Saturday, September 01, 2018

More marvels from space

We can only repair both Earth and society if we regain confidence that we're capable citizens of a flawed-but-great ... and getting-greater ... civilization. And so, let's start with --

Gorgeous planetary art by Van God. Seriously, your neighbors who yearn for apocalypse, ask them how can it not be the creator's intent that we go forth and appreciate such glory? And ever-greater sights and knowledge across the sea of stars? Yours is the folk that does all this, with competence and skill and awe.

And joy. Those trying to demoralize us will fail.

Remember Oumuamua?  The  mysterious space rock, first spotted in 2017, plunged into our solar system from interstellar space, flung around the sun and sped onward, captivating us with its strange shape, so like that of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rama.” Moreover, in a sci-fi-ish twist, it’s been accelerating!

Okay, okay, don’t get in a twist. The tiny acceleration fits what we’d expect from gas puffing out of the sun-warmed end of a comet.   ‘Oumuamua was indeed comet-like, it was just coated in a thick layer of carbon-rich grime that insulated the space rock’s icy heart. The rock’s exit from our neighborhood has settled most astronomers’ minds.'

Okay, unavoidable brag time. The entire theory of insulating dust or other layers atop comets, limiting or delaying their heating and outgassing, is mine. My doctoral dissertation “Three Models of Dust Layers on Cometary Nuclei.”  Indeed, many of what we call asteroids may be choked-off short period comets, which would be great news. So much yummy water, within fairly easy reach. Vastly easier than dragging smidgeons from the bottom of the dusty old moon’s gravity well. (And we've found nothing else of value, down there.) Hey. Just sayin’.

Movin' on... Mathematica guru Stephen Wolfram offers a series of way-cool (if long!) essays on: (1) looking back fifty years to what the movie 2001 got wonderfully right… and interestingly wrong. (My own essay on such matters is here.)

The 2018 motion picture Clara “tells the story of an exoplanetary astronomer who makes a momentous discovery.” This AAS article by the film’s science advisors discusses how to simulate an object in another star’s L1 point. Ooooh. sci fi that’s nerdy!

== Solar System marvels ==

Thirteen years of data from the Cassini Mission have allowed NASA to create a globe of Titan that strips away the obscuring clouds and haze.  Fantastic.

Is Pluto made of a billion comets?  Scientists have found an intriguing consistency between the estimated amount of nitrogen inside a plutonian glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto was formed by the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects, only chemically modified by liquid water, perhaps even in a subsurface ocean.

One of the most exciting discoveries of the last 30 years has been learning there’s more than one moon in our system with a ice-roofed ocean. There may be more than a dozen, including Pluto!  Meaning such roofed water worlds are likely to abound everywhere in the universe. Which makes the next news awesome:  

“Using data collected by NASA’s late-great Cassini space probe, scientists have detected traces of complex organic molecules seeping out from Enceladus’ ice-covered ocean. It’s yet another sign that this intriguing Saturnian moon has what it takes to sustain life.”

The newly confirmed organic molecules feature masses above 200 atomic units, which is more than 10 times heavier than methane. These molecules contain aromatic structures (ring-shaped, flat molecules) with possible cross chains of hydrocarbons. The source of these complex organics could be of a non-biological or biological nature, but the exact origin has not been determined.”  There is a small chance the molecules might have come from passing comets (nu?) But more likely from vents releasing showers of sub-ice water from the seas of Enceledus.

Listen in.... Eerie plasma wave chatter between Saturn and its ice-roofed, ocean moon. Researchers compressed 16 minutes of plasma exchange between Saturn and Enceladus into 29 seconds of audio for human ears.

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover-lab will go beyond the capabilities of the current Opportunity probe in many ways. In one added feature, it will drill and dig up soil samples to put in over 30 tubes and will then drop them at various points. Now Airbus and the European Space Agency have announced plans of a “fetch rover,’ which could head to the planet in 2026. If it lands and operates successfully, it will seek these cached samples, autonomously drive to their location, and store them. It will also have to be able to plot its driving route on its own every single day, saving on the high cost of maintaining a large support team of humans on Earth. Once it has “proceeded to the route,” it will have a guide map already created by Mars 2020.

“It could take the vehicle around 150 days to collect all the canisters Mars 2020 leaves behind. Then it has to find the rocket it landed with, hand off the sample tubes, then back off and film the rocket blasting off to rendezvous with an orbiter to bring the samples back to Earth.”

Complicated, ambitious and worthy of a mighty, wonderful civilization, of which you should be proud. Assertively, adamantly and - yes - even aggressively proud. This stuff is significant even theologically. And I mean that, literally.

== Looking toward asteroids ==

Japan’s space mission Hayabusa 2 is now close to the Ryugu asteroid with hopes to then return samples of the type C asteroid, containing traces of water and organic material. The press is kvelling over it’s shape, like an 8-sided D&D die.

Many asteroids appear to have similar orbits and compositions. Perhaps each "asteroid family" formed when a collision shattered a planet-size body into many fragments. Nearly every meteorite that falls onto Earth may ultimately come from a half dozen or so lost worlds that splintered apart soon after the birth of the solar system.

Speaking of asteroids, the Dawn probe has lowered its orbit around Ceres from 220 to 22 miles, delivering stunning images, including the dwarf planet's Bright Patches.

A peculiar asteroid 2015 BZ509 with a retrograde orbit was apparently captured by proto-Jupiter from the interstellar medium 4.5 billion years in the past.

== Beyond the solar system ==

Astronomers have made a bold prediction: "In 2022, give or take a year, a pair of stars will merge and explode, becoming one of the brightest objects in the sky for a short period.” The binary pair’s the speed of the orbit was gradually getting faster and faster, implying the stars are getting closer together. Calculations suggest the pair will explode as a “red nova”— caused by a binary merging—in about 5 years’ time.

Three young protoplanetary suns have been found to have dust rich in nanodiamonds.  Yes, that’s nano… diamonds.

Fantastic new image of the Galactic Center taken by the new, South African radio telescope! All still consistent with Gregory Benford's Galactic Center series.

And while we're down there... Too cool. Each time I look at this time-lapse of stars orbiting the black hole at the center of the galaxy, I go “gosh.”
That’s a lie. Sometimes I go Wow or Dang! Or “I’m as proud as heck.”

Is this  the very first direct image of the birth of a planet still forming around a star?

Researchers have tried to catalogue the ordinary matter in the universe—not to be confused with dark matter, or Dark Energy. About 10 percent sits in galaxies, and close to 60 percent is in the diffuse clouds of gas that lie between galaxies. Some predicted that the missing 30 percent of baryons were likely in a web-like pattern in space called the warm-hot intergalactic medium (WHIM).

Astronomers have found the brightest object ever discovered in the early Universe, 13 billion light-years away - a quasar from a time when our Universe was just seven percent of its current age.” A huge black hole eating massively from one of the earliest galaxies.

And finally... Moon landing fakery! Well, not really. These recovered hi-res images from Apollo 11 help prove the opposite.  But one of the captions is wrong! Image #3 supposedly shows: “The lunar module, after being jettisoned.”  Um wrong! It shows both sections of the LEM together, hence it is pre-landing, undoubtedly taken by Michael Collins as Buzz & Neil began their descent.  Yeah, picky-picky. And we are the civilization that did that. You are mighty beings called competent citizens.  Show it.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Ceres is effectively without any atmosphere at all. So what could be causing those streamers flowing to 2 O'Clock from some of the craters?

Unknown said...

The caption for Apollo image #3 has been updated.

Winter7 said...

As for the object 'Oumuamua, Since this object rotated once every 7.3 hours; ¿Should we not assume that the rotation should cancel the impulse caused by the jets of water vapor, activated by solar radiation?
I do not understand why a probe has not been diverted to try to reach it. If we perform a gravitational pull maneuver in a flyby close to Saturn or Jupiter, we could accelerate the probe at enormous speed.
Another option is to take a probe that already has almost no fuel and launch it in the direction of 'Oumuamua. Of course, the speed of the probe is negligible, but if we launch a rocket with a lot of fuel and with the new X3 ionic propellant from the University of Michigan, then the rocket reaches the probe, the nasa robot connects the new software to the probe and the rocket are coupled with claws to the probe.
After these maneuvers, the probe is accelerated at enormous speed towards' Oumuamua. In this way, we managed to recycle one of those old probes with huge satellite dish and S-band communication systems.
I am convinced that it is worth the risk and I doubt that the project cost more than a quarter of what it costs to send a single rover to Mars.
After all, I think there is a 75% chance that it is an artificial object (Tomb, capsule, bullet, projectile, hibernation system, ship, probe, etc.). It simply does not have the shape of an asteroid. It is too unusual an object to ignore. What should the aliens do next time? Throwing us objects shaped like animal crackers? Poor of the extraterrestrial princess; frozen inside 'Oumuamua, which will have to wait another 100 thousand years to be awakened.
The same text, in Spanish:
En cuanto a el objeto ’Oumuamua, Dado que este objeto rotated once every 7.3 hours; ¿no deberíamos suponer que la rotación debería anular el impulso causado por los chorros de vapor de agua, activados por la radiación solar?
No entiendo por qué no ha sido desviada alguna sonda para intentar darle alcance. Si realizamos una maniobra de tirón gravitacional en un sobrevuelo cercano a Saturno o júpiter, podríamos acelerar la sonda a una enorme velocidad.
Otra opción es tomar una sonda que ya casi no tiene combustible y lanzarla en dirección a ’Oumuamua. Desde luego, la velocidad de la sonda es insignificante, pero si lanzamos un cohete con mucho combustible y con el nuevo propulsor iónico X3 de la Universidad de Michigan, entonces, el cohete alcanza la sonda, el robot de la nasa conecta el nuevo software a la sonda y el cohete se acopla con garras a la sonda.
Tras esas maniobras, la sonda es acelerada a enorme velocidad hacia ’Oumuamua. De ese modo, logramos reciclar una de esas viejas sondas con antena parabólica enorme y sistemas de comunicación de banda S.
Estoy convencido de que vale la pena el riesgo y dudo que el proyecto costase más que la cuarta parte de lo que cuesta enviar un solo rover a marte.
Después de todo, creo que existe un 75% de posibilidades de que se trate de un objeto artificial (Tumba; capsula; bala; proyectil; sistema de hibernación; nave; sonda; etc.) Sencillamente, no tiene la forma de un asteroide. Es un objeto demasiado inusual para no tomarlo en cuenta. ¿Qué deberían hacer los extraterrestres la próxima vez? ¿lanzarnos objetos con forma de galletas de animalitos? Pobre de la princesa extraterrestre; congelada dentro de ’Oumuamua, que tendrá que esperar otros 100 mil años para ser despertada.

Winter7 said...

As for "2015 BZ509" the asteroid with retrograde orbit that is in orbit of Jupiter. I think the retrograde orbit could be because 2015 BZ509 was a planetoid that was hit head-on by a huge object, so that 2015 BZ509 was driven in a retrograde orbit and caused the loss of more than 90% of the original mass of the asteroid.
The same text, in Spanish:

En cuanto a “2015 BZ509” el asteroide con órbita retrógrada que está en órbita de júpiter. Pienso que la órbita retrógrada podría deberse a que 2015 BZ509 era un planetoide que fue impactado de frente por un enorme objeto, de tal modo que 2015 BZ509 fue impulsado en una órbita retrógrada y causándose la pérdida de más del 90% de la masa original del asteroide.

Winter7 said...

¿You say that in five years we will see the explosion of a red nova; when two stars merge?
Question: ¿Is the axis of rotation of the two stars aligned in the direction of our world?

¿Dices que en cinco años veremos la explosión de una nova roja; cuando se fusionen dos estrellas?
Pregunta: ¿El eje de giro de las dos estrellas está alineado en dirección de nuestro mundo?

Winter7 said...

I found out about the cryptocurrency disaster. ¿Remember I warned you that everything was a trick?
There are times when you have to know how to withdraw from the game table when you win. Unless one can affect the value of currencies or stocks with alarming Tweets, as a certain ingenious entrepreneur has done.
Anyway, some banks decided to use certain cryptocurrencies, so some electronic currencies will not disappear.
The same text, in Spanish:

Me enteré del desastre de las criptomonedas. ¿Recuerdan que les advertí que todo era un truco?
Hay ocasiones en que hay que saber retirarse de la mesa de juego cuando uno va ganando. Amenos que uno pueda afectar el valor de las monedas o las acciones con Tweets alarmantes, como lo ha hecho cierto empresario ingenioso.
De todos modos, algunos bancos decidieron usar ciertas criptomonedas, por lo que algunas monedas electrónicas no desaparecerán.

Winter7 said...

Yesterday I saw a movie with the theme of the Second World War. It was a terrible war.
I admit that I am grateful for the heroic effort made by the grandparents of the current Americans. To those heroic grandparents, I say: Thank you for killing Nazis. Thank you for bravely facing the worst enemy of humanity.
The same text, in Spanish:

Ayer vi una película con el tema de la segunda guerra mundial. Fue una guerra terrible.
Admito que me siento agradecido por el heroico esfuerzo realizado por los abuelos de los actuales estadounidenses. A esos heroicos abuelos, les digo: Gracias por matar nazis. Gracias por afrontar con valor al peor enemigo de la humanidad.

Winter7 said...

As for the bright areas in Ceres; Looking at the new photographs, that certainly looks like the geothermal activity on earth. That means that Ceres has uranium and perhaps other radioactive materials in its core. (as in our world)

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | regarding Ceres...

Not necessarily. I'd bet on some differentiation, but not a lot when it comes to some metals compared to other metals. It depends on how cool the interior got in the earliest years. Concentrating uranium would have helped keep it warm, but it has to stay warm a while to give differentiation time to work.

The last I heard about the bright areas is that it it is salt likely brought to the surface as a gusher of liquid water. All it would have had to do is ooze out, though, and we'd get what we see. (Very neat I think. Roofed worlds as common place. Ready made radiation shields for colonists looking for a place to hide while they work. )

Alfred Differ said...

Which cryptocurrency disaster?

Are you referring to the impact of "Tether" on "Bitcoin"?

Zepp Jamieson said...

If you're worried about polar UV emanations, don't be. The surface temperature of the event is estimated to be a relatively cool 1,000 K, and generally limited to the low end of the visible light spectrum.
It's expected to have an apparent magnitude of 2, which means it will be visible to the naked eye, but not spectacularly so: it will be about the fifthieth brightest star in the sky.

Deuxglass said...

Perhaps the interior inhabitants of Ceres found a way to get rid of their wastes by shoveling it outside. It would have the additional advantage of discouraging potential conquerers. Once they step their foot, hoof or tentacle in it they would swear never to come back.

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ:
Hi, Alfred. I already realized that you are not sleeping long enough. (Well, you participate in this website by day, at all night)
As for the question of whether the activity of geysers in Ceres is caused by a hot core or by the sun's heat, I guess we will not know the answer until we send some settlers to that place.
As for the matter of cryptocurrencies ... ¿Did not criptomonedas collapse? ¿So he lied the "The New York Times?

This is the link:

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ:
Alfred. As for the matter of oceans frozen in various places in the solar system. Certainly, those places are ideal shelters to place colonies. But I have not noticed in NASA's plans, a ship that can really deal with the high-energy radiation that abounds in space, far from the protective magnetic field of our world.
I do not trust much in the armor of magnetic fields that they plan to use. And, in fact, in the end, for a matter of time, maybe opt for a light shield, which will always be insufficient.

Winter7 said...

Zepp Jamieson:
I think that, on occasions, based on two issues that it is better not to mention, events such as the merger of two stars could actually generate more energy than expected. But like I said. Not always. I guess it's a matter of luck, unless we can have the ability to measure the excess gravitational force in a star; which would indicate the possibility of an explosion of larger dimensions in mergers of stars.

Winter7 said...

Douglas Fenton:
Probably, the only intelligent animals in the ocean of Ceres, will be the mutant dolphins that humans will send to that ocean.
But it would be great to discover life in some of the oceans of other worlds. Maybe we will find Aquamán and submarine cities? Whatever. The future of the first colonies is there.

Winter7 said...

Did you know of the Catholic bishop who stroked Ariana Grande's chest in public; in the celebration of a funeral?
They see him! If that bishop does that in public, it is evident that he privately abuses young girls. That is why I do not believe in the oath that they force us to do in the Catholic Church, to believe blindly in the infallibility of the Catholic Church, among other stupidities.

Deuxglass said...


You are sounding very strange.

Winter7 said...

Douglas Fenton:
¿I sounding strange? Thank you; Fenton If I were not like that, possibly I would be very disappointed.
Maybe the situation is not that I am very strange; perhaps, what happens is that the current human civilization is very strange.
In any case, I'm from Mexico, and I use Google's automatic translator. Maybe what you noticed is due to that.

Winter7 said...

Hey, do you want to see something that others do not see?
Here is a nebula that comes out of a single vortex (usually it is a double vortice, which is strange to see)
You may notice that the entire nebula is clearly inside the cone from which everything was ejected. Obviously, the outlet drain of a black hole.


Don Gisselbeck said...

Jim Wright has another great essay. You will note that every one of the evils he mentions was brought by the Free Market (blessed be its holy name). They were all stopped or mitigated by teh ebul gummint.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Donald
As I commented on that site

Where did the "Armed Citizens" that the Second Amendment types talk about stand in those struggles?

99% on the side of the BOSSES

The "Armed Citizens" are almost always on the side of the Tyrants - almost never on the side of the oppressed

David Brin said...

Winter7, some of this is interesting stuff. But please compact into fewer posts? Good luck.

Deuxglass said...


No quiero juzgarlo pero noté que a veces la traducción de Google no da un resultado claro y que puede dañar su argumentación. Hablo francés y cuando pienso en francés, lo que dices todo se vuelve visible y fácil de entender. En el futuro, traduciré el español al francés de Google para evitar malentendidos. Realmente aprecio tus comentarios aquí y espero que estés aquí a menudo.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | Whether one sees current crypto-currency prices as evidence of a collapse or as evidence of matching supply and demand depends more on your view regarding economic models than on anything to do with the 'currencies' themselves. People do stupid things with their money occasionally. This is especially true of the young and part of being human. Fortunately, some get lucky and become very rich. Others live long enough to learn from their errors and if all they lost was their savings, they'll become the old people who warn against these things... to the young who might occasionally listen. 8)

There are some outright fraudulent efforts out there regarding these currencies. Anyone who didn't see that coming needs to make friends with an old person.

For example, the second largest crypto-currency trading by volume is one I suspect is a fraud. It's called 'tether' and claims to be backed by US dollars held in reserve. I doubt the existence of that reserve. I suspect they have insurance instead if they have anything at all.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | Oh... forgot to add a bit of non-snark about NASA.

They won't be the entity creating colonization technology. It will be the private firms doing it and it will start with robot missions working out industrial processes. Our robots don't need as much shelter as we do, but they do need some. To avoid carrying everything with them all the time, they will learn ISRU.

Things will expand from there.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Whether one sees current crypto-currency prices as evidence of a collapse or as evidence of matching supply and demand depends more on your view regarding economic models than on anything to do with the 'currencies' themselves.

We've discussed this before, and I don't remember exactly where you fell on the topic, but to me, something like bitcoin has to decide whether it's an investment vehicle or a currency. When bitcoin's value skyrockets, that is often presented as evidence of its value as currency, which I just don't see. It's value as an investment? Sure, but that's a different thing (Heh). For a currency, I'd expect price stability to be more important than appreciation.

Trying to have bitcoin be both things reminds me of gambling on a cruise ship, when I couldn't decide whether my winnings were supposed to be profit or "additional lives". Oscillating between the two, I naturally lost my entire stake.

Larry Hart said...

Jim Wright (stonekettle station) has a new post up. Caveat Emptor, I haven't read it yet:

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | It won't be bitcoin deciding anything. That's up to us like you described with your cruise ship experience. 8)

Personally, I see it as a pure speculation at this point. The volatility of the speculation depends on bitcoin's traction as a trading currency. The value of the speculation depends on supply and demand.

If everyone wants to buy, price will go up because supply is limited and throttled.
If lots of people use it for trade, price will stabilize because they'll treat it like a tool.

If lots of people want to sell, price will go down.
If lots of people use it as a way to gamble, price will be volatile.

There are at least two coordinates for describing what happens to price. Since bitcoin is traded relative to fiat currencies and in regional markets, there are likely many more than two coordinates.

What some of you get hung up on is the belief that 'currency' implies 'low volatility'. History shows the error. So do current events in Venezuela.

Jon S. said...

"Did you know of the Catholic bishop who stroked Ariana Grande's chest in public; in the celebration of a funeral?
They see him! If that bishop does that in public, it is evident that he privately abuses young girls."

Winter, two major points:

1) That wasn't a "Catholic bishop"; that was a Protestant preacher. Not sure what Aretha Franklin's religious belief was, but he seemed pretty Baptist to me.

2) He wasn't "stroking her chest". There was minor contact with the side of one breast; from the video, it would appear that the pastor, like many of his brethren, is a "hugger" - the sort of person who just naturally hugs others as a standard greeting. And one thing I've learned over the years about huggers is that they just don't understand that some of us don't like being touched like that. It appears in the video that Ms Grande was trying to pull away from the hug while still being the polite "good girl" society has taught her to be, in so doing she turned slightly, and the pastor, who wasn't expecting a hug to be rejected, just didn't realize where his hand was about to be.

So many problems in our world that arise from simple misunderstandings...

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

It won't be bitcoin deciding anything.

Ok, the promoters of bitcoin.

That's up to us like you described with your cruise ship experience. 8)

I actually did learn my lesson. Whenever I'm in a position to gamble now, I decide ahead of time whether I'm playing for profit or for "more games". A few years after my earlier story, I was in New Orleans for a conference, and I visited a gambling boat, determined to play for profit. The very first slot machine I put money in--I'm thinking a dollar slot--paid off $200. I immediately picked up and left. It was disappointing to do so in the sense of not getting a lot of playing time in, but that's not what I was there for--that time, anyway.

I'm not picking a side between playing for profit vs playing for free games. I've done both at different times. The point is not to try to do both together.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

What some of you get hung up on is the belief that 'currency' implies 'low volatility'. History shows the error. So do current events in Venezuela.

A subtle distinction. It's not that currency implies low volatility, but that low volatility is a characteristic of a currency that works well over the long term. Your example makes that point rather than arguing against it. Surely, you didn't mean to tout Venezuela as an example of a well-functioning currency?

Darrell E said...


I'm ignorant about currencies and cryto-currencies but all the things you point out as being characteristics of currency contrary to Larry's arguments (in other words, characteristics that Larry associates with investment instruments rather than currencies) are bad characteristics. I think I understand what you are saying. That currencies are quite similar to investment instruments. But I think I agree with Larry that volatility is not a desirable trait in a currency. Not in the context of creating and maintaining an equitable, stable and relatively fair economy. No, for that I think you want steadiness and reliability. I can't think of any positives to waking up one morning and finding that my income now has 1/2 the buying power it had yesterday. At least not for me or most of the rest of society.

I understand that trading in currency is a big business. But what does that mean? Humans will take any opportunity to make money. That it occurs isn't particularly indicative of whether it is good or not.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | Venezuela's currency is a poor currency. Own it and you'll be poor in short order. What it IS, though, is an excellent example of the concerns libertarians have regarding fiat currencies. The thieves running Venezuela likely have their wealth stashed in other currencies. Anything else would do... even oil.

@Darrel E | What qualifies as 'bad' depends on your investment outlook. For us schmoes who use the currency, we benefit mostly from low volatility. If relative prices drift up or down slowly, our markets tend to adjust with no real harm to us. If there is a secular trend downward, though, we face a long term problem. That IS happening with the US dollar because we tend to borrow a lot of money as a nation. People willing to trade for USD's tend to value them according to our national debt.

Currencies aren't just similar to investment instruments. They ARE investment instruments. Specifically, they are debt instruments. Every dollar in your pocket is an IOU that you turn into something else when you trade them. They aren't IOU's that specify exactly who owes the debt, though some will point at the Federal Reserve. That's the difference.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Specifically, they are debt instruments. Every dollar in your pocket is an IOU that you turn into something else when you trade them. They aren't IOU's that specify exactly who owes the debt...

They seem to function as debt that you can be reasonably sure someone will make good on. With the US dollar in any case, you can be reasonably sure enough that you don't have to care who individually owes the debt. When that expectation that someone will make good breaks down, that's when (to me) it stops "working" as currency.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | someone will make good on

The entire trade system is based on this. You have a reasonable expectation that your employer will pay you later for work you do now. They have a reasonable expectation that they work/widgets/or whatever they produce will be traded for something with a customer. We ALL do this and I argue it is a big part of what makes us modern humans distinct from the other hominids. We trade outside our kin groups on these 'reasonable' expectations.

In 2007, some of those expectations broke down. Behind it all were some people who were trading fraudulently, some more who were trading blindly, and many more who were trading blissfully unaware of the shock to confidence that was about to arrive. Most people would not have understood that bonds rated AAA being downgraded to 'junk' could have such a big impact, let alone realized that the instruments they thought of as 'currency' could wobble and collapse. What a mess, though. The bond ratings agencies were in bed with investment banks. Some CEO's could collect bonuses of $1B if they performed well or $500M if they didn't.

In hindsight, though, there WAS a statistical indicator that showed the danger. Insurance policies on a particular debt instrument were priced at a level that suggested people selling them expected government bailouts for FreddieMac and FannieMae if there were large scale failures. Reading the fine print from those two institutions, though, showed that they were NOT supposed to be bailed out. They stated clearly they were not backed by the US Treasury. The insurance policy sellers obviously disagreed. That is a recipe for disaster because the whole credit system associated with real property was priced wrong.

None of that sounds like currency concerns, right? It is, though, because the confidence of USD buyers depends on what they believe about the US government. The ENTIRE SYSTEM depends on our confidence no matter how much people believe in attaching value to other 'objective' measures.

It's a wonder it works at all, but it does... because we are human. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | you are not sleeping long enough

Heh. I'm on the US west coast slightly west of Los Angeles. I think the clock that is listed under our posts reflects accurately for me. Sleep time for me ranges between midnight and 8 AM.

I can occasionally post from work during the day and like to read what people most here in the evening. Participation is rare on the weekends.

If it looks like I'm not sleeping, though, that would be incorrect. I type fast (100+ wpm) and sometimes don't know when to shut up. The result is I can pour out words rapidly. Whether they make sense is debatable. 8)

If you see long back to back posts separated by a few minutes, odds are I typed them in a word processor and then pasted them over. If there are lots of spelling/grammar mistakes, odds are I didn't.

Winter7 said...

David Brin:
Excuse me for my excesses, Doctor Brin. Certainly, my writings are sometimes like graffiti on the walls of a blog.
I will try to be more concise in my writings. If in the long term I forget that I should not be excessive; Remind me that I must be concise, because certainly, being focused on a style is an art that I never easily master.

Winter7 said...

Douglas Fenton:
Thank you, Mr. Fenton. I am happy that my writings in Spanish can be translated into French more easily than the translation from English into French. But I just promised to be more concise, which means that I will not be able to send my translated texts to English, accompanied by the original texts in Spanish. Certainly, sending the text in two languages greatly increases my comments. (Although the advantage was that, if there was a misunderstanding, you could make a more accurate translation with the help of a relative or neighbor who knew Spanish. (I think that currently the Spanish language is taught in all Highschools) (what a waste of time , they should teach the children French or Mandarin, in those languages is the future of business, not in the languages of nations ruled by evil dictators) (I do not mean Costa Rica, which is an exception)
Ups. I think I'm overdoing it.
Well, something quick:

Now, the Russians say that their space capsule was sabotaged. ¡What a coincidence! Because it happens that I was going to tell you that it was the Russians who sabotaged the capsule. Not to gain any consideration when private ferries replace Russian ships, but, rather, to try to verify the reaction capabilities of other countries to a projectile attack.
And I have no doubt that the Russians carried out the sabotage. An astronaut managed to cover the leak without problems with a finger. That indicates something: the ripped edges of the hole were bent outwards, so that the finger could perfectly cover the hole.
If it had been a micro-meteorite causing the hole, then the peaks of the ripped edge would be inward, so it would not be easy to easily seal the hole. Therefore, it was sabotage. But the sabotage was done by the Russians. Why should Westerners risk the entire space station? How would it be possible not to assume that drilling the thin aluminum shell of the Russian ship would not be followed by a major rip, with catastrophic consequences? Only Russians have the irrationality to commit reckless acts when they assume they can gain an advantage, in this case: tactical information on emergency measures in the event of an orbital battle with kinetic weapons.


Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ:
Yes, certainly future space companies will need to create a lot of technology based on in situ resource utilization. I guess that will be the key to start sending work teams to such distant places. Undoubtedly, the future workers of the asteroid belt will be happy to find in Ceres some coffee shops that have fresh salads, from automatic greenhouses sent in advance and Pubs with seaweed beer from the oceans of Ceres. And if the seaweed beer is served by nice "fembots", that would be fantastic.

And speaking of "fembots"; I still believe that in the nucleus of Ceres there is "magma". But I can be wrong. Therefore, we must send a drilling machine, to investigate the existence of "magma".
And I must say that Ceres is the ideal place to install a secret base ... Ooops, I meant; a colony...

Winter7 said...

Wawwww. ¡An astronaut saved the space station with a finger!. Haa, je je je je jee. No doubt that will lead to many jokes.

Cari Burstein said...

What languages are taught in schools in the US vary a lot by the location and also the type of school (ritzier schools tend to have more options). When I grew up in the LA area, almost everyone took Spanish, and French was the only alternative (primarily for those that already knew Spanish). But Spanish was very much a practical language given how many Spanish speakers there were there. These days I think languages like Mandarin are more commonly available than they were in my high school days. French I think has always been a popular language option, especially in areas nearer the French speaking parts of Canada.

Larry Hart said...

@Cari Burstein,

When I was in middle school in the early 1970s, our only options were French and Spanish, and at that time, there didn't seem to be any particular reason to favor one over the other. I took French because my father knew some French. Two years later, when it was my brother's turn, it already seemed as if Spanish was the preferred second language for an American to know *, at least in a city like Chicago.

Now, my daughter had exposure to Mandarin in fourth friggin' grade, and I can't even keep track of all the options available to her in high school (she's been taking German for 4 years).

* Fun fact: my brother went to Nicaragua to see what the fuss was all about in the mid 80s. While there, he learned how little use his grade school Spanish was for conversational speaking in Central America. Luckily, as he put it, there was an Italian-speaker along on the tour who could, as he put it, "translate the Spanish I was speaking into Spanish the natives could understand."

Larry Hart said...

For anyone who cares, goes live today with their polling data showing the state of the upcoming Senate race. Before Trump, this would have been the main purpose of the site, and the small news items just a bit of extra reason to come by almost every day. They wouldn't have even been updating the site between 2016 and now.

Anyway, it's a bit wonky, but if you're interested in how they do what they do, they explain it in great detail here:

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"They seem to function as debt that you can be reasonably sure someone will make good on. With the US dollar in any case, you can be reasonably sure enough that you don't have to care who individually owes the debt. When that expectation that someone will make good breaks down, that's when (to me) it stops "working" as currency."

The entire trade system is based on this. You have a reasonable expectation that your employer will pay you later for work you do now. They have a reasonable expectation that they work/widgets/or whatever they produce will be traded for something with a customer. We ALL do this and I argue it is a big part of what makes us modern humans distinct from the other hominids. We trade outside our kin groups on these 'reasonable' expectations.

Well, the employer situation isn't quite the same in that there is a specific entity who owes you the paycheck. If the employer refuses to pay you, someone else isn't going to step in and do it. Instead, you have to fight it out with the employer in court (or binding arbitration).

The widget example is closer to what I was talking about, though not exactly the same. A company produces goods with an expectation that someone will buy them, but if the product is a dud (or turns out to cause cancer or sterility) and no one does buy it, the company has not been cheated.

I take your point, though, that we function under expectations that might not be realized, but we trust in them anyway because the system seems to be working. That's where I take issue with the Randroids who insist that fiat currency is valueless because it could all disappear if people stop having faith in it. That's a true statement, but also an irrelevant one. As long as people do continue to keep faith with the system, the value is very real and tangible. The pizza I bought last night with a portion of my paycheck was real food. If the value of the dollar drops to zero tomorrow, I still got a pizza for the dollars I possessed last night. That value isn't dependent on future performance.

You put "'reasonable'" in quotes before "expectations", perhaps to indicate that the expectation is not quite so reasonable after all, but I'd say it's just as reasonable as the expectation that gravity will work tomorrow. I can't prove either assertion for sure, but life seems to work out if I make the assumption moreso than if I question it. It's true that people might suddenly stop cooperating in the economy, but that's a way different thing from saying that the dollar is valueless right now.

donzelion said...

Just returned from Italy (and wandering accidentally into Galileo's tomb!), it is interesting to look at Dr. Brin's premise from his 'pro-science' posts.

In all cultures up through the Renaissance, soldiers going to war might choose tokens - Imperial eagles, blessed images or statues of Madonnas - as banners under which to march. Amazingly, Catholic crusaders could sack a Christian city to pay Venetian debts in the 4th Crusade - carrying off an Orthodox Madonna as their own icon, and later invoking its protection against plague.

These thoughts on Titan - "So put on a Mylar sweater, bring some oxygen, and enjoy pioneering to Titan!" - mesh with Vonnegut's own scifi proposal (that all human civilization might be the accidental byproduct of an effort to produce spare parts for an alien craft), and yet, even if so, what of it? The universe is vast and beautiful. (So is Italy, by the way...)

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re - I'd really welcome a 'modifier' that takes local arrangements into account (that is, assuming states with majority Republican legislatures will weigh slightly more heavily than polls suggest). That makes me more skeptical about Nelson v. Scott (FL) and McCaskill v. Hawley (MO)...'barely' Dem? We'll see where the chips fall in November. But I can still hope...

Their methodology weights polls using their own secret sauce, but pollsters have been getting it wrong most reliably in states with consistently Republican-leaning legislatures, like PA, FL, MO. Of course, it could be that the polls are right and Reps are cheating in hard-to-detect places (like rural America) - but without evidence, such claims are spurious, and better to assume that polls are difficult, and models fallible.

That said, Illinois 6th district (Cook County & friends) remains a Republican tossup district closer to you than any Senate race...and while our host is right long-term about hitting the state races hard, that in no way means neglecting the congressional races, where we have the best chance possible of blocking budgetary idiocy (not to mention the hope of indictments and actual investigations). Back from vacation, I'm itching to go knock some doors, call some phones, and get to work - and rouse any fellow-minded Americans to do the same.

David Brin said...