Saturday, July 20, 2019

Apollo at 50. Plus updates from space


I was 18 years old, had just survived my frosh year at Caltech, envious of those I heard were heading to a rock concert back east while I worked the unner hauling a radio astronomer's tapes on and off an IBM360-75... and I recall watching Walter Cronkite interview Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury, with all of them in tears of joy. And seeing Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov hold forth on other networks, as a nation and world came to realize that Earth is not enough. The rest of the universe is palpable and real; you can step on it! And a literature that looks forward just might have some relevance.

Apollo 12 would be the stunning display of utter competence and Apollo 8 had just given us one of two great artworks of the 20th Century, changing human hearts without needing a word of persuasion. But it was Neil and Buzz and Mike and the tens of thousands who got them there, and tens of millions who paid for it, and a billion or so watching - thrilled - who got a boost to our inner confidence, at a time when we would need it most.

Draw from it now! That competence and confidence matters. Don't let enemies undermine -- or worse, hijack -- that pride in a scientific, pragmatic, progress-oriented and change-willing civilization. Those of our neighbors who are helping to wage war on facts... remind them that those inconvenient truths help us to revise and to learn and to become greater than we were.

(Reporting from Comicon!)

== Space News! ==

Organoids in space: Will human cells differentiate and proliferate and organize themselves properly - if development takes place in micro-gravity? Finding out is the aim of a human-brains-in-a-dish experiment created by UCSD researchers and about to be shipped up to the Space Station. I am tangentially part of the team led by Alysson R. Muotri, PhD, in cooperation with UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

After a brief embargo, I can now link you to the announcement of new phase III grants by NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts program. (I was in DC last month as a member of NIAC’s External Council.) Phase One offers small seed grants to explore an idea that’s just this side of science fiction, and sometimes beyond that line. Phase Two allows the best-demonstrated Phase One concepts to develop more tech/sci readiness across 2 years. Phase Three is brand new.  Substantial funding to demonstrate real feasibility for a space mission. The first two P3 grants can now be viewed here. Both involve the quest to access lunar and asteroidal resources.

At that meeting in DC, we discussed NIAC’s difficulty in attracting brilliantly conceptual proposals from underrepresented groups or categories. Some of the finest ideas have been in areas like biology, life support or habitation… and a number of these came from just Lynn Rothschild and her students!, so we know there are great innovators in those fields. We just need to get the word out, better. Your suggestions for groups or conferences, startups or companies that might have a stunning notion potentially applicable to spaceflight would be welcome, below. (Under-represtnted groups welcome.) Better yet, share with those folks links to the NIAC information pages!

And if NIAC’s brash innovativeness is way too-sane for you, then try this gonzo-paranoid techno tall tale about high ISP rocketry by my colleague Charles Stross. It's like if NIAC got really, really mad and turned from mild-mannered Bruce Banner into the Hulk. 

Oh, and here are some images from my June talk to a packed auditorium at Goddard NASA Spaceflight Center. There I offered a trio of slides that portray distinctly why  readily accessible riches are available on asteroids, but only one kind of any likely near-term value exists on the moon: lunar polar ice. (And even water will likely be better accessed from certain kinds of asteroids.)

Metals, in particular, are unlikely to be a “lunar resource.” Want to know where to find them out there? See how NASA has given go-ahead to the Psyche Mission! “While most asteroids are rocky or icy bodies, scientists think Psyche is composed mostly of iron and nickel, similar to Earth's core. They wonder whether Psyche could be the nickel-iron heart, or exposed core, of an early planet maybe as large as Mars that lost its rocky outer layers through violent collisions billions of years ago.” And a lot more than nickel-iron.

== News from the Solar System ==

Partly inspired by earlier NIAC grants, NASA will fly a billion-dollar quadcopter to Titan, Saturn’s methane-rich moon. Acetylene-butane co-crystals might form rings around Titan's lakes as liquid hydrocarbons evaporate and the minerals drop out—in the same way that salts can form crusts on the shores of Earth's lakes and seas. Huh, I had envisioned the Titanian shore-dwellers mad of wax. Shows what I know.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock experiment will test miniaturization of super accurate time keeping in space, so future missions (mars & beyond) can self-navigate. 

Cool. NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft has been orbit-spiraling close to asteroid Bennu. See images  from just 690 meters away. The spacecraft is designed to reach out to Bennu, snag a sample of surface material and bring it back to Earth in 2023. The recent impressive Japanese sampler mission to another asteroid shows who we should be partnering with, to do things out there that none of the Apollo-wannabe lunar dust-tourists can dream of. Possibly accessing the riches that would enable greatness while paying for a restored Earth.

Speaking of which. Even stony asteroids are moist – testimony from samples returned by Japan’s first (of two) Hayabusa probes, supporting the notion that other kinds – like carbonaceous C-type or extinct comets – will likely be very rich in the stuff of life (and of rocket fuel).

While asteroids offer the greatest (vast) trove of available wealth to a nascent interplanetary civilization, there are rocks along the path. Both Planetary Resources (PI) and Deep Space Industries have scaled back their immediate ambitions to access metals like Platinum, and PI’s assets have been acquired by one of the founders of Etherium. (A thought provoker, that news.)

Meanwhile, Joel Sercel’s TransAstra Corp. Keeps winning grants to pursue the nearer term profitable resource, water, on both asteroids and the lunar poles.  He has competition there! The Chinese have declared lunar polar ice to be their goal, as has George Sowers of the Colorado School of Mines and even – officially, at least – The current U.S. administration.

== Politics of space ==

SpaceX has successfully deployed sixty production versions of the Starlink Satellite. They are targeting 360 through the next six months, aiming at a lot of revenue for service to North America, Europe and Asia, by reducing latency in financial trading communication.

That obscure but lucrative revenue source is crucial since it will flow almost immediately once the constellations prove reliable. In fact, it could be why folks still lend Elon money for Tesla, because (yet again) one of his businesses will be able to pay off debt for another at a critical moment. It also would give Starlink time to build its more general internet access business.

Two factors though. First, Bernie Sanders has raised the prospect of a potential transaction tax on financial trades. In fact, it is a very important reform that could save all of us from genuine dangers from the worst kinds of AI. But fortunately for Elon, it won’t happen for at least two years. By then, Starlink will have other sources of revenue.

The other factor is China. The arrival of these new low-orbit internet constellations will mean citizens of the Central Kingdom may have another chance at a free infosphere. Daunted by this prospect, at times the PRC has threatened to “shoot down” such constellations.  An impractical threat and a sign of desperation. So, will they seek to make a deal with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and others?  Or will they try to get control over that situation by going over their heads, through their friends in American high places?

Meanwhile the current head of Roscosmos – the Russian Space Agency – has laid down a vision for moon landings by 2030, by creating a launch system more powerful than NASA’s in-development SLS. This article, while conveying his slides, is justifiably skeptical. More likely would be a Russia-China partnership. Perhaps and/or India. I hope not snaring in ESA, Japan, or the U.S., who have better things to do, elsewhere. Best case? Commercial tourist junkets leave them in a cloud of mood dust.

NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — stenciled on chips — to the Red Planet with NASA's Mars 2020 rover. And sure, I recommend you sign on! I give odds of a bazillion to one against anything bizarre happening as a result (as in my short story “Mars Opposition,” published in Insistence of Vision.

93 comments:

scidata said...

Moon days for me:
1969 - watching it on TV with my parents (estranged for many years now)
1979 - watching anniversary on TV while building a single-board computer
1989 - on a date with the woman who became my wife and kids' mom
1999 - teaching in Houston, in my pre-stroke glory days
2009 - watching a slide show at a Royal Astronomical Society of Canada meeting
2019 - watching anniversary on TV while building a cluster computer

Of all the things the Cheeto has sullied, NASA is the one that hurts the most.

Mark Olbert said...

Well said. As always :)

David Brin said...

Well said scidata and wishing you joy in 2069, as an honored guest in the observation dome on the Sea of Tranquility.

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Don Gisselbeck said...

50 years later and the January 30,1970 issue of Science (144 papers on the Apollo 11 mission) is still behind an effective pay wall. They claim it is free, but I gave up after 5 minutes trying to navigate the maze. Someone with clout should tell them taxpayers paid for all that data. (My email a month ago was of course ignored.) My biggest complaint in the endless Facebook arguments with moon landing deniers is that almost no one cites the scientific literature.

scidata said...

MLDs usually deny the existence of space flight period (which is sort of consistent in a frighteningly delusional way). My standard response:
1) look up the time of the next local ISS flyover (let them pick the website, there are dozens)
2) go outside, look up, and WATCH IT WITH YOUR OWN EYES
Trying to get them to grasp the enormity of the conspiracy they imagine is hopeless. Sigh. Citizen science is existentially important.

Lorraine said...

I followed the link to your Stross tale and the string "isp" does not occur anywhere in the page. Could you enlighten me on what those letters stand for in this context? I'm assuming not "internet service provider?"

TheMadLibrarian said...

As soon as Charlie mentioned FOOF, I knew we were in for some fun. There's a gent (Derek Lowe) who used to write a blog called 'Things I won't work with', about all the fun and incredibly dangerous compounds chemists played with around the early part of the 20th century. FOOF was one of the things discussed, then it devolved into compounds you didn't even want to be in the same county as. Mr. Lowe still does reviews of organic and inorganic chemistry, and science in general, but those early blog entries were good times.

Alfred Differ said...

ISP stands for ‘specific impulse’ in this case. It’s a measure of the impulse you can get per unit weight of the fuel/oxidizer mix. Liquid hydrogen/LOX is pretty high for chemical reactions

Alfred Differ said...

MLD’s aren’t moved by journal articles. They get a kick out of denying... and the annoyance it causes.

Alfred Differ said...

I belong to a civilization that does...

My fridge has a small computer in it. Many do nowadays. The other day the lights went off and it delivered what looked like an error code. Inconvenient at most because it was still keeping things cool and frozen correctly.

Like most modern tech users, it hit the inter-tubes to look up the code. Apparently my fridge has a 'sabbath mode'. All advanced features shut down for a time and then turn on later. First time I'd ever seen it, so something glitched and put it in that mode for more than a day. Crowd sourced instructions showed me how to reset it... and it works.

Apparently I'm a member of a civilization that has large, inhuman corporations who care just enough to put these features in their software. Why not, hmm? The inconvenience I suffered is balanced against them thinking it prudent to include features that minority groups want. More than balanced I think. I think it is cool even if I'll never need the feature and might face a future glitch. Software is like that. It's hard to know what conditions hardware will face in the field. No app developer thinks of everything.

The flip side is I now have a new perspective on the old, telephone prank joke.

Is your refrigerator running?
Why yes. It is.
Better go catch it.
... indeed... I have some catching up to do. I don't know how it's been programmed. For all I know it 'wants' on the internet.



I recently bought this house. It's a couple years old.
I think I better catch my thermostats too because I see the on my wifi source scans.



We haven't been back to the Moon in a while, but the people who wanted us working on social problems like poverty and hunger should note that we did. Big Time.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Crowd sourced instructions showed me how to reset it... and it works.


That seems to be the modern paradigm for software. Gone are the days when a solitary programmer would sit with a manual and learn how to use all of the features in an application. Now, you're expected to be part of a community who introduces you to features and shows you how to use them, at which point you're a new "expert" who can pass on that knowledge to others.

Larry Hart said...

On that same subject, it's true at work as well.

At my workplace, there's a group devoted to SalesForce, which I had never heard of before, but is apparently a hot business application these days. The main developer in that group--incidentally, the woman I badly want as a mentor, and whose safety I would protect over my own in an active shooter situation--occasionally runs into issues where she doesn't know how to perform some particular function or other in SalesForce. She's able to confer on line with experts, but typically the "experts" are no more knowledgeable about what she's asking than she already is. I have noticed the same thing trying to get useful information about Informatica--the tool I mainly use. It gives renewed meaning to the canard that "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." Or as I often put it, "We have met the experts, and they are us."

scidata said...

The hive mentality is certainly needed if your goal is to implement the structures and purposes of the corporate world or to pursue the 'killer app' dream. The days of the solitary programmer are indeed long past.

However, if your goal is to fundamentally understand computation, a process as natural and primordial as gravitation or evolution, then discard the manuals and frameworks. Pick up a 1980s class machine or an emulator than runs on modern ones. Always go for the red pill.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

That seems to be the modern paradigm for software.

Much wider than that, I think. Watch how your nearest help/service desk functions. Get in there with them. If they aren't using crowd sourced information for things other than software, I'll be surprised... and then I'll want to sell any stock I might have in your employer. 8)


SalesForce was one of those frenemy platforms for the product I supported for years and years. Mine was Remedy back when it was owned by a company called Remedy. Once SalesForce was on the scene, it made no sense to write CRM apps the old way. Last place I saw running a Remedy one was Cummins at their HQ in 2004.

Good engineers at the platform vendor corporation will have the email addresses for people like the woman you describe... and she will have theirs. If you know your platform inside and out, you are invaluable as a customer. QA teams catch the more obvious bugs, but guru customers find the insidious ones... and often point out how to solve them. My find involved a failure to write a good catch clause for how to ask for shared memory on a Unix platform. Took me four months to turn occasionally crashing processes into repeatable tests that failed on exactly one assumption about how the OS was configured. I was pretty pleased with myself, but nowadays I recognize I put my co-workers through hell by upgrading to a *.0 release too early. Dumb. I let others chase that kind of fun now.

There is still room for people who read the manuals and learn the art, but the folks who figure out how to tap the 'wisdom of crowds' effect have carved up the room into a fractal-like boundary.

Alfred Differ said...

scidata,

Yah, yah. Knuth. Computer programming is an Art. I have my copy. I hear you. 8)

Some of us are just in it to make a living, though. Corporate-ware is buggy, sloppy, barely good enough code, but they throw around amazing amounts of money to people who can write it and maintain it. Weird. It is as if business problems are only worth solving if the solutions cost less than a certain amount... and we as a sloppy code community have zeroed in on those amounts.

Meh. It's a living.

My personal art involves physics. For THAT I'll read Knuth and other material about the art. For example, I got all excited about an algorithm that turned an O(n^2) method into an O(n log n) {or better} method for the n-body problem. 'Fast multipole method' I think it is called. I'd like to be able to buy a ticket to the Moon by now (that is the vision we were sold as kids), but a high-speed n-body algorithm is a big deal. I can think of ways to make the world a better place with that.

Zepp Jamieson said...

The wisdom of the crowd is a huge part of the Linux community, and nearly any fix you can imagine is out there, crowd-sourced. I formatted a drive to Mint 19, put it in a different computer, and while everything else worked correctly, I couldn't update from the respository. An hour of poking and tinkering didn't help, so I went on line and ask. Fifteen minutes later, I knew to comment out the single line in a file three directories deep. Save the file, rebooted. Problem solved.
Just amazing. Imagine how much time I might have spent on the phone with Behemoth Software at #35 an hour trying to solve something like that.
Like everyone born before 1964, I remember where I was the day of the Moon landing. At a friend's house. Part of the wonder was that his dad was a ham radio enthusiast, and listening to the voices a quarter million miles away and seeing where the antenna was aimed.
Question to pose to the Moon Landing Hoax nuts: how come the Russians didn't expose the hoax immediately? They had radios with antennas, too, and could see where the transmissions were coming from. Imagine the strategic and tactical coup discovering such a ploy by the Americans would have brought them!

Alfred Differ said...

In '69 I was sitting in front of a TV watching and wanting to be an astronaut. Kinda new it wouldn't happen, so I was already beginning to settle for astronomer. Seemed close enough. Kid thinking-wise anyway.

In '79 I was heading off to college planning a physics degree because astronomers were really astrophysicists. Mostly. Planned a double major with Math and had an early understanding of what a Mission Specialist did. Astronaut plans were back on.

In '89 I was researching for my dissertation. Got notes. I wasn't thinking about the Moon at all. Astronaut plans were off again because they depended on NASA being able to hire. Seemed unlikely. Okay, though, because I was thinking about space-related research. Sorta.

In '99 my epiphany was already several years old. If I really wanted to help space science, it was best that I get out of it and work at reducing the cost of access to space. I was thinking about the Moon again, but only in context with asteroids and everything else up there that might attract investors. Private money. I no longer expected government to open the frontier for us. We'd have to do it.

In '09, I was dealing with a recent pink slip. The day job I kept to finance my previously failed attempts to 'have a go at it' vanished with the financial meltdown. Wasn't thinking about space except to note that no private money was available anyway.

This time I got to watch people mis-remember the event, the vision sold to the kids, the separate vision sold to the adults, and the point of it all. Lots of nostalgia. Lots of "Let's do it again" and "What went wrong?" Pfft. Nothing went wrong. We won the Space Race and the Cold War. Next? How about poverty, hunger, and disease? Next?

Meanwhile, private money got into the game. Seriously large sums of money provided by those of us who were kids in '69 (and another batch born a few years later) who all bought into that vision. Alas, not into my ventures, but that's probably best for humanity. Some people can write books about how NOT to run a business. 8)

David Brin said...

Alfred you're an interesting fellow. Several of you are. Most of you.

David Brin said...

Heck, in a diversity of ways... all of you.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Good engineers at the platform vendor corporation will have the email addresses for people like the woman you describe... and she will have theirs. If you know your platform inside and out, you are invaluable as a customer. QA teams catch the more obvious bugs, but guru customers find the insidious ones... and often point out how to solve them.


Yeah, that's her all right. I'm not a fan of the concept of multi-tasking myself, but watching her navigate multiple screens at the same time as an allegory for the way her mind takes creative leaps is a wonder to behold. And yes, she not only finds the deficiencies in the application, but knows how they should work instead, often ahead of actual upgrades.

Which is why I've spent much of the last year angling to demonstrate value to her and thereby tie my career path to her coattails. I had never heard of CRM before I started at this job a year and a half ago, but I could immediately see that it will be a large component of the company's future. I'm very happy where I'm working now--for the first time in many years--and I have no plans to leave, but if this person ever goes elsewhere, I want her taking me with her.

scidata said...

@Alfred Differ

I'm certainly not a Donald Knuth disciple. Computation is no more 'art' than is the ribosome. Wolfram is much closer to the mark, if you can get past the ego. Darwin pretty much nailed it, he was just a century too early for transistors and the double helix.

And I too have littered the landscape with reams of corporate bloatware (and been well paid for it). I'll even continue to do so if offered the opportunity. But groupware won't get us to the stars - it hides and promotes mediocrity. I'm nobody, so I can get away saying things like that :)

Larry Hart said...

While I don't intend to overly politicize this thread, this observation was so spot-on that it needs repeating. I'll do so without further comment:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/21/opinion/trump-racism.html

When did we arrive at the point where applying the words racist and racism were more radioactive than actually doing and saying racist things and demonstrating oneself to be a racist?

scidata said...

@Alfred Differ

Just a question. 40 years ago, I had an astronomy prof tell the story of an early space probe that veered off course and headed for the sun or Rigel or something due to a missing semicolon in the code. I've been looking for that incident ever since without success. [engineers sometimes bury their spectacular failures] I even asked her about it a decade ago at a meeting, but my speech impediment scared her off I think. Have you ever heard that tale?

Larry Hart said...

@scidata,

Caveat emptor, I have no knowledge of the incident you're describing, but just as a listener, it has the feel of an apocryphal cautionary tale.

Jon S. said...

Don't know about space probes, but when I got to HQ SAC XOXPC (Force Timing & Deconfliction) in '86, the cautionary tale told to make sure we always tested new software against a test database and not the live one had to do with a program someone had written in which they'd failed to close a process section properly. It wound up placing zeroes into the targeting data, with the result that every weapon in the database was aimed at 0 degrees latitude, 0 degrees longitude. Then he used the live database. For several months in the early '80s, if WW3 had started, we'd have bombed the frak out of a spot just off the western coast of Africa.

We were programming in COBOL, believe it or not; leaving out a semicolon there would generate both compilation and runtime errors. (My personal record was somewhere north of 500 compilation errors because I omitted a semicolon in the Data section.)

David Brin said...

A Mars probe was lost when the aerobraking went wrong because one subroutine was in ft-lbs and Imperial units.


LH there is blame to go around. The Left's reflex is to leap to assume that 100% of the motivations of the confederate-mad right boil down to racism.

That is malarkey and not helpful. Though it's horrific and nasty and very real, I doubt racism rises even to the top three. It's more a TOOL used to spread division, rile up a despicable base and get our left all reflexive instead of tactically savvy.

Far stronger motivations:
- Across the base, hatred of fact-using professions and folks who know stuff.
- Across the upper classes, a fear of leftism/socialism and a mythology that "Trump is bad but dems are somehow worse (Clinton!)
- The actual owners of the GOP: destruction of Pax Americana, rule-of-law, democracy and the enlightenment experiment.

Here's the deal, though. My claim that racism - while horrific - is a lower motive than those three would raise shrieks of "racist!" from our own dogmatics who reinforce #2 by trying to bully uniformity and conformity on our side.

A.F. Rey said...

Across the upper classes, a fear of leftism/socialism and a mythology that "Trump is bad but dems are somehow worse (Clinton!)"

That's one thing I'm not looking forward to in the upcoming election: all those Republicans who admit that Trump is bad, but excused their votes for him because "Hillary was a horrible candidate," who will soon explain how is still "so much worse." Since I'm already furious at that, I'm not sure I can control my temper when the first liar starts saying it...

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH there is blame to go around. The Left's reflex is to leap to assume that 100% of the motivations of the confederate-mad right boil down to racism.


I agree, and I've always kind of pooh-poohed the "Everything is about racism" crowd. I do have to admit that, lately, I've been forced to rethink that.

But in my post above, racism (per Monty Python) "wasn't meant to be taken lit'rally. It refers to any description of right-wing deplorability." My point was that the right has indulged in an active strategy of acting so egregiously that the act of describing that behavior correctly is seen as more offensive than the behavior itself. And it seems to be working.

David Brin said...

"Since I'm already furious at that, I'm not sure I can control my temper when the first liar starts saying it..."

Again (and again) the thing that makes them flee in hilarious pants-wetting panic is demands for wagers.

Even if a large % of confederate mania IS racist, they deflect the accusation with "But I don't FEEL racist. I have my exception heroes... sports stars and Clarence Thomas. So anyone calling me racist is a name calling bully! We need to focus on things that can be proved with clear facts... like:

Tell us again why we should listen to a movement with an Always-wrong track record of shouting: “Tobacco is harmless! Lead in gasoline is harmless! Cars don't cause smog. Negros can’t think! It’s okay for rivers to catch fire and for it to rain acid! Women can’t compete. We’ll win this Drug War! Gays should die. MLK was a commie! No, he was one of us! Saddam’s WMDs! Supply side! Science sucks! But more supply side and more!"

… and so many other damned lies? Oh, no. You do not get to preach morality at us. Turpitude R-U.

Alfred Differ said...

scidata,

I'm doubtful a missing semicolon was involved. That kind of error likely leads to compilation failure as Jon S points out. There ARE ways to leave out statement terminators and internal punctuation in some languages that survive compile-time tests, but they became pretty rare before I learned how to multiply integers. [Stone Age? Almost.] 8)

Much more likely were run-time and logic errors. I seem to recall a moon probe making a sign error, thrusting in the wrong direction, and heading off into solar orbit. I don't remember which one, but it was an early American one if the story told to me as a kid was right.

I've heard of the Mars probe unit conversion error our host described. That was fairly recent as these things go. Now when i listen to the old audio tapes of NASA missions describing things in imperial units in front of the public, I cringe. Any recent science grad gets taught metric. I understood that engineering grads had to deal with imperial units. What a set up for really cringe-worthy mistakes in any team that hires some of each of us!

The most likely error that I know about, though, is 'failure of software to read hardware sensors' correctly. We software writers often fail to consider the reality of actual hardware. Ever tried to make your own keyboard? You learn about de-bounce methods real quick. My first failure on that level involved a simple switch tied to 2 grams of black powder as an ejection charge on a payload container. Went off in my hands. Chipped a bone in my thumb and resulted in a need to find a new pair of underwear. Lesson learned. Alfred doesn't get to play with explosives, team brings in engineers with hardware experience, and we scope everything to look at what the circuits ACTUALLY do. Assume transients, RFI, and all those other annoyances. Oh... and keep the kids away while testing. Hubble's initial inability to focus was a bit like this, though it was humans mis-interpreting what they saw in early tests. Pretty much anything that tries to land using a rocket is at serious risk of this failure class too. Look at early rocket hover videos for some teams and you'll see vehicles that are over-responsive in correcting attitude. They jitter a while and then flip over and crash. Turns out there is a simple fix at the software level most every time. Slow it down just like biology does for large animals. We'd jitter and fall over too if our big-muscle motor neurons worked at microsecond speeds instead of millisecond speeds.


I knew a lady in college who was more interested in the art of screwing up code than in the code itself. Obviously she was honing a QA talent, but it would have been a waste on corporate-ware. Embedded code or security teams were where she belonged. She LOVED making your painstakingly crafted baby misbehave. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Zepp Jamieson,

My first exposure to Linux was in '94 chasing an early 'having a go at it'. I needed more computation power out of a computer I could afford. I think I still had a 286 on my desk with MSDoS. The zealot I recruited tried to sell me on Linux and I had nothing to lose. It took a little bit for him to explain the community, but it eventually hit me that I already had experience with a community like that. They were organized like scientists. Gift economy, reputation reward. I was all in then.

The business still didn't work. There was the small matter of me being interested in what was probably a 5th generation vehicle thrust system before the 2nd & 3rd generation was flying. I still love solar sails, but 20+ years later and the Planetary Society is now ready to try a second sail deployment? I was thinking about interplanetary ideas. Heh.

Lesson learned. Businesses are financed when they solve an immediate business problem... usually by those who suffer the problem or know others who suffer it. The ones who solve consumer problems are actually tougher to start because consumers aren't the investors. No motivated investors in the sense of a motivated house seller who sees the nearby river near flood-levels.

gregory byshenk said...



David Brin wrote:
Even if a large % of confederate mania IS racist, they deflect the accusation with "But I don't FEEL racist. I have my exception heroes... sports stars and Clarence Thomas. So anyone calling me racist is a name calling bully! We need to focus on things that can be proved with clear facts... like:

Tell us again why we should listen to a movement with an Always-wrong track record of shouting: “Tobacco is harmless! Lead in gasoline is harmless! Cars don't cause smog. Negros can’t think! It’s okay for rivers to catch fire and for it to rain acid! Women can’t compete. We’ll win this Drug War! Gays should die. MLK was a commie! No, he was one of us! Saddam’s WMDs! Supply side! Science sucks! But more supply side and more!"


This seems reasonable, and yet...

As Swift said: "Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired..."

There certainly is an element of racism in support for Trump, as shown by the fact that his support rises among the faithful when he becomes more white supremacist. I see this from some of my relatives in the USA: while they may deny that they have a racist bone in their body, their comments show that they think that white folks are better and "more American" than others.

And apart from that, all of the facts you indicate above are beyond obvious to any person that is reachable with facts. And unfortunately, those who aren't so reachable are just that - particularly when you have Fox (et al) braying constant propaganda.

I don't have a good read on the American electorate as a whole, but my feeling is that this makes the argument that one has to somehow convince the "reasonable" Trump supporters a non-starter. The only solution is to convince the rest to get out and vote.

Darrell E said...

Alfred Differ said...
"Alfred doesn't get to play with explosives, team brings in engineers with hardware experience, and we scope everything to look at what the circuits ACTUALLY do."

No plan, design, etc., survives first contact with reality. Adding people to the mix makes things far worse. I don't have even remotely the level of experience you and some others here have in programming, but I was somewhat of a wiz at it in an earlier time. I started writing software for myself for work which lead to writing software for the entire company to use. It was quite the learning experience. No matter how many ways you can think of that people will screw things up and then provide safeguards against them, they will find many ways you never thought of, that you never would have dreamed of.

Jon S. said...

"No matter how many ways you can think of that people will screw things up and then provide safeguards against them, they will find many ways you never thought of, that you never would have dreamed of."

That is in fact the point of "open beta" testing of online video games, a much-maligned practice ("why can't they just wait until everything works, and ship it then?"). End users, whether of hardware or software, will always find a way to use your product that you never even thought about, and thus never guarded against. (For examples of this, watch almost any episode of Mythbusters, or just reference the title of Adam Savage's recent memoir, Every Tool is a Hammer.)

Going back to my own experiences, we had all the software needed to work out the SIOP (the nuclear-war blueprint for NATO) humming along pretty well in '87. Then the MX missile, with its ten warheads and semi-mobile basing, came online, along with the subsonic B-2 Batbomber (yes, I know, that's not what it's called, but my response to the first pictures of one was, "Holy neutrons, Batman!"). We had never had to consider land-based ICBMs that didn't launch from a fixed point (fortunately, we were able to modify the subroutines used for missiles launched from boomers), nor flight paths for aircraft that couldn't crack Mach 2. So yeah, it was back to the ol' drawing board for most of XOXP for a while, because we had three months to revise possibly as many as 200 separate software packages involved. (I don't remember how many wound up being affected, but it was quite a few - those were some very busy months.) And all because our end users suddenly decided they needed all-new hardware that didn't work like the old hardware did, and it never occurred to them to liase with us until the hardware was about to come online.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I am currently very disgruntled with the TMT. After years (literally) of protests, delays, court cases, hearings, investigations and MORE protests, the state court finally decided that all the goalposts had been met and the TMT could proceed. That didn't stop the protesters from being, if possible, even more obstructionist; this after removing old underutilized telescopes from the summit of Mauna Kea, payola to the afflicted organizations, and promises to allow any reasonable amount of access to the summit for cultural and religious purposes. The only thing the protesters will be satisfied with is if the TMT is never built. People, including Native Hawaiians, who are in favor of the TMT, are laying low lest they become a target for the more aggressive element. At what point can the TMT tell the protesters, "You had your day in court and lost. Enough!"

jim said...

I would just like to point out that 4 or 5 angry men could in one night go up to the top of Mauna Kea and break every telescope up there. They are very sensitive pieces of equipment that are easy to break, especially with shotguns and rifles.

Get along with the people who consider Mauna Kea sacred or get out.

scidata said...

Re: TMT
Oh, Canada. What a mess. When you lose Tulsi and Bernie, you're in deep do-do.
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-thirty-meter-telescope-dispute-puts-focus-on-canadas-role/

Darrell E said...

I consider Maunna Kea sacred. I want the TMT.

David Brin said...

Darrell E exactly. I believe past-marginalized people get primacy of place in argument and we can discuss compensation, if its aim is forward. But that does not make them always right. Each individual activist is human and likely drenched in sanctimony poisons. And in the cas of Mauna Kea, the position of the nativist activists is THEOLOGICALLY WRONG.

If the goddess is real, then she does miracles. and has powers. And there is one - exactly one - miraculous thing about Mauna Kea... its spectacular view of the heavens. The activists could have claimed that! They could have demanded great power on that peak and supervision of the astronomy that the goddess clearly wants. They used to be - and could be again - the People of the Sky!

I am not rewuired, as a good and liberal person, to be uncritical of allies who I see making a mistake.

David Brin said...

Lightsail deployment complete! 1:12 pm PDT.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/23/watch-crowdfunded-spacecraft-lightsail-2-unfurl-its-solar-sail-live/?fbclid=IwAR0JyRiwFBVL4hOyX-fO7WoZfwAKZ7hV0PwJzTkZSF757D7eir4jKBi9oBQ

jim said...

Once again David is out trying to tell other people what their religion rally means.

the all knowing wealthy white liberal get to tell others that their religion means what he says it means.

The TMT is just another fucking telescope, it will not be a giant loss to mankind if it is never built.

jim said...

It seems to me that the astronomical community is acting like the rapey guy who just will not take no for an answer.

scidata said...

From the first comment in that Globe & Mail piece on the TMT:

An interesting thing about the old religion is that the penalty for violating any of the multiple taboos was uniformly death (unless an offender was able to reach refuge at the temple of Pu’uhonua). The summit of Mauna Kea was off-limits to commoners, and many of the protesters would have been put to death under the long-defunct religion that they are protesting in favour of.

locumranch said...


I also sat before the old B&W telly in 1969, mesmerised, wanting to be an astronaut and thinking that the Moon Landing was just the beginning of manned space exploration instead of it's apogee.

Unfortunately, it was the apogee & it's been all downhill from there with untold TRILLIONS of inflation-adjusted resources being squandered on education cum indoctrination, sociopolitical welfare, global outreach & demographic replacement programs that have deprioritised space exploration relative to the needs & wants of single mothers, bastard children & illegal immigrants.

As in the case of social justice, the feminine-primary resource allocation model lacks any definitive endpoint, it's demands being both boundless and insatiable:

Yesterday, it demanded and received free preschool, meals & aid for invalids, children, women & the elderly...

Today, it demands and receives subsidised food, housing, education & healthcare for everyone BUT white males who are expected to 'man-up' and pay for everything...

Tomorrow, it demands FREE EVERYTHING including free university level educations, internet access, universal basic income, luxury housing, state-of-the-art electric transportation & even free abortions for transgender non-women.

Gone are the days of belt-tightening, self-sacrifice, utilitarianism & asking-not-what-your-country-can-do-for-you which ushered in the Moon Landing's golden age of our once better tomorrow...

For these are the days of the eternal women-child who holds her breath until she turns blue and throws a temper tantrum if & when Daddy Government fails to acquiesce to all of her demands of 'gimmie, gimmie, gimmie'.


Best

Darrell E said...

People should be given the same respects we as a society deem due to anyone regardless of their beliefs but it is long since past time to revoke religion's trump card. Religion does not deserve any particular respect. It may be interesting as a cultural construct, it may have aesthetic appeal to some, but it's bunk. No believer has any right to not have their religion interpreted, criticized or mocked. I am completely unimpressed by piety.

In the specific case of the TMT, it's just another fucking religion blocking something most consider a good thing for stupid, selfish reasons even though they have nothing to lose.

Larry Hart said...

jim:

It seems to me that the astronomical community is acting like the rapey guy who just will not take no for an answer.


They're not the only ones.

scidata said...

Re: LightSail 2

Mission Control is a few guys with notebooks, and the solder station in the background brings a tear to my eye. Crowdfunding and the Planetary Society are close cousins to Citizen Science.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Jim, are you actually advocating people to shoot up the telescopes?
Nice setup you have here. Sure would be a shame to ruin it.

What more would you suggest that would actually appease the protesters, but also get the TMT built? The secondary site in the Canary Islands is nowhere near as good for observing.

David Brin said...

Yes(!) jim, that IS how it "seems to you" and it is utterly, utterly assholey to both think ans "see" let alone say.

Your attempt to squelch my right to have a theological opinion is just aggressive sanctimony-bullying. It also is utterly hypocritical as you throw your chest out defending (patronizing) folks who seem quite capable of speaking for themselves.


But the only real sin here in you letting sanctimony prevent you from engaging in an interesting argument over whether I made an interesting theological point. OR whether past-marginalized people - while deserving primacy of place and benefit of the doubt - are humans who might suffer from a very common syndrome that you so-well illustrate... sanctimony poisoning.


duncan cairncross said...

Re the TMT

It is not about "Religion" - it's about some assholes almost none of them from the area who are getting a high off sticking it to "the man" - there is NOTHING that can be done to appease such idiots

locumranch said...


The time for actual action is past, Jim.

Yes, it's rank hypocrisy when a community demands that People should be given the same respects we as a society deem due to anyone regardless of their beliefs but -- and that's a huge but -- then refuse to offer the same respects to other people who possess equally valid but disagreeable belief systems.

That's the beauty of our current tipping point:

We need to do zip, zero & squat for the whole corrupt edifice to come a-tumbling down as these same hypocrites (1) support diversity but demand consensus & homogeneity, (2) condemn foreign interference in domestic matters but demand open border globalism, and (3) conflate elitism & credentialism with democracy while condemning majority rule & populism.

Just sit back, pop a brewski & enjoy the show as various secular cultists don pussy-hats, hold their breath, hoop, holler, whinge, turn blue and demand that others institute these their socially progressive but self-defeating agendas.

Whether it's a Thirty Meter Telescope, more female empowerment or an End to Climate Change, these vocalists can labour, fund & realise these damn pipe dreams without any of my damn help cause I'm done.


Best

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

it's about some assholes almost none of them from the area who are getting a high off sticking it to "the man" - there is NOTHING that can be done to appease such idiots


The same people who brought us Trump and Brexit.

Larry Hart said...

Heh. Possibly the best line in Existence. Lack of context to avoid spoiling:


...or you may write intriguing stories under pseudonym, using a human author as a front-man, publishing tales that tease our imaginations, measuring how we respond.

Perhaps you lace those works with special clues that can only be deciphered by purchasing multiple copies of every one of the purported author's books.

In hardcover, yet.

scidata said...

Re: LightSail2

I'm not a Columbus fan-boy, but I've always like this quote:

Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.
- Christopher Columbus

Treebeard said...

This sounds like a religious argument to me: traditional Hawaiian beliefs about what is sacred vs. modern Western ones. To say “it’s time to revoke religion’s trump card” is an assertion of Western secular values, not an appeal to some self-evident universal truth. Why not revoke science’s trump card instead? Because science builds better weapons? I agree with Larry that there’s probably some similarity between the Trump/Brexit crowd and the telescope protestors. Both are no doubt tired of the arrogance and hubris of Western liberals, who, as jim pointed out, think they know what is best for everyone on the planet, and can’t imagine that anyone would disagree without being ignorant or evil. I guess you can add some native Hawaiians to the growing ranks of deplorables.

David Brin said...

locum/treebeard are just yammering, again. And my theological question to the Hawaiian activists remains valid, not just "western."

The distinguishing trait of a traditional god or goddess is intervention in the world through miracles. It's the same around the world. And the goddess of Mauna Kea performs one notable, exquisitely special thing almost every night, opening a clear view of the heavens.. Stop whining about how I do not have racial credential s to raise the point. ANSWER the freaking point!

locumranch said...


And in the case of Mauna Kea, the position of the nativist activists is THEOLOGICALLY WRONG (because) If the goddess is real, then she does miracles. and has powers. And there is one - exactly one - miraculous thing about Mauna Kea... its spectacular view of the heavens[DB].

This is a theologically unsound argument:

To argue that the view from Mauna Kea constitutes a divine miracle would (in turn) imply that the Hawaiian theology associated with the goddess Poli'ahu is real because the "goddess is real (because) she does miracles".

Stuff & nonsense, this is, to insist that Mauna Kea's goddess wants a big telescope (or else she wouldn't have created a 'spectacular view') which is as logical as arguing that the Old Testament God loves Climate Change (or he wouldn't have created fossil fuels) & hates a certain identity group (or he wouldn't have tried to purge, pogrom & exterminate them into non-existence).

Good Lord! I just realised that a Trump Presidency proves that God wants Trump to be US President or he wouldn't have elected him POTUS, assuming that David's reasoning is correct.


Best

Deuxglass said...

It's just an example of how a very small but very vocal group can block an important project using the "sacred" argument. Mauna Kea already has lots of telescopes on it so I would suppose that this tiny group would also want the existing telescopes be removed and that would be the next step so consequently they should not be a allowed to win. Just about every mountain, field and stream was sacred to one group or another over the eons and Mauna Lea is no different from other sacred sites all over the world that have been built upon. If it was a condo development instead of a telescope then I could see the reasoning but Mauna kea as a site is too important for scientific progress that will benefit all of humanity so the tough decision has to be made and go ahead with the project.

Sacred sites are often recycled. Notre Dame was built on the site of a Roman temple which was built over a Druid site which was built over a former sacred site and so forth going back to who knows when. The telescopes there could be seen a continuation of this sacredness since their object is not to make money or to glorify base worldly goals. They are there to explore and discover what is beyond us and in that it is a very spiritual enterprise. Just build the new telescope.

scidata said...

As a more general concern, what about posterity?

Any religions that I know about (with the possible exception of the Haida), are all about ancestors. Honor your ancestors. Obey your ancestors. Ancestral grounds are sacred and not to be questioned/reassigned. And where did the aching anxiety about the unborn suddenly go? Do they deserve nothing because they're too late to the staking maps? Is this a civilization or a giant game of Hungry Hungry Hippos?

These pearl-clutching appeals to someone else's sacred ancestral claims do seem a bit cynical and hypocritical. From the left, they smell like PC pandering. From the right, they smack of "Two Corinthians" citation.

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

When I was in my teens my family moved to Titusville, Florida just across the Indian River from Cap Canaveral. All the fathers in our neighborhood were engineers who worked there and so I got invited by them to see three Moon shoot from really close up, just a couple of miles away. That whole coast lived and breathed space at the time. I got to work for a summer job in the Vehicle Assembly Building. It's as big as they say.


jim said...

If the astronomical community would have decided to actually respect the native Hawaiian belief that the top of Mauna Kea is a sacred place and put the telescope in the Canary Islands, it would be up and running today. But no, the astronomical community decided that they should just be over privileged a-holes and desecrating that sacred place one again is what they are going to do and the natives can STFU. They have wasted 10 years and god knows how much money in the legal fight and there is still a good chance that the TMT will not be built. And if it does get built it will create a great deal of “bad blood” between the astronomical community and sections of the native Hawaiian population. Vandalism against all of the telescopes on top of Mauna Kea is a real possible response to the desecration of their sacred place.

scidata said...

Perhaps the astronomers should show "Agora" (Hypatia) on a loop, along with the scent of burning papyrus. Tulsi and Bernie would have to show their cards for real then.

Jon S. said...

I am curious - if, as stated, Mauna Kea is already littered with telescopes, why exactly is it so terribly vital that one more be installed? What does it do that the others don't?

jim said...

Jon, I am not sure that kind of argument will work.


It would be kind of received like this:
Hey we have raped your mom like a dozen times already, why are you bitching and moaning that we are planning to do it again? here is a small pile of money to dry your rape tears, now shut the fuck up, we got raping to do.

A.F. Rey said...

This does bring up interesting questions about legitimacy.

Does a person's beliefs have to be rational or logical? If the Mauna Kea protesters can't rationally answer David's questions, does that mean they have no merit? Would that imply that any belief a person has can be ignored if he can't rationally and logically defend it? Is rationality and logic the only criteria for legitimate beliefs?

How many people need to have a belief before it becomes significant? There have been between 300 and 2000 protesters at various times. Is that a big enough group to be significant? What's the lower limit? Should a single person be able to veto any project because of religious beliefs held only by him?

Who determines the legitimacy of beliefs? If a thousand people said Mickey Mouse told them to stop this telescope (even if Mickey denied he said so), would that be a legitimate objection? Or do only religions with a history have any legitimacy?

Whose beliefs have precedence? If a thousand people believe one thing, and 9 billion believe something different, should the beliefs of the thousand overrule the beliefs of the billions?

I don't think there are any absolute, or even good, answers to these questions. Which means that any absolute stance on them will ultimately fail. The protesters are not absolutely right. Those who want the observatory built are not absolutely right. There are aspects that are wrong--that trample the rights of others--in either decision. We should all recognize that.

Both decisions are imperfect. So the question really comes down to which imperfect decision is better?

Treebeard said...

A. F. Rey, legitimacy is usually determined by which side has the most power, as it probably will be in this case.

Deuxglass says:

“Mauna kea as a site is too important for scientific progress that will benefit all of humanity so the tough decision has to be made and go ahead with the project.”

This is a nice assertion of religious faith, but it’s not a statement of fact. Scientific progress may be your god, but it’s not everyone’s. You don't get to speak for all humanity, friend. Don’t you understand that?

A.F. Rey said...

A. F. Rey, legitimacy is usually determined by which side has the most power, as it probably will be in this case.

But should it be? Is that the ideal way of determining legitimacy? Is there a better way?

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

A. F. Rey, legitimacy is usually determined by which side has the most power, as it probably will be in this case.


You say that as if you disapprove--as if it would be nice if this weren't the way things are done. And all A.F. seems to be asking is what would such a (better) way look like? If all you can do is cynically shoot down the question, then you're part of the problem.


You don't get to speak for all humanity, friend. Don’t you understand that?


Likewise.

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

The protesters are not absolutely right. Those who want the observatory built are not absolutely right. There are aspects that are wrong--that trample the rights of others--in either decision. We should all recognize that.

Both decisions are imperfect. So the question really comes down to which imperfect decision is better?


Which holds for the abortion issue as well.

Larry Hart said...

jim:

"Hey we have raped your mom like a dozen times already, why are you bitching and moaning that we are planning to do it again?"


I guess it depends on whether each new telescope constitutes a new violation--i.e., fresh harm--or whether the fact of the existing telescopes means the mountain is desecrated already no matter what happens now.

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

Does a person's beliefs have to be rational or logical? If the Mauna Kea protesters can't rationally answer David's questions, does that mean they have no merit? Would that imply that any belief a person has can be ignored if he can't rationally and logically defend it? Is rationality and logic the only criteria for legitimate beliefs?


Do the implications of one's beliefs have to be rational?

I mean in the sense that devout Muslims can disagree among themselves over whether flying airplanes into the WTC was a good thing or a bad thing. It's not a question of belief vs non-belief, but of what that belief leads to or requires.

Dr Brin is making a case that the locals can have their beliefs and eat them too (so to speak). It could be worthwhile to argue the merits of his proposition, but it is not fair to say he's deciding on the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of their faith.

jim said...

Paraphrasing Larry
"you want to count each time we raped your mom as separate offence? shouldn't we be able to rape her as much as we want after that first raping?"

TheMadLibrarian said...

jim, I'm still waiting to hear if you have a proposal that would allow the telescope to be built in the best site (Mauna Kea) and still make the protesters happy, or at least mollified. So far, it seems everything I've heard boils down to variations on "F*** off!"

Deuxglass said...

Treebeard,

Wow! I never claimed to be speaking for all Humanity nor did I claim that science is a religion. I do think that science and math have a certain "spirituality" that points to a deeper meaning and that the goal of science is to find that ultimate meaning which is why scientists search.

A.F. Rey poses the real problem. It is not always possible to satisfy everybody and that in some cases both sides have legitimacy and when that happens it eventually comes down to which side gathers the most support and imposes its will on the others. Can 3,000 Hawaiians gather more support than the International Science Community? I think not.

David Brin said...

The astronomical community has pretzeled themselves for 20 years with gestures of respect, naming objects like 'Oumuamua in Hawaiian, and concluding papers with sincere and respectful acknowledgements. Native Hawaiians sit on every pertinent council and STEM scholarships abound in local schools and at UH. And it is the latter that matters and may make a difference, over the long run.

What's pertinent here he jim's reflex to double down, accusing me of being a multi-times (cultural) rapist who then suggests theological discussions over wine. Setting aside the fact that this makes jim a stunning asshole (we knew that) who deserves no respect from me at any level, only the lowest contempt...

...it also shows utter incuriosity and unwillingness to even abstractly consider the two points I raised. That (1) even those who are right can fall into self-defeating TACTICS because of sanctimony poisoning (jim being a glaring example), and (2) that a calm outsider might have something interesting to offer about theological abstractions. And what's miraculous about a mountain might be pertinent to what the goddess has in mind.

jim said...

mad librarian
You can't put the TMT on Mauna Kea without desecrating the sacred site.
So don't do it. Quit being bulling dickwads and put the telescope at the Observatorio del Roque de Los Muchachos in La Palma, Spain. You know the place where people actually want the telescope.

Larry Hart said...

jim:

Paraphrasing Larry
"you want to count each time we raped your mom as separate offence? shouldn't we be able to rape her as much as we want after that first raping?"


No, that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing, of my point.

I raised the question as to whether each new telescope would be a new offense, or whether the damage had already been done. One of those possibilities is as you allude to above--the other is not. I didn't claim to have an answer to the question.

To some, every tool is a hammer. To you, everything is apparently an allegory of rape. Now that we know that, what do we know?

Larry Hart said...

jim:

Quit being bulling dickwads


Physician, heal thyself.

jim said...

Larry
"Physician, heal thyself."

nice try Larry but I am not the one advocating desecrating a sacred place.

Larry Hart said...

@jim,

You're desecrating this sacred place.

jim said...

Larry said
"@jim,

You're desecrating this sacred place."

How ? I am being contrarian ;-)

Darrell E said...

But his stunning virtuousness comes across loud and clear.

Larry Hart said...

@jim,

How ? I am being contrarian ;-)


Heh.

Well, so is the astronomical community. "There, I've run rings around you logic'ly."

jim said...

Now come on Darrell
Respecting the sacred place of native Hawaiians isn't stunningly virtuous it is just being a decent human being.


The TMT could have already been built and in operation somewhere else if the directors/funders of the TMT had respected the native Hawaiians right to say no to the telescope.

A.F. Rey said...

Respecting the sacred place of native Hawaiians isn't stunningly virtuous it is just being a decent human being.

If it were only so simple...

How many native Hawaiians feel that building the TMT would desecrate the place? How strongly do they feel this? How many feel that it wouldn't desecrate the place, or it doesn't matter? Do those native Hawaiians who disagree have any say in the matter?

Per a quick internet search*, there are about 298,000 native Hawaiians on Hawaii, and about 560,000 nationwide. About 10 percent of Hawaiians identify themselves as native Hawaiians. The highest number of protesters I've seen is about 1000. What of the other 297,000?

While we want to give native people rights to their land and how it is used, we need to balance that with the rights of everyone else, too. We don't want a small minority, or even a mere handful of people, to dictate to everyone else (including other native Hawaiians) what can and cannot be done. Neither do we want the majority, especially a non-native, "foreign" majority, dictate to the native population what can and cannot be done. Where and how do you draw the line?

(*https://www.google.com/search?q=hawaii+native+population&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS807US807&oq=hawaii+native+population&aqs=chrome..69i57.6141j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&safe=active&ssui=on)

David Brin said...

AFR you are trying logic with a fanatic? The current agreement was made with nearly all active/grownup Hawaiian councils. It includes funding for sacred sites and the removal of telescopes to compensate for the new ones. The sanctimony radicals do NOT represent "the Hawaiian people." They are rebels, seeking to substitute deals made by deliberating representatives of those people with the heat of their self-righteous outrage.

They have tried desperately to assert that the top of Mauna Kea was previously used for sacred rites, without being able to find a single photo or news clippings, just a few rock piles that latter-day zealots claim to be evidence of vague past practices.

Notice he doubles down without addressing a single point that I actually raised. It is INTERESTING that a sacred mountain has one miraculous trait, better by far than the Canaries or anywhere else on Earth. Were I in a position to do so, I might demand a "prayer-off." Asking Poli'ahu to indicate her wishes, either by shrouding the current telescopes in fog or delivering the clearest possible window to the heavens.

And hell yes, I am on record demanding such things from fundamentalists.

Darrell E said...

No jim, it might be an example of you being a decent human being if your characterization of the issue were accurate, but it's not. And it isn't merely a matter of differing opinions. There are facts involved that you are either ignorant of or choose to pretend don't exist. You're a zealot who shamelessly strawmans jim. It's not decent.

David Brin said...

A pretty good article detailing how well-prepared humanity is, for discovering and appraising asteroids that might impact the Earth, especially two vital survey telescopes in Hawaii. Alas, we are in more danger from comets, which can come in with little warning. But there’s work on that, as well. And the NGO-nonprofit you could join, to help prevent that particular catastrophe, is the B612 Foundation.
https://gizmodo.com/who-protects-earth-from-asteroids-1836193730

Alfred Differ said...

jim,

Respecting the sacred place of native Hawaiians isn't stunningly virtuous it is just being a decent human being.


Looks more like virtue signalling to me.

Just sayin'.

David Brin said...

much as this has been enjoyable...

onward

onward

Jon S. said...

Jim, your comparison is insultingly stupid, unless each of those observatories already in place suddenly vanished. And you're not being "contrarian", you're being an asshole.

Now, back to my actual question:

Each of those telescopes already in place is doing its job, yes? Adding another just seems like gilding the lily at this point, unless it does something no other telescope already in place can accomplish. So, does it? Or is this just a case of wanting the newest thing>