Sunday, April 04, 2010

General Insights into the Future

I've continued posting my new series of intellectually stimulating 10 minute monologues on YouTube:

GrandScaleSpaceGrand-scale reasons to explore space.

Space Exploration:Planning our next steps in beyond Earth

Space Exploration: - Mining the sky: Are there economic incentives? 

Space Exploration: The Big Picture, excitement? warp drive?

Space Exploration:Ambitious tech- tethers, solar sails, space elevators.

The Transparent Society: Part 1: 

The Transparent Society: Part 2: 

      =====     =====     =====

I’m offline for a little while, so here’s just a dump of some cool/interesting items I’ve collected...

Anybody on Google Buzz?  I am now!

The online comic Schlock Mercenary had this bit about Uplift... funny! (Thanks Robert.)

See a couple of eye-opening brief articles from the Globalist:
Ending Gridlock in the U.S. Senate and
Shanghai's Coming Out Party

See a directory of ways to participate in space exploration. interact + connect with the space community.  Great signs of an age of amateurs!  But it isn’t as recent as some think.  I was an active amateur variable star observer as a teenager, way back in the 1960s!  See:

See what a boy did with a GPS tracking device, a weather balloon, and some duct tape. 

MIT neuroscientists demonstrated that they can influence people's moral judgments by disrupting a specific brain region — the  right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ). This sheds light on  how the brain constructs morality.They found that the subjects' ability to make moral judgments that require an understanding of other people's intentions — for example, a failed murder attempt — was impaired when this region was subjected to an electrical burst. 

Wiki Leaks is now under attack by the same people who campaigned against ACORN.  At least ACORN had some sins to atone for, but burying WikiLeaks is all about destroying hopeful trends in general transparency. Visit their site.  Make a donation!

“Dark Flow” of galactic clusters indicates a “direction” in our universe and possibly lots of matter “beyond” it. 

Fascinating article about the quirks and “buts” in evolution theory.

The the blogger at “Asymptosis” seems an especially bright fellow. Worth a look For example in this posting, he comments on research by Jonathan Haidt (that I’ve talked about many times) to the effect that:

Republicans (on an oversimplifying average) care equally about five spheres of morality: avoiding harm, fairness, group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity.

Democrats mostly care about only two: avoiding harm and fairness. 

The blogger adds that, according to Stephen Pinker: Libertarians look much more like liberals than like conservatives on most measures, EXCEPT those that have anything to do with compassion, on which libertarians are lower than liberals AND conservatives....  But here’s where it gets even more interesting (for me at least). A commenter suggests that “libertarianism essentially amounts to is the political expression of autism.”

Yipe!  Of course, this could help explain why a movement whose basic premise is so attractive to American psyches does so badly in elections.  Or the fact that libertarians who extol cut-throat competition tend to have done very badly at it, in real life.  Or their historical amnesia, ignoring who - across 4,000 years - were the real oppressors.  I do quibble with Haidt’s simplistic “2 vs 5” morality check, though.  In fact, many liberals are VERY attentive to “group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity.”  Their loyalty is often to more abstract versions of group, authority and purity... and it is that level of abstraction that I believe constitutes the real difference between them and conservatives.

     =====     =====     =====

Finally, do not let your tea-drinking brother in law avoid acknowledging two facts:

1) that the "socialist" Obamacare bill was first written at the Heritage Foundation as the GOP alternative to Hillarycare, in 1993, therefore the neocon screeching hate-fest is entirely fact-free.

2) that a certain foreign, hostile (but brilliant) royal family owns up to 20% of Fox.  Now how would they be using that influence?

Enough.  I am off line for a while.  Keep up the fight.  NOT for "the left" or even liberalism.  I care little about narrowing my range of choices, which is why I most despise those who have made the Right an impossible  shopping ground for modern solutions. No. Fight for the general Western Enlightenment, for the American Experiment, and a return to sanity among many of our brothers and sisters who've mixed Koolaid with their tea.


astranavigo said...

"Keep up the fight. NOT for "the left" or even liberalism. I care little about narrowing my range of choices, which is why I most despise those who have made the Right an impossible shopping ground for modern solutions. No. Fight for the general Western Enlightenment, for the American Experiment, and a return to sanity among many of our brothers and sisters who've mixed Koolaid with their tea."


Not many things I wish I'd said in life - but this is one.

Thank you!

Ian said...

The first extended discussion I took part in here was with people advocating increased protectionism as a solution ot America's recession.

Such people might want to consider this:

"Factories kick-started the U.S. economy from its worst recession in seven decades. Now they’re taking the lead in reviving the labor market.

Manufacturers so far this year have added 45,000 workers to payrolls, the biggest three-month gain in the industry since March-May 2004. A 17,000 increase at factories last month was part of a 162,000 rise in employment, the most in three years, Labor Department figures showed April 2.

The gains in factory employment underscore recent data that show manufacturers are ramping up production as companies invest in equipment, replenish inventories and export more goods. Caterpillar Inc. is among those adding staff, showing the recovery that began last year is beginning to add the jobs needed to lift consumer spending and sustain the expansion.

Manufacturing is “now adding jobs directly and probably indirectly as well since some service-sector workers are doing work for manufacturers,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. “If they’re doing work for a manufacturer then really that job was created by manufacturing.”"

Woozle said...

Re Haidt: I've found myself rather skeptical of his "five pillars" theory; some analysis of that is here.

I've also been rather harsh with some of Haidt's extrapolations of this theory; see this.

Looking forward to reading what Asymptosis has to say on the subject.

John Kurman said...

The link for asymptosis is incorrect. Try Asymptosis.

The specific posting regarding libertarianism as a political form of autism can be found at:

As is mentioned in the post, Haidt's reserch is recounted in an article by Pinker. It is Tyler Cowen, in his book Create Your Own Economy who explores the autism theme. Although Cowen is not the originator of the idea. I've heard several politcal scientists note the comparison between libertarians and autists: including noting that John Gault seems to be a classic Aspie. And not surprising considering the character was developed by a completely psychotic sociopath (Rand), it's surprising that the poor sap has any human qualities.

As the uncle of an Aspie, and in fact more than likely "in the spectrum" (along with my brothers, though, sadly, I did not receive any savant skills that they all did), I can attest to the fact from personal experience that liberttrarians are indeed politically autistic: good at cataloging and classifiying utopian scenarios, but not quite ready for real-world situations.
But I digress...

The Guardian article is actually old news, as a google search on "epigenetics" would show. I personally like the idea that DNA is the hardware, not the software, of life, and that the actual programming language is not only, the "junk" DNA, but the methyl groups that attach to the DNA and to the extranuclear and (possibly extracellular?) protein factors as well. We are really only just now starting to understand biology. Cant' wait for more!

I would also note that I don't actually appreciate the Geographic presentation of "darkflow" matter beyond the Horizon as the "multiuniverse". It's simply more of our universe. As to whether "our" laws apply beyond the horizon, I'd hazard a guess that they do, for several quadrillion quintillions octillions of light-years (big enough for ya?) in extent, but beyond that it's all turtles all the way out.

ZarPaulus said...

I have Asperger's, and I considered Libertarianism for a bit. But then I realized that while the Free Market seems like a good idea, those in charge are too greedy and short-sighted. If capitalists were more logical and thought in the long term a Free Market might work without the "boom-and-bust" cycle.

@John Kurman: Do we agree then that Ayn Rand was completely devoid of empathy and not merely lacking apparent empathy.

Greg Sanders said...

To answer your question about Buzz, I'm a reader and rare commenter and I sometimes make use of it (attached to the google account I'm commenting from).

I view it essentially as a somewhat clunky add-on to Google Reader that makes it easier to have conversation with other people that use Reader over shared items. Otherwise, there's not really a trivially easy way I know of to get notified when someone comments on an article you share or an article you'd commented on.

I also have gotten to know a little bit about people I know only because we follow each others shared feeds via reader (in my case, they all initiated I'm not sure exactly how they found mine, perhaps they just noticed we liked a lot of the same stuff.) That has proven to be a reasonably rewarding experience. The other readers act as filter for blogs I don't normally read and have lead me to start following one or two new ones.

All and all, I'm not sure it would really be worthwhile as a standalone app. I'm not entirely clear on why some items are buzzes and others are not and the option settings don't offer nearly the depth I'd like. However, if you use Reader and can accept the partial loss of privacy it seems worth using to me.

Tim H. said...

An amusing cheap shot:

ZarPaulus said...

I should probably note that while I do find the observation that people on the autism spectrum tend towards simple ethics accurate (my moral code can be summed up as DON'T HURT PEOPLE). I do not think it appropriate to call the lack of compassion and morality in Libertarians "politically autistic". I may not be very good at recognizing emotions in others but if I can I can usually empathize with them. Just look at what Wikipedia says about empathy and compassion in autistics:

Oh, and I think that my Tea-party relatives are more likely to dump their tea in the harbor and spike their kool-aid with cheap beer.

John Kurman said...


But...but... in a truly free market, greed is automatically policed for and excised. The greedy go bankrupt! Okay, okay, yeah it's pretty much all silly.

Anyway, I didn't call her a psychotic sociopath for nothing. She was a con artist, a meth-addicted, amoral freak show. And her "Atlas Shrugged" is to literature what "Battlefield Earth" is to film, and not a bad comparison considering who authored that piece of dreck. But she was not in the spectrum, if that's what you are wondering.

ZarPaulus said...

Being on the autism spectrum would require some empathy and compassion. If you don't have any, you have antisocial personality disorder, popularly known as sociopathy/psychopathy.

Anonymous said...

Brin here. On the road. I don not mean to insult libertarians. I simply flounder in search of an explanation for why such bright people... with an essentially correct BASIC worldview (implicitly Reciprocal Accountability) can be so historically clueless, so easily manipulated and so utterly unable to perceive the pragmatically incremental path that will take us to a future of freedom.

ElitistB said...

The guardian article should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, if you take up a discussion of epigenetics with Richard Dawkins, I'm sure you'd have no problems discussing it with him. Meanwhile the author of the article implies that he'd "into even more of a rage than usual", which is doubtful, and even Dawkins "rage" simply means that he'd either stop talking to you or inform you of how you are incorrect.

Basically the author is attempting to imply that evolutionary science is some sort of dogma that is unchanging. For instance he spends about 1/3rd of the article on an unrelated subject, the book "What Darwin Got Wrong". This is a book that points out the fact that Darwin didn't know anything about genetics, retroviral DNA insertion, or basically anything that was discovered after his death, which is transparently obvious, since Darwin was dead.

Basically he is trying to use the fact that science is ongoing as a reason to doubt the experts, when it is the experts themselves that found the information he himself is using to sow doubt.

The Guardian might not be such a good place to link articles from.

SteveO said...

Dr. Brin,

I have done a lot of home recording, and one thing that can really improve the perceived quality of the recording is a decent lavelier mic. As it is your voice is too "far away" for real presence. I use the Audio-Technica ATR-35S. It is cheap and has decent recording quality. Very worth it.

Unknown said...

including noting that John Gault seems to be a classic Aspie. And not surprising considering the character was developed by a completely psychotic sociopath (Rand), it's surprising that the poor sap has any human qualities.

I think Ayn Rand became less compassionate as she aged. Her earlier books have more human characters.

Atlas Shrugged was the last and was the most ridiculous, with the protagonist inheriting a railroad, griping about the help, and trampling unworthy strawmen on her road to greatness. Dagny Taggart's love scenes are described with manufacturing metaphors. Someone asks Francisco D'Anconia an ideology question at a cocktail party, and his answer is over twenty pages long. Absurd!

The Fountainhead was a little more reasonable. Howard Roark still had a not-quite-human work ethic, but otherwise, he was almost a human being. He had a sincere interest in girls, for instance. And he didn't magically win every battle due to his superior virtue. But it was still a fable intended to whack us over the head with a lesson.

In contrast, I found We The Living fascinating. It takes place during the October revolution, and is probably autobiographical. The main character is driven by ambition and infatuation, not ideology. She tries to get along the best she can under the circumstances, flounders, and fails really badly. I deem this Ayn Rand's most realistic book! :)

Tacitus2 said...

Like Dr. Brin I will be on hiatus, mostly. More on that presently.

First, old business.

Ian, you may recall our wager, on RCP averages of Congressional Job Approval. I predicted an absolute "floor" of approval at about 17% and further predicted at least a 0.5% drop in approval with passage of the health care legislation.

From the then current 19.3% we are now at 18.5%, having bottomed out at 17.4%. Now, it must be acknowleged that there has, very curiously, only been one poll done in the designated two weeks, and that was the Administration friendly Washington Post. But even it, at 22% is down two full points from their last such measure in February, and as per a previous discussion, they cheated on their sample selection.

But with scant data I can hardly hold you to our terms, hence I encourage you to just use your time and money to do what good in the world you can. A faint "Ave Tacitus! Punditus Maximus!" would be nice though...

I am gearing up for a long work stretch followed by my annual archeology trip. That's half my reason for hiatus.

The other, and I will be frank, is that the quality of discussion seems to have declined of late. Such anger about those with whom you disagree is unseemly, and I sometimes feel my contributions inflame rather than illuminate.

I have been reading up a bit regards a certain Judge Learned Hand (great name!). I think we'd all approve of him. He scorned FDRs plan to pack the Supreme Court, which may well have cost him a seat on same. And he was scathing in his criticism of McCarthyism.

He also had a fine way with words, a few of which I commend to you all:

"The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit that seeks to understand the minds of other men and women."

Sage words from a wiser era.

Back in a few weeks.


Tacitus2 said...

minor correction. current WaPo congression approval is at 24%, but is still down 2% from an ABC/WaPo poll in Feb. WaPo is usually 4% or so higher than other pollsters on this number.


SteveO said...

On space mining - I would be a HUGE supporter of this for a variety of reasons...except.

All the difficult bits are trivial (in the scientific sense, not the engineering sense!) EXCEPT I can't figure out how to get the raw materials down to the planet where they would do the most good.

If I have a gigaton of refined steel (or gold or platinum) on orbit, I can only think of really bad (drop it down and it makes a really big explosion, a really deep hole, and spreads your product all over the place in an unusable way) or really expensive ways to get it to the surface, which would negate all the benefits we would expect (including refilling our overdrawn natural resources account).

Maybe you all can come up with one - I hope so. But I think space mining will only be usable for construction in space. If we want to build a Stanford station at GEO, that would be a good way to get our volatiles and construction materials. I don't see it as being transported to the surface though.

...which is a big deal, since what I fear is that we are closing in on that point where we won't have enough energy or raw materials to leave the surface of the planet and will be left to stew in our own depleted juices.

And I don't WANT to think that! So come up with an economical way to get it to the surface, please!

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Steveo

If I had a gig-tonne of iron in earth orbit
(1) Use mirrors to heat it and foam it to reduce the density (any old gas would do as the foaming agent)
The goal is
Closed cell structure
Density less than 1

Arrange for a cleared patch of ocean

Apply thrust to intersect the atmosphere - carefully calculated trajectory

The large mass enters the earths atmosphere - is strong enough not to break up - atmospheric drag slows it to just supersonic speed
Hot iron mass hits the ocean, - rapidly cools
Your tug boats latch onto the floating mass and tows it home

If the mass it too big (no idea how big that is) then cut it up into smaller lumps before de-orbiting

That would be the concept, the devil is in the details

Smaller pieces (100 tonnes) could be simply de-orbited to land on a suitable land site

The nickel iron meteorites the Inuit were using before Commodore Peary collared them show that meteorites of that size can crash-land and remain whole

Ilithi Dragon said...

You could always bolt on a heat-shielded parachute pack for smaller lumps, if you don't want to deal with the problems of an impact event (PR-wise included).

On Wikileaks, you guys should see this:

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Ilithi

I think a smart entrepreneur could make something from the "impact events"

Jonathan S. said...

Speaking of autism, the MIT study was interesting. So, interfering with the function of the temporo-parietal junction in a neurologically typical person (NT) reduces that person's ability to understand another's probable feelings in context, without in fact interfering with the ability to empathize in its broadest sense?

Sounds a bit familiar to this Aspie... :-)

aromixic: characterized by a combination of odors

Anonymous said...

Tacitus report back to us re the archaeology. And come back! You are an interesting and valued fellow.

David Brin on the road...

SteveO said...

Hey Duncan,

I don't think that will work for a number of reasons. I am a metallurgical engineer, and you really can't foam steel or other metals that way. :) You could put bubbles or voids in, but nothing like a foam (though who knows what you could do in freefall - maybe a shearing impeller). Steel or iron is about 7.8 g/cm3, so you would need to increase the volume by around 8 times, which is double the radius.

Even if you could, you still have the orbital speed and mass being the same, so you have exactly the same momentum to get rid of. That means big rockets to decelerate (-$$$ offsetting or eliminating the cost benefit) or it hits the atmosphere with a huge amount of kinetic energy. Something that big would not only cause a nuclear-sized explosion on impact but would superheat a big chunk of atmosphere on the way down. Just dropping smaller chunks would vaporize quite a bit, leaving a lot less than we started off with (-$$$) so while you would get something, I doubt it would be economical, and it would not pay for the destruction.

If we try to aerobrake it, that throws in a lot of variability as to where it will end up, as well as burning up a lot of our product in the atmosphere and adding a lot of heat to it.

Meteorites can and have been used as a source, but they are pretty small and not economical at the scale we are talking about. Basically, it was the only way to get iron alloys. Plus a lot of the original mass burned or ablated away during re-entry (albeit at higher speeds probably).

It is a LOT cheaper to recycle or smelt new steel than use that steel.

The problems continue for higher value metals. There might be some sort of controlled crash landing breakeven point, but using price Earth to LEO as a starting point of price of LEO to Earth using SpaceX now is around $4,000 per pound, discount that some for a hard, but non-destructive landing, add a LOT for bringing it down from some much farther orbit that LEO (since there is no way we will bring a large asteroid to LEO), and you don't have much if anything that makes sense to send down.

Ilithi Dragon, parachutes won't work for the initial slowing - in spacecraft that is done by ablation first, then (for Earth anyway) when you are near to terminal velocity do the parachutes engage. That would be a lot of chutes too for a lot of little chunks.

Now build me a space elevator and I can see a way...

I still want an economical way to get it down. I especially want some rare earths we can use without going through China. I haven't seen one yet that would inspire an investor.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Steve0

The idea is you let it hit the atmosphere fast, yes there is a lot of energy but the atmosphere will slow it down, ablation is not an issue with a steel lump!
Metal tanks on satellites re-enter intact enough to be recognizable.

Metal asteroids re-enter at much higher speeds (minimum twice the energy) but they make it down intact

The problem with Nickel Iron meteorites like the one at meteor crater was the energy still retained at impact which vaporised the meteor and a large part of the landscape
That was a big lump!

Smaller objects slow down more and hit more softly

Smaller meteorites drill holes rather than blowing craters

Foaming would achieve two things
Reduce the density and increase the deceleration in the atmosphere

Make it float so you could use ocean recovery

If foaming is too difficult you will need

A large piece of wasteland as a target area

You would have to calculate the optimum size of projectile

Bigger means a bigger hole but less variability due to atmospheric conditions (smaller target)

I don't know what the optimum size would be?

Ten tonne lumps would have almost no ablation and would not dig themselves too deep (I think) and would be small enough to be hoisted onto the recovery vehicles

I envisage a cycle of deposition followed by a cycle of recovery!

I bet ten tonne lumps (just more than 1 meter in diameter)could be landed in a one kilometer square

possible a 20 meter square!

Acacia H. said...

You're forgetting one thing: the use of other materials as ablative shields. Asteroids are not just floating lumps of metal. They are floating lumps of carbon, silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, and other materials. While the oxygen and hydrogen would be far too useful to waste in a drop (unless you were dropping multiple ice asteroids onto Mars to build larger oceans, or onto Venus to terraform the planet), the silicon itself would make a very useful shield to keep the iron and other metals from ablating away.

Indeed, you can use the iron as an ablative shield for the other metals that are truly worth something. Thus the iron is just a byproduct of a drop meant to safely put rare earths on the planet.

For that matter, you can also use that hydrogen and oxygen in a rocket that is used for a power descent. We use unpowered descents which result in a large amount of friction going down. But if you have a powered descent stage meant to bleed off a lot of the velocity without burning off mass, then you could use parachutes for the final descent.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

rewinn said...

About landing valuable materials from LEO: Perhaps it would help to devise a way to capture the heat energy derived from the landing of the materials. I haven't the foggiest notion how that might be done, but just throwing it away seems wasteful, especially since the effort of throwing it away is the major cost driver. If we currently lack the materials for a Clarkeian space elevator, can a virtual elevator be constructed by, perhaps, installing a cooling system in our descent vehicle/asteroid's heatshield that spills the heat into a microwave laser (or whatever McGuffin) could send the juice either into a big sink (like the sun) or a collection point (preferably in orbit so as to reduce the risk of a slight error taking out Thule (as per the 1960s-era Analog/Astounding novellette "Where I Wasn't Going"). Perhaps the earthward side of the moon could be laced with cables to collect the microwaves from the slowly descending asteroid to power what-ever it is we want to be doing on the moon (the cables carefully tinted to avoid interfering with the nighttime enjoyment of earthbound lovers ... and certainly not capable of displaying advertisements for "6+ Cola" per "The Man Who Sold the Moon".


I'm sorry to see tactitus' hiatus and look forward to reports on archeology. You never know when what is old to you may be news to us!

It would be helpful to recruit some more reasonable conservatives like Big T but I have no idea how.

rewinn said...

P.S. using the cooling system of a space vehicle to power a laser is an idea I got from a really uplifting "locked space-craft" murder mystery which I'm sure some of y'all may have heard of.

Acacia H. said...

Actually, current materials are sufficient for an unattached elevator structure. The basic concept is that aircraft would fly up to the elevator, dock, and unload cargo to go into orbit. The logistics of this are problematic and we don't know if it would be a viable "launch" platform... but it does offer a second possibility: a descent platform.

In short, use the elevator to lower materials into the atmosphere and then "drop" them to the ground. There is no reentry friction and the drop zone would be someplace likely to be uninhabited. Material loss from fractured drops would be fairly minimal (though we might want to use a geographically-stable region so the constant drops don't result in tectonic activity).

This can also be used for reusable spacecraft. Use the partial elevator to lower space capsules through the atmosphere without the friction of reentry. Then the craft could either be winged to glide to a final landing, or a capsule with parachutes; undoubtedly a winged system would be preferable as it would allow craft to go to a specific landing zone.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

(Ah, that's what it's called. A skyhook. My bad...)

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

What's this? Some hints of Republican moderation?

How long into the impending FOX News firestorm against him do you think he'll maintain that attitude?

Tim H. said...

Sounds like "The Descent of Anansi". Seriously, energy might be the most economical space-derived commodity, if the "Tin foil hat brigade" allows it.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Maybe we could tell them that they would be safe from any space-born energy attacks because their tinfoil hat would deflect the energy away?

SteveO said...

Some cool ideas - I knew I could count on you all for that!

Keep in mind, we are probably coming down from GEO or further, not LEO, so we have a LOT of energy to lose. It was (and is) a HUGE technological barrier to lose enough energy to allow people to return to the surface of Earth from the Moon.

Duncan, I did address the "hitting atmosphere fast vs. slow." Momentum is conserved, so either it hits fast for cheap (and all the orbital momentum goes into the atmosphere or ground or water at the end) or it hits slow but is prohibitively expensive since we need to pay a lot of money to slow it down before it gets to the atmosphere. (This is why "nuking" an impending meteorite won't help anything if all the mass still hits. It is like getting shot with a rifle or a shotgun - same amount of kinetic energy applied in different ways. A million little bits of a meteor turn their kinetic energy into heating the atmosphere by exactly the same amount as the intact thing would have heated the ocean or ground - maybe more, actually. Worldwide atmospheric flash fire = bad.) "Foaming" metal doesn't get rid of the momentum - it makes the cross-sectional area larger (so that momentum turns into superheated air rather than superheated rock or water). The greater the drag, the more heat into the object. Steel/Iron will burn quite easily at re-entry temps. Foamed steel would burn better (thinner walls and more surface area). Heck rub a piece of steel and flint together to see what I mean - but don't make it very many steel shavings!!! True it wouldn't have much time to burn at those speeds before impact (depending on the entry angle) so the heat pulse might not burn or melt the whole thing, but you still have huge amounts of energy added to the atmosphere and/or surface and it probably hasn't really slowed that much. [Sorry, I don't can't do a calculation on hypersonic aerobraking :) ] I think you would end up with Really Bad Things either way you go on that one. Crater shape has to do with the bulk properties of the material it hits, not the speed or angle of impact (past a certain minimum). Crater size has to do with momentum mostly.

One could make a parallel argument to yours about the fuel tanks that survive partially intact by saying that nematodes survived the Columbia shuttle disaster are evidence that we can use unpowered reentry for those little guys in their canister. They (and the bits of fuel tank) survive because almost all that energy was absorbed somewhere else.

SteveO said...

Robert, good idea for the other materials as ablatives - I hadn't thought of that! Still, that is a huge amount of energy. Using glass (silicates) wouldn't work as an ablative. As the name implies, they need to ablate to work - the blowing of the gases is what protects what is behind it and the unablated bulk material. I suspect glass would just slough off not doing much protecting and we are back to a chunk o' iron screaming down.

Powered descent is what I talked about as probably prohibitively expensive. Buuuut, how about a lifting body shape with some rudimentary controls and retractable spoilers? You would try to lose most of your momentum in the high atmosphere and then semi-glide to a controlled crash-landing. What are the problems that approach?

Rewinn - fascinating idea - not sure how to turn that kinetic energy into something usable though. Re-entry creates a plasma envelope around the thing, which is very tricky to get even radio waves out of - probably not a good idea to use a laser or maser or something - it might reflect back and fry your payload. And keeping a beam pointed in a particular direction during re-entry would be challenging - impossible if you are going to be doing any maneuvering. While we can't be energy positive with stuff we send up to orbit in the first place, if we can somehow capture the kinetic energy of an asteroid that we didn't have to put up there, maybe...

Robert - skyhook is an interesting idea. I'd like to see something about how it is within range of current materials if you have a link. Seems like if you could make that, it is a small step to getting that hook down to the surface for an elevator. (I still have hopes for that!) GreenPeace is going to occupy the drop zone as a protest against repeated environmental pummeling, I betcha.

Acacia H. said...

It would seem a "small thing" to have the skyhook end up connected to the ground (space elevator) but the problem is, the longer the tether, the greater the stress. You can, with steel and other metals, make a skyhook and have it work within the stress limitations of the materials on hand. But to extend that by just a hundred (or even twenty!) kilometers and have it touch the ground will require materials stronger than carbon nanotube structures according to some simulations.

The benefit of the skyhook is that it isn't secured on the ground and doesn't have nearly the length that a space elevator would. The disadvantage is that you have to fly things up to it. (I suppose the best method would be using dirigibles to fly up to the platform - I state dirigibles rather than balloons as then you can direct it easier than relying on the whims of the winds.)

While getting things up to a skyhook can be problematic, releasing them from a skyhook is not. Thus I see the skyhook as a useful descent platform to allow for reentry of ships and materials without requiring extensive head shielding. And once the velocity of the object is bled off, you just let it go and it drops to the ground. Sure, it will leave holes, but not nearly to the extent that full atmospheric reentry would.

As for bleeding off the initial velocity, aerobraking or aerocapture can be used to lessen the velocity of the material being sent to Earth. The problem is, of course, getting the proper trajectory so it skips through the atmosphere rather than ripping into the planet itself.

Rob H., who got most of this information off of Wikipedia

Tony Fisk said...

Rob, I've been pondering skyhooks for a while as well (see here, for example.

The use of evacuated spaces for buoyancy can be traced back to the seventeenth century, and an italian monk called Francis Lana. (I call them 'vubbles')

Tony Fisk said...

... No, we do not have the technology for vubbles, yet (although I harbour a little fantasy of one day being able to demonstrate the future of air transport to some venture capitalist... with a bicycle pump!)

Which reminds me... feast your eyes on this glorious amalgam of steampunk phantasmogorica. It *ought* to be able to work!

David McCabe said...

Naive layman idea: Can we use a solar sail to decelerate it into a lower orbit?

Anonymous said...

Not solar sails. sails are too slow and do not function well below geo. Above geo, when time is NOT of the essence, sails are great for moving bulk, non perishable cargos... not steel but maybe refined rare earths.

Below Geo some ways, you get into the van allen radiation belts. The is the glory realm of electrodynamic tethers, which can leverage against the earth's magnetic field and turn momentum into energy & vice versa. Such tethers could maneuver cargoes almost at will, then backfling them into the lowest-energy path to earth, you can send the items down with fairly low heat and fuss.

see the Brin story Tank Farm Dynamo.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Steve0

Energy and the effects on earth

World Steel production in 2007 was 1.3 Billion tonnes

So let’s have a Billion tonnes of iron in space
(640 meters sphere)

Assume fall from infinity – 11.2Km/sec

17.4 Kwhrs/kg

1000,000,000,000 x 17.4 Kwhrs

17.4 x 10 to the 12th Kwhrs

Solar exposure is about 7 Kwhrs/m2/day

Area that absorbs that much solar energy in one year

6.8 x 10 to the 9th m2

6.8 x 10 to the 3th squareKm

Or a square of desert 82 Km on a side

If you did it all on one day it is equivalent to the sunshine on a piece of desert 1550 Km on a side
Big, but you would lose it in some deserts
And you wouldn’t drop it all at once – it would depress the price of steel!

So the energy input is not a problem to the atmosphere

The shuttle does not work using ablation – it is intended to re-enter without using up its tiles

The idea is that the energy is carried away by the air and by radiation

Let’s chop our billion tonnes into 3 meter spheres

A 3 meter iron sphere would weigh about 111 tonnes and would have a terminal velocity in atmosphere of about 720 M/sec – slower than some artillery so it should survive impact with the ground

I calculate that simple aerodynamic drag would drop such a sphere to terminal velocity
Remember we are not changing the orbital velocity much so the ball will just scrape into the atmosphere and go half way around the world before “landing

The energy input would be high but not nearly enough to melt a 111 tonnes of steel
Imagine blowing a gas torch on the front of an aeroplane compared to the front of a 111 tonne steel ball

The aeroplane (shuttle) needs its tiles as protection

There is more than enough energy to vaporise our ball but it is not well coupled and would be wasted into the atmosphere
Think about a torch on the front of our ball hot enough to transmit that much energy, then think about the energy radiating away at the fourth power of temperature

A small sphere would vaporise, a 3 meter sphere would probably not even melt the surface.
This was my point about parts of satellites surviving re-entry

The idea is to go between the small ball that vaporises and the larger ball that retains too much speed and hits too hard.

A hollow sphere is even better for two reasons
A larger and heavier sphere will be slowed down by the atmosphere
If it survives the impact with the water it would float and enable you to use the oceans as a landing zone

I don’t see any reason why this method would not work

Given a simple uncontrolled sphere could be used
In practice a lifting body with some control surfaces massing much more than my 111 tonnes would probably be used

An iron sphere is not a spaceship

Acacia H. said...

And yet by using a good portion of that material to build a skyhook and another portion as a counterweight, you have a device that could lower portions of that iron sphere to the Earth without even worrying about reentry, possible permutations to its reentry (what happens if it goes off course and lands in China or Russia? You just lost your metal because they'll claim salvage rights), and a device that could be used for lowering more fragile goods into the atmosphere to either glide to safety, or parachute to safety.

Rob H.

Ian said...

"(what happens if it goes off course and lands in China or Russia? You just lost your metal because they'll claim salvage rights),"

I'd be more worried about how Russia and China would react to any other nation getting the power to drop a few thousand 3 metre steel projectiles on them at will.

Acacia H. said...

And if it's a private industry instead of another nation? ^^;;

Acacia H. said...

Here's a little something that would warm Tacticus's heart if he were online to view it: a more balanced look at the Tea Party movement that moves them away from the stereotypes that have evolved of them being racist white men who are trying to start the Second American Civil War, and more toward a very human movement that dislikes the direction America is moving, including blacks, whites, patriots, mothers, rappers, older people, and more.

Personally, I hope the Tea Party movement manages to do one truly useful thing, and that's damage the Republican Party so that they make insignificant gains in 2010. But considering that the economy is doing better, hiring is on the increase, and health care is a has-been... I suspect in a few months when the political season is in full bloom, you'll see less hatred toward Democrats as the messages of gradual improvement to the economy gets out there.

Assuming rising gas prices doesn't kill the recovery, that is.

Rob H.

Doug said...

If you've got steel (and other materials) in orbit, why would you want to bring it down to Earth? It's worth so much more up there -- it's already out of the deep gravity well, and you don't have to boost it up using very valuable energy. Maybe some rare earths or other resources hard to obtain on Terra might be worth it, but if we have a mining infrastructure in space, it seems to me we'd be better off keeping the resources up there, and using them in situ to make more mining craft, habitats, colonies, and manufacturing infrastructure.

We still have vast reserves of iron ore (mostly due to the Great Oxygenation Event), and I just can't see a need to start importing steel from space anytime in the near future. (Ask me again in a thousand years, though.)

Rocky Persaud said...

This multicellular creature has no mitochrondria and uses no oxygen. I'm tempted to wonder how we know it evolved on Earth rather than Mars or out in the vicinity of Alpha Centauri?

rewinn said...


Cool finding!

The difference between science and irrationality can, I cheerfully predict, be seen in differing reactions to the discovery of a fact difficult to fit into contemporary theories.

Scientific response: "Geez, that's interesting. We'll have to change our theory to fit this in."

Irrational response: "Your entire theory is disproven! This could not have evolved from any ancestral creature with mitochondria etc!"

(I use the term "Irrational" instead of "Religious" because, today, only an irrational minority of the religious oppose the scientific method, albeit a noisy one.)

rewinn said...

Thanks for the kind words.

Query: is the plasma an inevitable feature of re-entry, or merely an artifact of our current preference for fast reentry? Perhaps a slower reentry path (via a lifting body shape?) could avoid that problem. Certainly ensuring that the emitted radiation (in whatever form) goes away from anything we value would also be an issue but I don't know if it would be unsolvable in principle.

However it may also be moot if, as others seem to be suggesting, the economic benefit of keeping materials in orbit would outweigh that of being able to drop meter-wide pellets any where on earth, not to mention understandable concerns about a fleet of orbital shotguns. Of course, if *we* controlled them, we would use them only for *good*! May I assume we have substantial agreement on how understanding every other nation would be with that?

The immediate problem: I'm having difficulty calculating the gauge of a weapon employing meter-wide pellets - any suggestions?

SteveO said...

Fun stuff!

@Robert: what flavor of skyhook are you thinking of? From your comments I interpret your meaning to be geostationary, which has essentially the same material strength property issues as a space elevator (a geosynchronous skyhook would still need to go beyond GEO). If it is the LEO orbit kind, you are just moving numbers around - where did the energy come from to either a) boost the mass up there or b) make it at the asteroid and drop it down to LEO? Then you have to use energy to slow and stop the big chunks of metal in order to lower them down the skyhook. TANSTAAFL.

The shuttle has to lose a lot less energy per unit area since it is only coming down from LEO - no way you could use tiles on a return from a moon shot. But as you say, you don't need heat protection on a chunk o' steel. Your free fall from infinity is probably worse than what we would have to handle - GEO is a little less than that to surface (~16kWh/kg), which works to our advantage. Problem is, that much energy (6.3 million TJ) is more energy than has been expended in all nuclear testing combined. So either the Earth takes that much additional energy over time as heat (no idea what bulk heating this would transfer to the atmosphere) or you find that energy elsewhere and use it to soft land your metal, in bits or all at once doesn't matter, or something in between. Conservation of energy must be maintained.

I don't know what size we would need to get down to in order to allow it to slow down to terminal velocity before it hits, but terminal velocity means almost all the orbital potential and kinetic energy has been transferred to the atmosphere as heat - the remaining bit when it hits the ground or water.

Monolithic meteorites that survive impact are cold when they hit the ground - not enough time for the heat pulse to penetrate very far - burning up monolithic steel is not the problem - foamed steel (if we could do it) might have enough surface area to burn and ablate much more quickly. And still, all that energy goes into the atmosphere.

The benefit of a lifting body with spoilers would be to put that energy in the super high atmosphere, where it would presumably more rapidly radiate, then glide to a crash landing with only a fraction of the orbital energy left. Not sure what that would do to the atmosphere though...

We will have our garbage dumps to mine for common metals (aluminum, steel) as well as eventually economical traces of precious metals and some rare earths for some time to come, but of course there are inefficiencies (read "net energy input needed") involved.

Still, as I said before, much as I want to, I don't see an economic incentive to asteroid mining for Earth purposes because I still can't see how you would make up for the huge amounts of energy (supplied either by us as rockets or the Earth as increased temperature) to get it down. Even with rare earths, it is a lot cheaper to pay a price-gouging China than to try to bring it here from an asteroid. If we are constructing a space habitat or large spaceship, something like that is viable.

Ian Gould said...

spacechampion, that link isn't working for me - do you have an alternate link?

Ian Gould said...

Never mind, found it.

Ian Gould said...


You know so much more than I about this stuff that I'm almost embarassed to ask questions.

I'm going on vague memories of old articles by the late Charles Sheffield, but I think some of the ideas he proposed were a skyhook in a highly elliptical orbit, with incoming cargo arriving when it was out near GEO then being launched to the Earth's surface from flow EArth orbit.

He also suggested, a rotating skyhook that, once again, picks up orbit at the upper end and launches it to Earth fro the lowe end.

Assuming either of these is feasible, would it make a significant difference to the problem?

SteveO said...


Heh, I don't know this stuff - I know engineering and apply it to this stuff. :)

So a skyhook could be a cable that is put up in LEO (using energy). It stays up there falling around the Earth. Now if we drop the end of the cable down, we still have the same momentum (except for what we would lose to heating the air due to friction) but we are trading kinetic and potential energy from one part of the cable to another part, so the tip slows down.

Then the idea is that you hook something to the tip, and then "pull" the cable back up and end up with the thing in orbit. In order to do that, you still need energy, and you get it from the momentum of the rest of the cable, and THAT means that the rest of the cable slows down.

So if you think of it in terms of energy, you have taken, say, electrical energy, stored a portion of that as hydrogen and oxygen, and used that chemical energy to blast a cable (or a bunch of cables that you link up) up to orbit, turning some of that chemical energy into momentum in the cable. Then you use a portion of that momentum to yank something up from the ground.

So eventually, the cable will fall out of orbit, and due to losses at each step of the way, the amount of cargo you could yank up is less than what you could have boosted up on a rocket (though I'd guess it would be a smoother ride).

Now you can "recharge" the momentum of course, and if you can find a way to do this for free, then you have a cheap way to orbit. Maybe you put big "sails" on it and space junk whacks into it, imparting momentum.

Now dropping stuff from orbit to surface is interesting. If it takes energy to take stuff from surface to orbit, maybe it stores energy (increases the momentum of the skyhook) to take a mass at orbital speed and place it down near the surface. Problem here is that it takes energy to do that, and I'm not sure that you wouldn't run into the same issue of losses at each step, so whether or not you could actually gain energy dropping stuff from a skyhook, I guess I don't know.

A potential solution to the problem of getting raw material from an asteroid to Earth? I hope so! People here will critique, and I will think on it some more. Basically turning the orbital energy of the asteroid into momentum in the skyhook.

I hadn't thought of that for the skyhook idea, so it was great that you asked the question!

The basic principle for a skyhook has been experimentally demonstrated on the shuttle, if I recall correctly.

Too, as Dr. Brin said above, you can generate electricity this way as well. Here basically you are stealing energy from the magnetic field of the Earth, which in turn comes from angular momentum in the core.


Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Steve0

I am going to do some numbers on a spinning tether for us but I thought I would just finish off your worries about the amount of energy we would be putting into the atmosphere

Remember we are talking about a years world production of iron/steel

I calculate that the dumping of my ten million 3 meter spheres in the course of a year (30,000 a day!)
Would give the same atmospheric energy as 250 large power stations

The energy would mostly be upper atmosphere rather than sea level

You are the metallurgist, can we dig transport and refine that much ore to steel without wasting much more heat anyway?

I expect that the steel you would be replacing would add more energy than your orbital steel

I think there are better things to do with the metal in orbit but if you had it there I think it could be sold on earth for a profit

Tim H. said...

SteveO, I suppose the fancy terminology would be "Space Based GeoMagnetic Power", it would have to send power to earth via microwave,, at least until we can do a Clarke/Sheffield style elevator. If or when we have space-based industry, I think it will be mostly high value things that can't be done here, at least at first. Second phase might be the construction of spacecraft for delivering those high value goods. Bulk delivery of raw materials to earth may have to wait for unforeseen developments.
BTW, the spambot missed douchebag and scumbag in his list.

Jonathan S. said...

"Fake replica handbags"??

Wouldn't a "fake replica" be the real thing?

Unknown said...

Who clicks on those, I wonder? If no one, what is the business model for spamming blogs?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Haven't been here for a while -- howdy all.

I find it hard to believe that THIS rumor hasn't passed around here -- but I'm guessing that if it hasn't, this would be the crowd that finds an interest.

Someone is saying that the Europeans, on their close fly-by of Mars, found that Phobos is "Hollow." OK, this might be pure tin-foil-hat, but, can anyone figure a NATURAL way for a large moonlet to be Hollow?

That is, if this guy and the internet can be believed... I'm sure the PTB is working on a cover story right now ;-)

Here's something interesting:
Warning -- a link to a science story on Fox News.

I've been talking about a theory of mine, that a skilled scientist can create what is called "coherent matter." That's pretty much what I think these people stumbled upon, though they think it's about "many universes" or time travel. Meh. It's basically a larger version of Quantum effects.

However, the Coherent Matter that I'm talking about, can become transparent to normal matter (much like how a solid crystal lets through light). In my "world view" of physics, it isn't matter that is solid -- but the distortion it's atoms make of space contained within their stable form.

The idea is, that you don't need to cool an object all the way to absolute Zero -- if you can find it's resonant frequency and supersede the "random" kinetic energy in the object. The vibration needs to be done with lasers -- not simply vibrating the object, because you are really "vibrating space" -- something that the Physicists who have abandoned the notion of an Aether would need to create some new force or particle before they could believe it.

Well, at least I think outside the box -- I've never been one for small spaces.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Jonathan S. said...
"Fake replica handbags"??

Wouldn't a "fake replica" be the real thing?

>> I think blogs get spammed like this so that they can get these websites into higher search rankings. Blogs and educational home pages (like for instance, an open source website supporting a LINUX project) get a lot more "link share" with most search engines.

So by putting links to "hand bags" on this Blog -- it isn't that they really think you will click the link (unless of course, it's Japanese Manga Tentacle sexy robots) -- it's that they are trying to make anyone looking for "hand bags" on Google go to their site first.

>> Just my little bit of Webmaster knowledge there.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Hey, that Sky Hook idea is perhaps onto something.

I'm thinking you can treat it more like an ACTUAL elevator; meaning, that many elevators have a weight balanced on the end of a pully, such that, when empty, it actually takes more force to move the elevator down -- so, in case of loss of power, it's more likely to move up.

Anyway, with an "elevator hook" the cables can be hooked to some satellite that can have rockets to give it a boost now and then. You use the Hook to SLOW DOWN asteroids and such that you harvest, and then use the EXTRA energy that you borrowed from the metal payload, to YANK UP objects.

I've always thought we would do better with blimp-like Lifting platforms, because MOST of the energy spent on a rocket is near the earth. You don't actually need escape velocity until you try to ESCAPE the earth's gravity well - and the higher you are when you do that, the less energy required.

So, you have a rotating "heli-blimp" on a suspended platform, lift a rocket two miles up, and boost it to maybe ten miles or more up and connect with your "sky hook."

>> So the exercise for Physics majors, is HOW to capture all that energy from slowing down large chunks of material and be able to use it to lift? I'm thinking that electric breaks that capture energy on newer cars, might be used or else you'd want to schedule a rocket lift for times when you are slowing down a Meteor.

Tony Fisk said...

Those links to replica handbags are out of luck on two counts:

1. any onclick event gets stripped out, so you won't get carted off to the darkside of the spam to be regaled with turnip (swede?) twaddlers if you do happen to click on them one drunken friday night (the href is just junk).

2. a little flag rel='nofollow' gets inserted, to tell search ranking bots not to follow the link (seen one viking, you've seen 'em all... move along, there's nothing more to see here)

It's bot vs bot, I guess.

spita: a particularly large and vindictive species of arachnid. Often found in replica handbags.

Ian Gould said...

A comment on my bet with Tacitus;

firstly. assuming you're reading this my apologies for not responding sooner. work has been horrendous.

Secondly, I agree that the lack of poll data makes the bet effectively a wash - but I'll match your 2% WP drop with the more recent 3% Fox News rise. (Both moves probably being within the margin of error fro the respective polls.)

For my part, I'll be donating $10 to both Doctors Without Borders and Kivu.

Mikster said...

It seems to me that if you have practical asteroid / lunar mining, the goal isn't to transport unprocessed metals to the Earth's surface... instead, you use that material for orbital manufacture of habitats and spacecraft (and solar power satellites).

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Mikster

If you have moved a metal asteroid into an earth orbit you will have enough metal to do both!

The orbital customers can be charged more but if you have more than they need you can sell to the groundhogs

Standard business practice sell the high value first but keep selling to the lower price customers until you reach the limits of your production or the variable price.

Think of all of the pollution that does not have to happen on earth if you replace iron mined and refined on earth with nice clean asteroidal iron

If you have only moved a small rock then it is proof of concept and somebody will be behind you with a big one

Tacitus2 said...

still dropping by as time permits.

Ian, never apologize for hard work. Society needs it.

Your endorsement of Fox as "Fair and Balanced" verily warms my heart. Satire aside, their polling unit actually seems better in line with other metrics than most.

Kivu strikes me as a bit pretentious, but I have donated money to Doctors without Borders (MSF), and expect to be working with them in the future.

Duncan. Like the asteroid mining concept, but I do worry a tad....orbits are already getting littered with nuts, bolts, empty Tang containers etc from human activity....what happens when we start chopping up Manhattan sized lunks of iron-nickle up there? Hope the process is tidier than my shop!


Acacia H. said...

To be honest? The amount of effort needed to move an entire asteroid suggests we won't move the entire thing. Instead, we'll cut apart asteroids in their current orbits and take the choice cuts back to Earth. Thus there will be less debris.

In addition, the best place for an orbital factory is in lunar orbit. You don't have debris to worry about, there is no atmosphere to cause increased drag, and any hostile group (be it terrorist, corporate, or national) would have to work much harder to reach the factory to cause damage. This also gives the factory time to try and avoid missiles or the like. NEO is getting more and more cluttered, and the risk of a missile from an unfriendly nation is high enough that if you're able to escape Earth orbit, then you probably want your factories further out.

Actually, the L points will likely be the place where orbital factories will form. This also allows for eventual habitats built (I almost typed "grown" though in some ways they will "grow," piece by piece) near those factories and utilizing the products of the orbital factories.

Rob H.

SteveO said...

Lagrange points are unstable, but are still easier to maintain station - that is where the Stanford Torus was to be built. Pretty far out for re-provisioning. You would need to balance cost of re-provisioning with cost of slowing down the asteroid to lower orbits.

Definitely would not want (or need) our putative mining asteroid in LEO - even ignoring the fact that it would be scary for a variety of reasons - it would be too expensive to get rid of all that momentum. Maybe they could toss their metal filings down to arrive at atmosphere on 4th of July evening? :) Assuming it is the US that makes it first.

It is easy to transfer momentum to the skyhook - you just have a big dang catcher's mitt attached to the cable that you aim rocks at. The rock slows down, the cable speeds up a little bit. It is less like an elevator and more like a "momentum battery" to store and use kinetic energy. Without a big, cheap source of kinetic energy it won't work. But if we have an asteroid at GEO or some such, then we have that.

So conceptually, you would slice off a nice smelted chunk o' metal, send it down to the skyhook on an intercept orbit (at cost of energy to reshape the orbit), it smacks the big mitt (thus transferring some of its kinetic energy to the cable. Then you transport it to the end of the cable and dip the cable into the atmosphere (using some energy) coming to relative rest, drop the thing into a dirigible's cargo basket for transport to the surface.

You could/would have to pick up something to transport back up (slightly less mass due to inefficiencies and friction) to keep the energy balance equal.


Tim H. said...

Jerry Pournelle's posted some links to bloggers commenting on Space Access 2010
could be some things of interest.

"cupicco" soon to feature in japanimation and nintendo.

mythusmage said...


No matter who promotes a stupid idea, it remains a stupid idea.

Now consider this, the current law may have been originally proposed by conservative statists, but it was subsequently adopted and adapted by the liberal statists. Statists who evidently thought that by promoting a scheme their conservative counterparts had proposed in the first place, that scheme would therefor gain the support of conservative statists

They, like you, forgot human nature.

While not as strident as the resentment over George W. Bush's election to the presidency, there is still resentment over the way Obama is seen to have cheated his way to the office with the aid of mainstream media. Barack Obama cheated his way into the White House, and has subsequently pissed the office away.

What if the MSM had divided their attention among the candidates, instead of engaging in a conspiracy of convenience? What if Hillary Clinton had won the office? Would we have health insurance reform?

Quite possibly, and even in much the same form as now, but I suspect the law would bear more signs of Republican influence, and Republicans would be touting the law as being based in large part on their own original work.

My point is, the original work may have been done by conservatives, but it is work adopted and adapted by liberals because they saw in it something they could alter to their own purpose. That changed everything and made the health insurance reform law the work of progressive statists.

Finally, please remember that everybody has the right to change their mind.endsh

mythusmage said...

Robert @3:09

You don't do all the work of moving the asteroid, you get the Solar System to help you out.

Step One: Slow the asteroid down. Reduce velocity so the rock is moving in a tighter orbit, and time the deceleration so a second body can then decelerate it even further. In short, let the planets of the Solar System act as drag on the asteroid. Do it right and you should be able to put the thing into Earth orbit and start mining it.

Is there a drawback to this scheme? Of course, you'll need to be patient.

Now for the major drawback...

The final step will be inserting the rock into orbit around the Earth. Whenever the rock comes from behind there will be a transferal of moment from the rock to Earth. Meaning the asteroid slows down with Earth speeds up. Which means that Earth enters a higher orbit around the Sun. Do this often enough and you'll find the year growing substantially longer, and that presents story telling possibilities I'll leave to you imaginations.

Rob Perkins said...

there is still resentment over the way Obama is seen to have cheated his way to the office with the aid of mainstream media.


You've leveled the accusation, now, support it.

SteveO said...


Whether it is a stupid idea or not, when the Republicans decided to only filibuster and not to engage in legislating, they insured that their voices would not be heard. (I think it is an incremental step in the right direction, with flaws that we will have to fix along the way...history will tell.)

So if it is stupid, it is the Democrats' responsibility for proposing something stupid, but it is equally the Republicans' responsibility to have not counter-proposed and worked towards consensus on something that was less-stupid. The Democrats would have leaped at the chance, we both know that.

The health care debate shows the total failure of the Republicans to engage and do their job. That they did it solely to win political points at the expense of their constituents is even more odious. This registered Republican sees right through that.

Do you concur?

mythusmage said...


"Is seen." You know what those words mean, right?

Seems to, is perceived to, is interpreted as. You know, is seen.

But your hero can't cheat. The Son of God can't cheat, that would be, cheating. God's anointed cheat? Why that would be, cheating.

Don't mean others can't cheat for him.

But expect you to look at the evidence? I'd sooner expect a cat to accept walking on a leash.

mythusmage said...


Demonstrate first your ability to listen.

mythusmage said...

A General Insight into the Future

When sentience arrises in the web our very next step will be to destroy it, for it will make us very uncomfortable.

Acacia H. said...

@mythusmage: I see. So, knowing that your hero, George W. Bush, did stole at least one election back in 2000 (because the U.S. Supreme Court should not have gotten involved in something that was obviously a State Court issue), you have to level charges to make it appear that Obama "stole" an election to lower him to Bush's level. This is just another form of Birther nonsense and is utter bullshit.

Barack Obama won because he played a game of chess in the Democratic primary while his opponents slacked off. He managed an "electoral" victory through the realization that by winning lots of small races, he could create an insurmountable lead. Ultimately? He won.

The media interest? Was because Obama was winning. They had plenty to go with. They had their darlings the Clintons back in play. They had a female Presidential candidate. They had McCain managing one of the most amazing comebacks that anyone saw in the Republican campaigns. It was a massive feast for them, and they went with EVERYONE.

McCain lost because of Bush, and because the economy (which was floundering) suddenly took a turn for the worse... and McCain was unable to effectively cope with what was happening. Even so, if he had chosen a businessman as his running mate, he may have prevailed. Instead, he went for the beauty queen, who managed to do more significant gaffs than Biden did and left a number of people going "you know? I'd rather have the rookie who surrounds himself with experienced people than the old guy who has a less-experienced female Bush as his running mate."

The election was not stolen. Especially not with what was basically a ten point spread in the popular vote between McCain and Obama. People had had enough of the Republicans and wanted someone new. They got someone new. Sadly, they didn't elect enough "new" people into Congress, so there was not nearly the amount of new blood needed for genuine change that we could have had.

Rob H.

SteveO said...

mythusmage says,

"Demonstrate first your ability to listen."

It is a basic assumption that courteous discussion begins with the presumption of an intelligent and curious collocutor, this assumption only to be disproven by subsequent action. With that sentence, sir, you have shown that you are incapable of listening, reasoning beyond your firmly entrenched prejudices, or engaging in civilized discussion. You have proven to me your lack good faith in posting here. I will not waste any more time engaging you, and assume my point to stand with no disagreement from you.

Ilithi Dragon said...

mythusmage said...

"Is seen." You know what those words mean, right?

Seems to, is perceived to, is interpreted as. You know, is seen.

But your hero can't cheat. The Son of God can't cheat, that would be, cheating. God's anointed cheat? Why that would be, cheating.

Don't mean others can't cheat for him.

But expect you to look at the evidence? I'd sooner expect a cat to accept walking on a leash.

Mythusmage, how is this an elaboration on why you think Obama 'stole' the election, how he stole it, and actual supporting evidence (or at least very strong logic from circumstantial evidence)? Perkins asked for you to explain how Obama 'stole' the election, and what support you have for that claim, and you turned around and accused him of being an Obama uber-fanboy. Asking for you to support your accusation against the President, especially such a serious accusation, is hardly being a fanboy. That's called not taking a wild claim without supporting evidence.

If you want us to believe Obama stole the election, don't accuse us of being Obama fanatics just because we didn't take your claims that he did on your word alone. If you want to convince us that your claims are true, support them. Otherwise, expect to have them shot down as the bare assertion fallacies that they are.

Rob Perkins said...

Me, an Obama uber-fanboy.

Someone is new to these parts.

Tony Fisk said...

When you folks have finished playing astral tennis with iron balls, check out Alex Steffen's latest piece on the need for ruggedness and the need for some serious futurism thinking.

Mythus is a troll, if y'all hadn't already worked that out.

There's probably a proper name for the rhetorical trickery that sets up an 'outrageous' assertion and then spins any counter-argument put forward by 180 degrees (it does seem to becoming increasingly common: I think someone's going to come with a bot program for it soon, if they haven't already!). Meantime, I'll settle for 'doppelganger' ("Me de problem? No! You de problem! You!)

Yeah, Rob! You were an interesting choice to ambush like that. (think crocodilean_bot+meat=*SNAP!*... Tacitus would have been even funnier!)

clers: abbreviated form of 'farnarklers'

cablic: A patois used by taxi drivers.

Rob Perkins said...

Mostly around here I just call for reason, y'know. Fallacy offends me. I can't help myself.

Half the problem with the Republicans (the whole problem?) is that they simply haven't come up with positive-reinforcement messages since the "kinder and gentler thousand points of light" or "morning in America" memes.

Ironically, I'm really fond of Obama, but not a blind follower of his faction. My positions tend these days to boil down to the same sorts of policy decisions the Democrats have been proposing, though, so I find myself pragmatically aligned with them, for now.

David Brin said...

Back from Hawaii. See my facebook page for details. Visited/ paid homage at ht Mauna Kea Observatory Complex. Vastly more impressive/successful and pertinent than any other set of temples ever made.

Mythusage, you are welcome here. But your interpretations are bizarre beyond belief. Your weird paranoia about some purported "Main Stream Media"... when all media but MSN have been running scared of Red America for twenty years, is bizarre. TGhe very notion that the American people would NOT be fed up of George Bush and the neocons begins with a question...

Ummm... can you name one neocon policy that actually and unambigoulsly, according to strict statistical criteria, restulted in improvements in conditions of the American People or the United States of America?

In fact, I have had this dare out for SIX YEARS and it simply leaves my Redder frriends red faced and in stuttering apoplexy, trying to change the subject by screeching Fox-generated lines about Acorn or Birth-inKenya.

What you won't posit is that the GOP was legitimately trounced for relentless lying, hypocrisy, theft, criminality, laziness... but above all, clear and irrefutable BAD GOVERNANCE.

Stop whining about losing an election that your side deserved to lose. Please. We are here and ready to discuss either facts or philosophy. But there ASSERTION-BASED platitudes. ("I assert this so it must be true!" are part of the worst treason against the United States since the Rosenbergs. A treason called Culture War.

Oh, ignoring the outright electoral theft of 2000 is magnificently disingenuous.

Please, we do welcome genuine conservatives and libertarians here. I consider myself one of the latter... though off an an angle. But we don't tolerate Rupert-mMurdochian Culture-War Assertion-mouthpieces. Be prepared to back up those assertions. And be prepared also to say "given the 100% track record of harm to America, wrought by "my" side... perhaps I should be willing to listen, too.

And yes, Tony, he probably is a troll. But I want the reputation of trying to engage these drop=in characters. We must try, always, at first, courtesy and reason. It is the hallmark of our "side"... not any left or democratic or such side... but the side of the Enlightenment.

John Kurman said...

I skimmed through a book called "The Next hundred Years" By George Friedman. While I realize that prognostication is a black art, there are times when some predictions are just plain ludicrous. Friedman himself admits that futurism is a tough job, and that outcomes "frequently go against common sense". He does a nice job on backstories, updating recent history in twenty year intervals to show how each prior stage's assumptions completely fell apart, and how trending works about as well as you would expect (not very). Nevertheless, his account of the next big war, scheduled for around 2050 read as completely ludicrous. Summarized, Japan launches a sneak attack from their lunar base against manned US space stations - blinding us from space. Ground forces and hypersonic bombers go after our military installations (bases, C&C, etc).
Turkey is allied with Japan. Naturally, the US prevails. Not sure why he chose this scenario.

Aside from the obvious questions (what has prompted everyone to go into space in such a big way, despite the cost? what is out there that today's greedy business idiots would covet?), he hasn't really given a good enough rationale as to why Japan and Turkey would 1) somehow become a bigger threat than the usual suspects, and 2) be our enemies.

mythusmage said...

re Buzz

I am too, but I have no idea how to add people.

Tony Fisk said...

Oh! Always happy to engage (remember Huxley?)

I was, however, reacting as seemed appropriate to the spirit of engagement shown so date. I'm willing to change the label when we get something more than short, snarky comments in response to open questions.

tanis: a form of astral tennis played with iron balls ("Mass drivers! I can't believe they're using mass drivers on a civilian world" - Cmdr Ivanova)

David Brin said...

Ah, Mythusmage is hanging around. No troll then! Great. hang in there, fellah. You'll find we love to argue here. Just expect it to be evidence-based.

I'll post about our Hawaii trip soon.

Any word when that "Thor" movie will come out? I wish DC comics would re-issue my "The Life Eaters" as both a tie-in and a snarky "hit" on Marvel. (I don't depict Thor as very nice.)

Ian said...


current release date for Thor is May 19, 2011

LarryHart said...

Any word when that "Thor" movie will come out? I wish DC comics would re-issue my "The Life Eaters" as both a tie-in and a snarky "hit" on Marvel. (I don't depict Thor as very nice.)

As a fan of Marvel in the 1970s, I was amused at the title you gave that short story (Thor Meets Captain America), but when I heard that DC was doing a graphic novel adaptation, my first thought was "They'll have to change the title."

I wasn't shocked by Thor being on the Aryan side, though. Marvel itself had already done such a story in its WWII "Invaders" book, with Hitler trying to conjure up the Teutonic gods, who turned out to be the Norse gods with different names (much as the Greek and Roman gods are). That said, however, I was quite impressed with your version of Loki. The scene in the concentration camp still brings tears to my eyes. Mind you, I'm not clear on Loki's actual motivation for taking the side he does, but I figure that means I have to read the story a few more times.

LarryHart said...

By the way, Dr Brin, I'm currently in the middle of a complete re-read of Asimov's Robot/Foundation books (the last time I did so was 20 years ago). I plan to finish off with your contribution to the series, just to see how well the references work.

Rob Perkins said...

Larry, I think you won't be disappointed with David's work tying things up.

LarryHart said...

Larry, I think you won't be disappointed with David's work tying things up.

Unfortunately, I won't get there for several months. A speed-reader, I am not.

My wife is a different case altogether. When I first met her all the way back in 1994, she was about to leave for a trip to California. Wanting her to have something to remember me by (and knowing her to be a sci-fi fan), I gave her my copy of "The Postman" for the trip. After the flight out, she called to tell me she had arrived safely and finished the book. A book that took me the better part of a month to read!

In a way, though, it's her "fault" I'm a Brin fan. Oh, I was the first to read "The Postman", but never thought to look for other books by the same author. She immediately found the Uplift trilogy (then only the first set) and got me hooked as well.

(My last "word verification" here was "frerp". Heh. Anyone else remember that old "Super-Friends" episode with King Plasto?)

JuhnDonn said...

Interesting article comparing lapsed mining regulations to lapsed banking regulations.

The West Virginia Mining Disaster and the Financial Crisis Have the Same Root Cause

The problem isn't a shortage of regulators. It's the way we've allowed the regulated to game the system. The federal government has an entire agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), dedicated to overseeing the mining industry. Indeed, a federal inspector was at the Upper Big Branch mine hours before it blew up.

Similarly, there are myriad financial regulatory agencies. In fact, before the economic meltdown there were dozens of federal regulators dedicated to keeping an eye on the big banks -- in many cases, with offices inside the premises of the banks. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight and the Federal Housing Finance Agency dedicated solely to them. And, after Bear Stearns crashed, Tim Geithner's New York Fed had a team of examiners at Lehman Brothers every day. And yet they still missed the economic collapse.

Regulations are "very difficult to comply with," and "so many of the laws" are "nonsensical." Those are the words of Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, the company that owns the Upper Big Branch mine and has a grotesque history of safety violations.

In the case of the financial industry, the reason it can't be regulated adequately is because, as Alan Greenspan put it last week in testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, "the complexity is awesome," and regulators "are reaching far beyond [their] capacities."

That is, of course, exactly the way Wall Street designed it. To the financial world "awesome complexity" is a feature, not a bug.

Something else the mining and financial industries share: the revolving door between regulators and those they're supposed to be regulating.

Former Massey COO Stanley Suboleski was appointed to be a commissioner of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission in 2003 and four years later he was nominated to run the Office of Fossil Energy in the Energy Department. Today, he's back on Massey's board. And Massey exec Richard Stickler was made the head of the MSHA by President Bush in 2006. Talk about hiring the foxes to guard the hen house.

David Brin said...

Larry, thanks for your kind remarks. The French and Germans liked THE LIFE EATERS but DC hardly published more than a few dozen copies, alas.

My "explanation" for the Haolocaust... that it was an attempt at systematic, industrial scale necromancy... was since adopted by others. "Thor Meets Captain America" was back in the 1980s. Oh, Marvel did send me a letter from a lawyer about the title. I dared them to prove they owned either phrase. They said never mind.

Re-reading Asimov? Be sure to go for the more obscure "pre-emipre" novels, too. PEBBLE IN THE SKY, THE STARS LIKE DUST, THE CURRENTS OF SPACE. and CAVES OF STEEL.

In fact, I refer - in passing - to all of these, when I really tie together ALL of Isaac's loose ends, in FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH.

Acacia H. said...

I just wish I could find it in a bookstore. Oh well, I'll have to hit the used bookstores and see if any of them have it, or order it online. I despise the business model that Barnes & Noble and Borders Books has espoused, in which books that are not guaranteed sellers don't get shelf life. Authors such as Dr. Brin, Martha Wells, and so many others end up with few if any books on the shelves, with retailers expecting fans of the authors to search for the books online instead of using the convenience of the bookstore. The thing is... when I want to buy a book, I want it in my hand. I want the immediacy of it. Thus buying online is a measure of last resort and rarely done. More often than not, I'll do without. And I suspect I'm not alone in this.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said... has it.

I'm going to pick it up once my new card comes in (left the old one in an ATM >_< ), because I really enjoyed Thor Meets Captain America (which came out a year before I was born...).

Ilithi Dragon said...

Science blurb: Quasars appear to not be affected by time dilation.

Astronomer Mike Hawkins from the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh came to this conclusion after looking at nearly 900 quasars over periods of up to 28 years. When comparing the light patterns of quasars located about 6 billion light years from us and those located 10 billion light years away, he was surprised to find that the light signatures of the two samples were exactly the same. If these quasars were like the previously observed supernovae, an observer would expect to see longer, “stretched” timescales for the distant, “stretched” high-redshift quasars. But even though the distant quasars were more strongly redshifted than the closer quasars, there was no difference in the time it took the light to reach Earth.

Ilithi Dragon said...

In other random news, The KKK has denounced the Westboro Baptist Church.

sociotard said...

Here's a book that will at least get a reaction out of most here:

A paradise built in hell

The author gives lot of examples of amateurs doing a good job in disasters, coming together to try to help each other. At the same time, her utopian socialist anarchist politics are strange and bleed onto every page.

I recommend reading at least a little of the book. Just one of the five disasters presented should be enough.

David Brin said...

Rebecca Solnit is a writer of some substance. I reviewed her strange book about Muybridge, RIVER OF SHADOWS.

Thanks for the link.

David Brin said...

Anybody have any impressions or thoughts on trapster and Open Korea? Crowd sourcing software.

mythusmage said...


Even worse, I'm Aspers. Found out about it just recently as a matter of fact. We've even met at a few spots around town. (BTW, when's your next San Diego appearance?)

Acacia H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Acacia H. said...

So, Dr. Brin... thoughts on the Armstrong Letter that urges Obama to keep Ares and Orion going? I must admit some confusion on my part as I had been under the impression that a number of astronauts felt that Ares was a mistake and that we need to move beyond the Moon. But this letter suggests otherwise.

Rob H.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Robert: There's a distinct pattern to the criticism of the 2010 space plans. The longer you've been retired from NASA or active rocket development, the less you like the plan. And the longer you were part of the Apollo-Shuttle paradigm, the less you like the plan.

If you bailed on the Program in the '70, you have no experience in how the system derailed over the last three decades as entrenched institutionalization triumphed over innovation. And if you were heavily invested in the old NASA paradigm -- like Kranz, and Kraft were -- then you also don't like the plan, because it's the death of the Marshall/Mission Control centralized "Space Program" paradigm.

But anyone who's been able to take a step back from the bubble of NASA and the United Launch Alliance (the Voltron of NASA, Boeing, and Lockheed) sees why we're doing this. Buzz Aldrin likes the plan, as do a large number of astronauts who were never part of the successes of Apollo, but knew only the mediocrity of the Shuttle period. So also do most folks doing active rocket development, across the board. (The exception is the Ares design team, of course. But if the rumors are true, the Ares work will go towards a side-mounted Shuttle-C heavy lifter instead, which will end the screaming somewhat.)

What the old guard misses about NASA then vs. NASA now is that NASA 1.0 was highly unusual for a gov't agency in having a very young average age of workers in a very virgin field of engineering -- which caused a faster-than-unusual innovation cycle. In effect, NASA was a vast federation of startups innovating like crazy. Since then, NASA's age range has conformed to government agency norms, and NASA has correspondingly adopted the risk-averse philosophies that organizations dominated by middle-aged personnel tend to do. Boeing and Lockmart have similar profiles for their aerospace divisions, which is not surprising since they grew up along with NASA.

The whole point of the NewSpace sector is to push the American space industry away from the old "mature" paradigm, by shifting emphasis back to startups with higher risk profiles and younger engineer age distributions. SpaceX, Armadillo, Bigelow, et al. have done more -- and more effective -- R&D for far less money than NASA has done all my life.

I don't blame the old codgers for being afraid of switching paradigms. New, at their age, is scary. But it's also the only way forward. We could have been to Mars by now if most of the NASA budget was not allocated to structural wastage (i.e., a jobs program) for the last thirty years.

Ian Gould said...

(The exception is the Ares design team, of course. But if the rumors are true, the Ares work will go towards a side-mounted Shuttle-C heavy lifter instead, which will end the screaming somewhat.)- Rob

Rob is that the uncrewed heavy lift shuttle variant planned back at the start of the program?

I always thought that idea had potential.

LarryHart said...

David Brin says:

"Thor Meets Captain America" was back in the 1980s. Oh, Marvel did send me a letter from a lawyer about the title. I dared them to prove they owned either phrase. They said never mind.

Really? Obviously, they don't own "Thor", but I'm surprised they didn't press more of a claim to "Captain America".

Y'know, I still wonder why the 1980s movie "Karate Kid" gives thanks to DC Comics for the use of the title, whereas its contemporary film "Cloak and Dagger" didn't similarly thank Marvel.

Re-reading Asimov? Be sure to go for the more obscure "pre-emipre" novels, too. PEBBLE IN THE SKY, THE STARS LIKE DUST, THE CURRENTS OF SPACE. and CAVES OF STEEL.

Oh, don't worry. In fact, I've already read all of them except Pebble, which is next up on my list.

In fact, I refer - in passing - to all of these, when I really tie together ALL of Isaac's loose ends, in FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH.

I wasn't going to bother with any of the non-Asimov books, but I'm including yours for just that reason.

LarryHart said...

Robert said:

...with retailers expecting fans of the authors to search for the books online instead of using the convenience of the bookstore. The thing is... when I want to buy a book, I want it in my hand. I want the immediacy of it. Thus buying online is a measure of last resort and rarely done. More often than not, I'll do without. And I suspect I'm not alone in this.

I definitely concur. Ordering on-line means sending out sensitive credit card information, which gives me pause right there. Beyond that, it means waiting for the book to arrive in the mail instead of reading it on the way to the cash register.

Sure, in a way I sound like Dr Doofenshmertz explaining why attaching a rocket to Big Ben and flying it next to his house is a better idea than buying a bigger watch. But are definitely not alone in that sensibility.

rewinn said...

On "Captain America vs. Thor" I would guess that, having sent the letter and thereby shown intent to protect their intellectual property "Captain America", Marvel would be safe in resting so long as Dr. Brin didn't go further. A one-off cultural reference is not going to provide them with much in the way of damages even if they could prevail, and so long as it was a one-off, prevailing is very far from a sure thing and we (speaking editorially now) would now WANT them to prevail.


Apart from being a very enjoyable (albeit slightly disturbing) story, "CAMTh" gave me more to ponder on How Far We Would Go To Win --- If We Had To. It might've been a throwaway line near the end, but anyway it was an important one.

Unfortunately we have experimentally determined that we have leaders perfectly willing to torture, not just bad guys, but people they knew to be innocent, according to new sworn testimony by a Bush Administration official.

I wonder how much in the way of headlines this will get ... and what it says about the nature of evil?

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, I suspect part of the reason Marvel backed down is because their lawyers explained to them that under laws concerning satire, they have no recourse. Of course, the added factor that you didn't have a Steve Rogers with an indestructible shield in the story itself also didn't hurt.

Rob H.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Ian: that was me, not Rob. To answer your question, it's an evolution of those old Shuttle-C proposals. It's a compromise between the original Shuttle-C from 1985 and the Shuttle-Z from 1989, updated to reflect material and design improvements since.

Shuttle-Z would be the most efficient, but it wouldn't fit in the VAB or on the Shuttle pads. This is the best we can do using as little modification of the infrastructure or components as possible. Compared to the insane amounts of redesign that Ares was turning into, this is highly simple -- and it should allow the Utah and Louisiana plants to keep cranking out ETs and SRBs without changing procedures at all.

There's really nothing fundamentally wrong with ETs and SRBs (at least once the O-ring problem was fixed). Most of the stupid design compromises and inanities were piled upon the Orbiter. While the NewSpace finesse will help with crew systems, suborbital joyrides, and LEO cargo/crew delivery... heavy lift will be the domain of brute force for some time to come. A Shuttle-C variant will do just fine.

David Brin said...

A shuttle C heavy launcher would be great. It would leverage the technologies we've spent billions developing and keep our hand in re the space station, making us seem much less lame. It would maintain expertise and justify keeping some of the shuttles in mothballs, just in case.

So long as it does NOT become a boondoggle and sinecure for Marshall. Keeping them OUT of the game is vital.

What stuns me is the number of conservative guys who just don't get that commercializing space access is precisely what they have been yammering for, for decades. But BHO cannot get a break.

"Really? Obviously, they don't own "Thor", but I'm surprised they didn't press more of a claim to "Captain America".

Actually, that is VERY iffy. There were journalists who used that phrase, from the front lines, even in World War One. Where do you think it came from?

"I wasn't going to bother with any of the non-Asimov books, but I'm including yours for just that reason."

Most aren't necessary. Roger Allen wrote some pretty good ones, though at a bit of an angle. Bear and Benford wrote companion prequels to mine, but they aren't required. (People seem to prefer Bear's) I do refer to some of their characters and events, without interrupting the flow.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry

Asimov "homages"

Read Donald Kingsbury's
Psychohistorical Crisis

As well as Dr Brin's

It is well worth it

janewangleilei said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tony Fisk said...

Tsk! Those pesky amateurs again...

This time they're providing broadband to the village of Lyddington

malit: a large wooden club sometimes used to correct persistent software features. While the features work better, the underlying hardware may need replacing. (See MessageBox::OK())

doistini: the ultimate fate of the Bronx

Acacia H. said...

Fox actually ran an interesting article about a poll about the makeup of the Tea Party, with results showing that they're primarily white, a larger percentage of them than the ordinary public make over $100,000 a year, and that they're fairly well-educated. In short, the Tea Party appears to be constructed out of people who have something to lose if Obama stays in office and does raise taxes on the rich and affluent.

I have to applaud Fox for reporting this, though I think the poll results were from another newspaper.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

And from another Fox News article, we have an interesting comment from Buzz Aldrin, calling for an international effort to build a permanent Lunar base:

"Famed astronaut Buzz Aldrin weighed in Wednesday evening following the revelations of Obama's plans, also endorsing the president's new direction for NASA.

"The truth is, that we have already been to the moon -- some 40 years ago. A near-term focus on lowering the cost of access to space and on developing key, cutting-edge technologies to take us further, faster, is just what our nation needs to maintain its position as the leader in space exploration for the rest of this century," Aldrin said.

The second man to walk on the moon, Aldrin told Fox News on Thursday that targeting the moon alone wasn't good enough. He called for the creation of a public/private international lunar development corporation that would open the moon up for exploration and development.

"We should have the European Space Agency invite China to become a member of the Space Station community, and that can lead to this activity at the moon," Aldrin said. "We will barter off our experience for assistance," he argued, calling for a two-phase, 25-year program to establish a permanent base on Mars."

Rob H., who has been touting an international lunar base on this site for a while now ;)

Rocky Persaud said...

Not sure if you've seen this David, but start-up by some Singularity University alum:

Ian said...

Interesting article from The Economist about innovation in the devel3oping world.

The article argues that like Japan, China and India are not simply competing with the west in simple basic products on the basis of cheap wages, they're increasingly developing genuinely new products and radically redesigning products and manufacturing products to slash prices.

The Japanese auto industry hammered the US and European car makers in the 70's, combined China and India are twenty times the population of Japan and are becoming major competitors in a much wider range of industries than Japan ever was.

Ian said...

Obama commits the US to a crewed mission ot Mars orbit within 30 years - and wants a new heavy life man-rated launcher by 2015.

" "We should attempt a return to the surface of the moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say, pretty bluntly here, we've been there before. Buzz has been there," Obama said.

"There's a lot more of space to explore and a lot more to learn when we do," he said, to loud applause.

"By 2025 we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first ever crew missions beyond the moon into deep space.

"So, we'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to earth, and a landing on Mars will follow." "

Ian said...

Anyoen following Tacitus and my discussion over the likely impact of passing health care on Congressional approval ratings might be interested by the latest poll reproted by Realclearpolitics.

The AP poll has approval for Congress at 28% - still low but the highest result in some time.

That's three polls since the passage of the health care Bill passed - and all have been above the pre-passage average.

The real odd bit is that support for the Bill has dropped over the same period.

Stefan Jones said...

"Bad Astronomy" guy Phil Plait provides a lengthy analysis of Obama's Obama lays out bold and visionary space policy.

Yeah, it's amusing how red in the face some folks have gotten about the privitization initiative. For over a decade any article about space travel on Slashdot would include lots of comments along the lines of NASA sucks! It's an unimaginative bureaucracy! Hasn't anyone read Heinlein! Free enterprise will do it cheaper and better!

Faced with actual privatization, NASA suddenly becomes a treasure trove of expertise. (Which it is, but it isn't going to go away overnight.)

Acacia H. said...

The Washington Post reports that Fox News is trying to distance itself from the Tea Party:

Hannity Recalled

Sean Hannity has appeared at GOP events to raise money for the party. But now he's apparently gone too far:

"Fox News has pulled Sean Hannity from his starring role in a tea party rally just one week after Rupert Murdoch said the network should not be supporting the tea party movement.

"Hannity was set to broadcast Thursday night from a tea party rally in Cincinnati, but was rushing back to New York Thursday evening after network executives learned of the plan and said it was unacceptable.

" 'Fox News never agreed to allow the Cincinnati Tea Party organizers to use Sean Hannity's television program to profit from broadcasting his show from the event,' Bill Shine, the network's executive vice president of programming, told the Los Angeles Times. 'When senior executives in New York were made aware of this, we changed our plans for tonight's show.' "


Now the question is: is Fox News distancing itself from the Tea Party to try and disempower claims that the Tea Party is a part of Fox News? Or are they distancing themselves because they've realized this is one tiger they do not want to saddle and ride, lest they fall off and get eaten alive?

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Fox is likely as concerned about the Tea Party as all the rest of the political establishment. And they should be.

Odd is the only word for it.
Still, in archeology three post holes makes a wall, and in politics, three data points makes a trend.
Lets try and make sense of it:

Theory One
The Donkey Vindicated. Maybe folks are happy about the outcome of the health care legislation or pleased with the resolve shown in getting there. Alas, polls do not show a rise in the popularity of Obamacare, Obama himself or the Dem party in the generic congressional vote.

Theory Two
Pachydermus Resurgans. The rise in Congressional approval reflects more people happy about the Republican obstructionism. Seems unlikely. More recent stunts like trying to stall extention of unemployment benefits, while defensible fiscal policy, are tone deaf politically.

Theory Three, the Barnum Hypothesis.
Americans are dumber than you might think. They rile up on cue, then quiet down with various happy news and symbolic administration stunts.

Theory Four, Barnum's Nightmare. Americans are smarter than you might think. They recognize that much of the recent bile was media hype, and have returned to the baseline of attitude towards Congress. Indeed, from 17.4% approval there is only up.

Theory Five. Americans just are not virulent, spiteful folks. This is not the Balkans where "Die You Serbian Pig" is the standard political attitude. We move on. And as a correlary, its spring, damn it! And one of the nicest ones in living memory. Probably there would be a 5% rise in approval for dysentery, used car salesmen and mangy cats if you polled for that. I call it Vernal Affective Transcendence. Maybe thats what the talk of VAT coming out of DC is all about? (guess I might fall into the Barnum category!).

Now, if the Icelandic dust settles as quickly as the health care fallout I can actually get to England in 9 days without paddling.


Rob Perkins said...

Rob, I tellya, I just sampled a Fox and Friends report about the Boy Scouts. I've thought this for years but I'm certain now that the commentators are running the network there.

Perhaps Murdoch's higher-up execs are beginning to see the backfire possible from that circumstance? So, yeah, I think they don't want to try and saddle that tiger.

FN used to actually be a news network, back when I watched it in 2000-2001. More's the pity.

LarryHart said...

(welcome back) Tacitus said:

Theory Three, the Barnum Hypothesis.
Americans are dumber than you might think. They rile up on cue, then quiet down with various happy news and symbolic administration stunts.

Theory Four, Barnum's Nightmare. Americans are smarter than you might think. They recognize that much of the recent bile was media hype, and have returned to the baseline of attitude towards Congress. Indeed, from 17.4% approval there is only up.

I'm glad you included Theory 4, because I was going to take serious issue with 3. Oh, I used to believe it, especially around Y2K. But the facts on the ground rarely agreed with the theory. Well before there was a David Brin blog, I came to realize how much the imagery of "sheeple" did not come from real life experience, but from popular fiction and the tv news (pardon the redundancy).

Theory Five. Americans just are not virulent, spiteful folks. This is not the Balkans where "Die You Serbian Pig" is the standard political attitude. We move on.

As a good American, I am proudest to believe this theory. The cautious part of me (or the fence-sitting liberal part) is skeptical of believing something just because I WANT to believe it, but it does jibe both with our national narrative about ourselves AND what most actual real people I know are like.

And as a correlary, its spring, damn it! And one of the nicest ones in living memory.

Which of course proves nothing about Al Gore. :) Sorry.

Now, if the Icelandic dust settles as quickly as the health care fallout I can actually get to England in 9 days without paddling.

Maybe the Icelandic dust will counteract global warming? Serious question, actually. I remember the Mt Penatubo "summer" of 1992 as one of the coldest in memory.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Question to Rob and Tacitus:

Do your theories take into account the large number of people who didn't like the healthcare bill not because they sided with the Republican opposition to it, but because they felt it didn't go nearly far enough? I've spoken to a good number of people who hate the Healthcare bill (now Healthcare law), but not because they hate "Obamacare", instead because they felt it had been gutted by the GOP and a conservative-appealing Democratic caucus. Could the general disapproval of the bill reflect the negative feelings of people who, like myself, dislike the bill because it didn't do enough, didn't go far enough, and compromised too much for the zero-return from the Republicans, but recognize that it's a starting point and that the Dems probably couldn't have done much better in the current political climate, and having a general satisfaction that Congress (or the Democratic side at least) did about the best job it could do under the circumstances?

I know there are many who share that sentiment, including many here, and many more who disapprove of the bill AND congress because they feel he Dems didn't do enough and failed to deliver real reform.

In short, not all opposition to healthcare reform and congress comes from pro-GOP/anti-Dem/anti-reform groups, and I would wager that nearly as much if not more opposition comes from people who oppose it for the opposite reasons. Does your wager take that into account?

On Mars: Woohoo! } : 8 = D

Tacitus2 said...

Good questions, and among the many good questions that pollsters do not seem to ask. Or maybe they ask them but this data is not reported. There are after all sorts of polls, and I rather suspect that both parties commision some of greater specificity, whose results are kept quiet.
As we are still learning what was actually in the health care bill I am sure that attitudes towards it are still in flux.
(in a temporary quiet stretch)

rewinn said...

@Robert -

- Perhaps Fox was most annoyed at the Tea Party's plans to use their "intellectual" property Hannity to make money for itself, rather than for Fox.

Cynical of me to think it's about money rather than ethics ;-)

Acacia H. said...

On another note, scientists are working to protect implanted medical devices from hacker attacks. Why do I now see a murder mystery being written where the killer was a hacker paid by someone to kill the unfortunate victim so they could get the inheritance?

Hmm. I wonder how long it would take to write up such a story....

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

"Good questions, and among the many good questions that pollsters do not seem to ask. Or maybe they ask them but this data is not reported"

Reporting on poll results is generally lousy.

But most of the major professional polling organisations do a pretty good job.

If at all possible, it's always a good idea to read the report from the poll company themselves, although even that will leave you in the dark on some key points like how they did their renormalisation. (That's where you adjust the weighting you give to various subgroups to make the sample more closely resemble the geenral population. So if you're studying a population that's 10% African-American and your sample is 8% African-American you multiply the African-Americans by 1.25.)

Tacitus2 said...

Actually Ian, if you go to the RealClearPolitics site, click on Congressional Job Approval, you get a list of the polls used to make up the average. Click on any given poll and you get the "drill down" data, much of which is interesting stuff. For which I lack time at the moment. On quick look though, the pro elephant theory did have some support, as there was increased support for Republicans in congress to the tune of around 5%.
Quick and superficial look though


Unknown said...

Evidently Ralph Nader has written a novel in which the rich will save us......The general plot description reminded me of a nuclear scientist from the 50s (whose name escapes me) who wrote a wonderful short story about scientists who made millions from discoveries due to decoding dolphin language. Their Foundation hired the "brightest and best" from the world at mega salaries. Turns out the inventions were their own, and they essentially bought off the ambitious and dangerous, ushering in an era of world peace.

Since you've also written about dolphins, can you help me remember the writer's name??

And my own sensibilites suggest scientists saving the world is much more plausible than the rich....But I doubt they or the Lone Ranger will show up this time.

David Brin said...

The Voice of the Dolphins and Other Stories... by Leo Szilard ...

...who also happens to have been the one who persuaded Einstein to write to Roosevelt about the possibility of an atom bomb.

About Me said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Emperor Dave 2.0 said...

How can we fight when the sabotaged education system in the US churns out generation after generation of undereducated, uninformed, superstitious, hateful, gullible yet 'skeptical' in all the wrong ways? Political thought and decision-making is and seems like it's been out of the hands of those who know what needs doing for decades. Timothy McVeigh-style "US government is Great Satan" sentiment dominates mainstream 'conservative' discussion. It is as likely that Sarah Palin and/or Glenn Beck will be elected to high office in the US in the next ten years than the US will actually take a leading role in the global issues of climate change, ecological annihilation or the energy crisis.

If not more so!

Not to be too downbeat and despairing, but we're a toddler faced with a calculus problem and not even aware that we've been tasked with solving it.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin, didn't you write an article specifically about 'look-back' romanticism vs 'look-forward' enlightenment? I know you've covered the subject in several of your articles, but I thought there was one where it was the actual focus of the article. The subject has come up in a discussion I'm in, and I wanted to find the article to reference it, but I haven't had any luck yet.

rewinn said...

@ Spirit - I don't think it's time to despair. Corporate media gives big air time to the Know-Nothings for reasons that are patently obvious but in Real America kids are learning to use the internets to bypass all that.

And to talk among themselves. 90% of the talk may be sports and gossip but that's always been true. The other X% includes some pretty realistic analysis of what's what. Whether that gets turned into action, of course, remains to be seen.

David Brin said...

Ilithi, I covered that in many places. My 19-part "Modernism and Its Enemies" essay-blog went there (anybody have a link?) as did my famed Tolkien piece:

Gonna do a new topic soon.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Yeah, I can find most of those easy enough, I was just thinking that there was an article you did that focused on it as the title subject. I'll probably dig up the essay blog as the most comprehensive reference (and re-read it in the process ^_^ ).

Formous: The state of forming one's fame.

David Brin said...

on to next...