witness to a very recent catastrophic event. I can’t wait for the next paper to come out throwing light on this fascinating star.

Deuxglass said...

The article about how fungi can survive under Mars conditions is very interesting. In principle, there should be exchanges between Mars (and other planets) of bacteria and other forms of life meteor strikes and just “flaking off” the upper atmosphere. Indeed the Mars probes were not completely sterile either. Some could have survived the trip to Mars and some should have been able to take root but we have not seen any sign of life at all on Mars. I wonder why the detection of microbial life hasn’t been one of the principle missions of the Mars probes. The only ones that had a dedicated experiment were the Viking Landers from the 1970s and since, nothing. Why is that?

LarryHart said...


Claims that 47% of Americans don't pay income tax are false

Sometimes, I think pundits intentionally conflate the concept of "Didn't owe any tax on April 15" (in other words, were owed a refund) with "Didn't pay any tax."

To be fair, I think this is also done when talking about how some rich people don't pay taxes. Although in Mitt Romney's case, the argument was definitely about effective tax rate, not about whether he owed a payment.

Greg Hullender said...

I read "Supongamos que ET nos llama: ¿y ahora qué?" (What if ET calls us: what then?) It's well-written, accurate, and I think it expresses your views well. It dismisses conspiracy theories, but it expresses various concerns (and quotes you) about sending messages into space or even responding to any message we might receive.

Anything particular you wanted to know about it?

David Brin said...

Thanks GregH. Was just curious.

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - This made me pause -
I wonder why the detection of microbial life hasn’t been one of the principle missions of the Mars probes. The only ones that had a dedicated experiment were the Viking Landers from the 1970s and since, nothing. Why is that?

I've heard quite a bit of discussion about efforts to detect life on Mars by NASA. Hard to imagine them dropping the ball on this, so I did a little digging.

"To go and look for simple organisms, or not-so-simple organisms, that are living within that toxic, harsh environment we just think is a foolish investment of the technology at this time," Jack Mustard, a professor at Brown University and chairman of the 2020 rover mission's Science Definition Team told reporters last week in a news conference.

The article goes on to review the current research and why they've reached that conclusion. Not being an astronomer, I'll have to defer to experts - but sounds like they're focusing less on microbe detection, than on marker exploration to see if there's some proteins about.

Anonymous said...

> When there is absolutely no way that the plantation lords have any interests at stake - and when no class or political enemies seem likely to benefit - some republicans actually vote for good things.

And some Democrats don't. In this case, a lot of Democrats. Why?

Republicans: 236 Yeas, 3 Nays, 5 Not Voting
Democrats: 48 Yeas, 130 Nays, 10 Not Voting

David Brin said...

Refl;ex? Opposing each other is now at the level of spasm.

Tim H. said...

"at the level of spasm"? This election season looks to be a spasm of the descending colon.

donzelion said...

I'm not sure what the state of debate was regarding the Commercial Space Exploration Act (the SPACE Act of 2015). Reviewing:

(1) When the Wright Brothers experimented with their aircraft, existing state laws would hold them liable if, say, their airplanes crashed into a house and killed a family. Why is it 'pro-science' for space exploration to be exempted from such ordinary liability? Why should federal law displace state law on such liability? I sort of wish a hearing had been held to outline the reasons this is necessary, but I cannot see any scientific reason for it.

(2) The U.S. is a party to the "Outer Space Treaty" of 1967. That treaty prohibits any party from claiming celestial bodies (by use, occupation, or by any other means). The 2015 Space Act rejects that notion, requiring the President to support extraction efforts by a commercial company. Why is that pro-science or otherwise a good thing? (Granted, in '67, the world was concerned with the possibility of Soviets and Americans fighting over unknown lunar wealth by exchanging nukes on maybe the treaty is obsolete...but maybe not - and at the very least, one would expect some debate on the subject - yet I find none.)

The NEW portions of the bill - which Dr. Brin refers to - refer to these 'extraction rights.' Yet it seems to me that at the very least, the U.S. government has just extended a potentially massive insurance subsidy to the industry - as well as a political/military subsidy (the resources extracted will be protected by U.S. law, and by other means).

David Brin said...

The parallel is ocean fishing. Companies cannot claim stretches of the sea but they can own resources harvested from the sea. I personally deem that to be primitive and likely to change but there's reason to imagine it applicable to asteroidal resources.

Deuxglass said...


Thanks for the link and I was not implying that NASA had dropped the ball. I was just wondering why it had not been made a higher priority. My background is in Microbiology, specifically Virology, and I have worked extensively with electron microscopes. A scanning electron microscope easily has enough resolution to detect the rods, spheres and corkscrews that are characteristic of bacterial shapes. The new ones are the size of a desktop computer case and don’t use much power. Sample preparation could be a problem but if you just want to see the shapes and not the internal structure then sample preparation problems can be overcome with a little work. If you link this with a DNA and RNA detector then you could get conclusive proof that bacterial life existed or even still exists on Mars. If Mars and Earth life were distantly related then these two systems, working together would clench it. Although Mars’ magnetic field is very weak, there are many local mini-magnetospheres, some of which are as strong as Earth’s so that would be the place to land. To me, all this seems to be a no-brainer but of course, Dr. Mustard mentioned in the article, who has very impressive credentials, thinks differently and I am sure he has good reasons. I am sure they have found better ways to do the same thing. The next Mars Rover is slated for 2020 will settle the issue I expect.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - ocean fishing is one parallel, others are Antarctic oil exploration (or penguin breast canneries), or whale hunting...we've been fishing in the oceans for quite a while, but for many types of commons, restrictive rules make sense - to ensure a "scientific exploration" rather than "extraction" approach. Seeing as how a company might prefer to move an asteroid closer to Earth orbit to extract its minerals, seeing as how a mistake could prove intensely catastrophic, and seeing as how reversing that mistake could cost many billions of dollars - I'd expect Congress to be calling for at least some controls in this space...rather than, "you mine it, you own it" (and treaties be damned). (And I'm thinking of a fairly lousy Ben Bova novel, Privateer, and its treatment of the subject...)

@Deuxglass - I did some reading to try to figure out why they hadn't followed up on the experiments from decades ago, but am no expert. I'm sure they figured the odds of finding DNA/RNA on the surface were slim, and that other measurements more fruitful. If you live in SoCal, JPL runs a monthly von Karman lectures. I seem to recall one last year evaluating 'life process' exploration on Europa, Titan, and Mars - though intended for laypersons, the science was pretty overwhelming. ('Europa Report' had recently aired, and the presenter joked about what a lovely fantasy that might be to explore...).

Paul451 said...

"the "Outer Space Treaty" of 1967. [...] at the very least, one would expect some debate on the subject - yet I find none."

None? Really? I see people bickering over it all the time. It's one of the standard subjects in space politics.

"The 2015 Space Act rejects that notion"

No, the Act specifically states that the law must be in accordance with international treaties and obligations. (And indeed, the regulation of NGO activity in space by treaty signatories is one of the obligations of the OST.)

Re: Lack of post-Viking search for life on Mars.

That's always been a bit of a puzzle. I think the ambiguity of the Viking results, and the pop-science fuss made over that ambiguity has made "proper" scientists wary of the subject. Too much "face on Mars".

Additionally, Planetary Protection requirements at NASA mean that any probe that lands near sites with the highest probability of life must be especially sterilised, which increases costs. None of the post-Viking landers/probes have been given the funding for such cleansing. Hence they can't land in high-probability areas, hence they aren't seen as "that kind of mission".

That said, it's interesting to see an actual microbiologist talk about how simple it would be to at least search for the low-hanging-fruit of Earth-like life (as would be expected in a either a panspermia or debris-swapping scenario). Whenever I've suggested it on forums, I always get huffed at that I "don't understand the difficulty".

Howard Brazee said...

I've always wondered why old SF had rockets landing on their tails instead of using wings to land in an atmosphere. But SpaceX thinks that's the way to go. It isn't intuitively obvious to me that that way would be either cheaper or more reliable.

Robert said...

Another brief foray into politics: Republicans sowed the seeds of their own current inner-party "civil war" by holding a unified front opposing everything Obama is for. The article notes that the election of Scott Brown as a result of Tea Party efforts was perhaps a linchpin showing that they could win anywhere - including in Red States. As such, moderate and pro-negotiation Republicans were ousted.

I think there is a term here that sums it up: hoisted by their own petard.

Rob H.

Robert said...

Why land rockets on their tails?

Mass and friction.

The heavier the rocket is, the more fuel it takes to put it in orbit. Putting wings on a rocket capable of producing lift increases the mass of the rocket - the Space Shuttle required two solid rocket boosters to get it off the ground, after all. And landing those in the ocean... well, they were only "reusable" after you disassemble everything, clean it all, and deal with corrosive elements in the sea... which likely would cost nearly as much as using entirely new boosters.

Also, reentry into the atmosphere creates a tremendous amount of heat. So you need the body and wings of the rocket made of a material that can resist the heat and the bombardment of particles against the surface as it smacks into the atmosphere at supersonic speeds. Otherwise, it burns up. And those heat-resistant materials tend to weigh more... which means you need even more fuel to get the rocket into orbit.

However, rocket engines are designed with high heat tolerances in mind. So they can survive reentry (it's the impact with the ocean that is the killer). In fact, they've recovered rocket engines from the lower stage of the Saturn V rockets which sent astronauts to the Moon.

This is why Boeing is working on a system where the rocket engines would be ejected from the main body of the rocket and recovered separately (probably with a parachute system).

And let's face it. If SpaceX had some sort of catch-assembly which could rapidly deploy and snag a rocket in multiple places after it lands, it probably could have kept those barge-rockets intact... though it might also require replacing the outer skin of the rocket in that case and there are likely other issues why such a system hasn't been utilized.

Rob H.

Jon S. said...

Admittedly, I haven't read the text of the Outer Space Treaty, but my understanding was that it forbade any signatory nation from claiming any heavenly bodies in their own names - which obviously doesn't cover multinational corporations. It's kind of reminiscent of inflationary theory in a way, in that inflationary theory posits that while no object can move through space at speeds greater than that of light, there's nothing saying how quickly space itself can "move"...

Loopholes are fun, aren't they? :)

Deuxglass said...


I left microbiology many years ago. There were too many in the field who were better and smarter than I so I drew the logical conclusion but I do still keep up with what is going on.

There were four different experiments for life on the Viking. Three of them were positive but the fourth was negative so the results were not conclusive. If the same thing happened on Earth, you would redesign the experiment but obviously on Mars that wasn’t possible. The scientists just didn’t know enough about the composition of Martian regolith. To repeat the experiment would have been meaningless so I think they rightly decided to wait until they know more before really getting into the search for life. In the last few years, scientists have pored over the original data and replicated the Viking experiments on Earth and some concluded that Viking probably did find life.

Bacterial life on Mars is completely logical but what I would like see if there are Eukaryotes and multi-cellular organisms as well. Tardigrades (Water Bears) can certainly survive the trip but maybe not be able to live due to lack of oxygen. Nevertheless, if they get there and can respire, then they would have lots of food in bacteria. They say lichen could live on Mars and Water Bears do live in lichen so maybe multicellular life could already be there.

Zepp Jamieson said...

What a day-brightener! Thanks for this!

donzelion said...

@Paul - "the "Outer Space Treaty" of 1967. [...] at the very least, one would expect some debate on the subject - yet I find none." - You responded I see people bickering over it all the time. It's one of the standard subjects in space politics. - Sure, theorists, scholars, and laypersons do debate this: but where's the Congressional hearing? What do our representatives think? For the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, when they wanted to toss the treaty as a whole (in your face - Russia!) - they did so publicly (and with bellicosity) - not so this time.

No, the Act specifically states that the law must be in accordance with international treaties and obligations.
Once you permit someone to take ownership of resources extracted from an asteroid, but not assert sovereignty over the asteroid itself, you are (1) asserting a form of sovereignty, and just pretending not to, and (2) inviting those who disagree with you to disregard the rules as well. Going back to an earlier post, I can easily see how U.S. space exploration firms would reincorporate in an offshore island, park all the benefits of anything they extract, but still seek U.S. protection for their activities (think of the ivory trade or blood diamond trades - the extraction of the resources is 'illegal' - with very similar wording in the underlying treaties used to assure 'illegality' - if any state passed a law like we did, we'd hear quite an uproar).

@Jon S - the Outer Space Treaty is pretty short and bears a quick glance. It explicitly treats non-state actors as a responsibility of the state - using anti-colonial wording that recognizes that non-state actors are a primary means of 'conquering' new territory. To quote

States bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, whether carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried on in conformity with the principles set forth in the present Declaration. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the State concerned. When activities are carried on in outer space by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with the principles set forth in this Declaration shall be borne by the international organization and by the States participating in it.

That covers all forms of nongovernmental actors (except illegal entities - say SPECTRE a la James Bond). No loophole really (hard to imagine a real life 'evil corporation of space pirates').

Robert said...

Another brief foray into politics and economics. Reposted from my FB page.

Taxation is not theft. It is an investment.

If not for the infrastructure built with tax dollars, we would not have rich people. You say "well the rich can build the infrastructure" but what form is that wealth? Where did it come from? How can they utilize it?

But let us pretend for a second that there is an existing form of currency and people of varying levels of wealth. If every rich person is building their own infrastructure then they do not have the money to maintain their wealth. Everything is used just to build and upkeep the environment needed to build their products.

And what of poor people? Without jobs, people cannot afford those products. That infrastructure allows people to go to their jobs. It allows people to HAVE jobs rather than spending all their time farming so to survive.

Seriously, has the lessons Ford taught so long ago forgotten? He knew that if you pay people money, they can afford your goods. So then... if people don't have jobs because everyone is busy growing food and surviving... then no one can afford products from the rich.

It is a common claim that taxes are a form of theft. But tax is not theft. Theft is when something is taken and you get nothing in return. No, taxes are investment. People benefit from the use tax dollars are put to. It allows everyone to use a public good so civilization can flourish.

So why tax people at a higher rate? Simple.

Rich people use more of the public goods than the poor. Their transportation of goods to sell puts a greater wear on roads. Their factories use more power and more water. It creates stresses that the non-wealthy do not. Thus they should invest further in the infrastructure by paying more taxes.

Rob H.

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass, Jon S, et. al. - is this not a more intriguing and rewarding debate than evaluating the political order? I'm not exactly opposed to the Space Act of 2015, just taking a position so that it can be discussed in some manner other than "Republicans liked it, Democrats didn't, so there's the proof of scientific inclinations."

I can fully appreciate how awarding a party that reaches the asteroids rights to extract resources from them might result in a private sector expansion in space exploration (esp. increased investment in the private explorers).

What I cannot appreciate is making these decisions without involving a public, active, vigorous debate. Refusing such a debate abdicates responsibility, treating the 'science' as though it's unimportant, or more properly pursued by narrow interests with special powers - rather than as an issue of concern to us all (particularly participants here). There was extensive debate of this sort with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - which ran on for decades. At one time, neo-cons were regarded as being smarter than everyone else (by other neo-cons, at least), but now...not so much.

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

@Rob H - Taxation is not theft. It is an investment. I'd qualify that statement: MOST taxation is an investment. Sometimes, it actually is theft, particularly when those being taxed do not have any electoral recourse.

And of course, you're right. Show me a billionaire anywhere in the world who did not exploit existing infrastructure built by others to obtain that wealth. The lesson of Henry Ford was never 'lost' - rather, Henry Ford offered slightly higher wages in the 1920s - before social security and a safety net were in place, and before a transit infrastructure existed (save railroads). Today, many employers benefit from the fact that poor people can receive certain public benefits to sustain them, OR that they can drive from job to job to obtain the income they need to survive (or telecommute) - both of which usurp some of the benefits of infrastructure produced by others to depress wages. The "rich" benefit from the multiple contracts that the 'poor' must enter into simply to get by - because the more transaction costs NOT borne by the rich, the weaker the position of the poor to negotiate any contracts at all.

It is a common claim that taxes are a form of theft. A common claim anarchists posing as libertarians. But when they assert an interest in 'fairness' or 'freedom' - they are really actively promoting the creation of new 'oppressors' (and as Dr. Brin likes to assert, in a notion that originally attracted me here - the 'oppressors' they justify are the oldest, most frequently encountered form of oppression).

David Brin said...



JParker said...

Taxation is theft. Like the corollary, Property is theft.
Fulfills the objectives of being simple, elegant and wrong.

In an unrelated note that is probably going to make me order a BLUE bummer hat.

David Brin said...

yep. I hope the dems have a singer sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.