Saturday, August 20, 2022

From the Moon to Mars and METI

I am infamously critical of the "Artemis Mission," re-doing glory that America achieved more than fifty years ago. Worse, a cabal of corrupt senators insisted that billions get poured into a make-work program of obsolete rockets that have no future. Oh, humanity will be going to Luna in droves, as nations, billionaires and other entities scurry to have their flag-waving, footprint-planting, tourist rites-of-passage. Those Apollo wannabes should have their ''bar moonzvahs' without elder bro churlishly shaming them by scurrying to beat them there. (We already did, by five decades.) 

Do not try the 'vast lunar resources' argument here. Blah blah. Except for a little water ice cached in deep, sunless craters at the poles, there are no such 'resources' there accessible by near future technologies. Nor compared to the spectacular riches that await us in the Near Earth Asteroids (NEOs). And as for that polar ice (first predicted by my doctoral adviser), our best steps forward are robotic.

Still, we are committed, I suppose, at least to the SLS-propeled 'stunt' part of Artemis. (Always remember who committed us to this moondoggle.) Moreover, I do hope and expect that skilled folks at NASA and ESA will strive to make this more than just an Apollo reboot, planting useless-symbolic footprints on a plain of poison dust. Science please.

Toward that end, very smart folks are trying to turn a lemon into lemonade, by selecting potential landing sites many of which are within reach of those ice deposits... and other interesting items like hollow lava tubes, which might offer best possible locations for lunar habitats. (We have a project to look at one of the 'skylight' openings, at NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC).)

In fact, I was impressed by how Jim Bridenstine, one of Trump's only first-rate appointments, protected NASA's other portfolios from cannibalism by Artemis. With some budget increases, this sabotage attempt won't sabotage at all!

It's too late to sway this decision. It's made. So I will root for the team... 

== More Space, More Space! ==

More spectacular images from the James Webb Space Telescope: exciting new discoveries about galaxies, exoplanets and nebulae.

Meanwhile, we've received stunning new high-resolution photos of the Valles Marineris canyon region on Mars - from the High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA's Mars Express exploring the surface of the Red Planet.

== Rockets ==

DIY rocket system being built by Danish amateurs and crowdfunded may carry suborbital passengers in some years. Interesting project, reminiscent of the amateur self-launch hobbyists in my novel Existence.  

Meanwhile the U.S. Space Force plans "responsive" launch in 2023. As part of the fiscal year 2022 defense budget, Congress added $50 million for the US Department of Defense to better use commercial launch services during a conflict; this would help the government replace damaged satellites or deploy new ones quickly.  Space Force said it plans to conduct a 2023 “responsive space” demonstration where private launch companies will be challenged to deploy satellites on short notice, Space News reports.

== METI yet again! ==

Apparently, a radio signal designed to bring Earth's climate crisis to the attention of alien life will be beamed to the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system in October. As many of you know, I am a member of a loose array of professionals with long experience in this field, who resigned from most SETI commissions in protest, when the Second SETI Protocol was eviscerated, opening the door wider for reckless and insipid stunts like this one, rashly gambling our children and posterity based on highly dubious assumptions.

Here's the latest stunt, planned by the folks using a taxpayer built facility at Goonhilly Station in the UK, aiming to perform diplomacy with foreign powers bypassing the professionals we hire for such things…. 

…and a fairly balanced-if-cursory overview, mentioning also that it seems China may be about to join in this absurd spectacle, despite being clearly warned about potential drawbacks by the mighty Liu Cixin (in his great trilogy “The Three Body Problem.") I was not aware that China had added transmission equipment to their giant new radio telescope. But I cannot say that I’m surprised.

NBC online just ran a tendentious article by SETI Institute chief scientist Seth Shostak. I have known Seth for decades. Alas, he has lately tipped into polemic that is deeply flawed. This 'article' is rife with the usual hoary canards, long ago refuted. You are welcome to read his piece, then dive into the actual meat of this controversy here:

Shouting At the Cosmos” – about METI “messaging” to aliens. 

But the crux is that Seth Shostak says nothing whatsoever about "why scientists are divided on this issue," preferring instead to deal out absurd, insulting and refuted clichés, avoiding all adversarial accountability by science and fact.

1. Like his claim that the dozens of scientists who express skepticism toward METI (or ‘active SETI’), many of them with decades of experience in SETI, are primarily spurred by fear of alien invasion. An absurd canard. Most of us are motivated far more by the rude and unscientific behavior of a very small coterie, dismissing even cursory discussion of basic concerns, like those routinely examined by NASA's Office of Planetary Protection.

2. He also says: “Homo sapiens might (might!) be around for a long time, and insisting that we never, ever point a powerful radio transmitter skyward could prove to be a weighty albatross burdening our descendants.”

Seth keeps accusing us of trying to 'stifle' humanity forever, when in fact, we have asked for open debate, exposing a wide variety of considerations and facts - not clichés - for examination by our scientific peers and by a fascinated public. The 'never, ever' thing is a grotesque lie. 

3. “They already know about us, so why not beam messages?” This is the worst cliché of them all. We deal with its absurd illogic in the linked missive. Not only do our TV shows fade into static very soon beyond Pluto, but if aliens already know of us, why are these cultists trying to amplify their shouts skyward by many millions-fold?

To be clear, many of us retain our fascination with the 'alien.' In particular, I am fairly famous for it! But we are also scientists. Alas, this 'active SETI' cult no longer uses scientific method or thinking and needs to be seen for what it is. Moreover, NBC exhibited shallowness and may have done real harm, by not seeking to understand the cult-like nature of Seth's movement.

Again, I gave a link to our long list of complaints, not one of which - alas - this cult has ever answered.

== Artemis redux ==

Again, my objections to a U.S. Footprint Stunt on the moon do not extend to robotic parts of the program!  NASA should very much strive for a leading role in robotic lunar exploration and actual, actual science.  For example: “Over the course of 10 Earth days (one lunar day), Lunar-VISE will explore the summit of one of the Gruithuisen Domes. These domes are suspected to have been formed by a sticky magma rich in silica, similar in composition to granite. On Earth, formations like these need oceans of liquid water and plate tectonics to form, but without these key ingredients on the Moon, lunar scientists have been left to wonder how these domes formed and evolved over time.”

Robotic exploration of lunar polar ice fields? That too!  And suspected lava tubes. 

What we do not need to do is humiliate other nations eager to send their astro/cosmo/taikonauts for symbolism-drenched national rites of passage. Let them have their ‘bar moonzvahs.’ We have other business farther out, worthy of grownups.

Onward to... the asteroid belt, location of vast wealth for planet Earth.


DP said...

The Artemis lunar return mission is not unusual, or in retrospect unexpected. It follows two historical patterns.

The first pattern is the inevitable time delay between exploration and colonization. At the turn of the (last) century, the race for the poles was the Victorian equivalent of our race for the moon. Once the flags of Britain, Norway, etc. had been planted at the south pole, national prestige was satisfied. Afterwards, nobody bothered much with Antarctica for about another half century, until the first international geophysical year (1959). Since then, the continent has been studded with permanently manned scientific bases and weather stations. But nobody has bothered to try to colonize Antarctica on a large scale.

Mostly because Antarctica is a crappy place to live.

Yet it is far more inviting, far cheaper and easier to colonize and to get to than the Moon or Mars. So, in keeping with history, about a half century after the Apollo program we can look for permanently manned stations in orbit, on the moon and maybe on Mars. But don't expect massive colonization anytime soon. Our species simply won't move in large numbers to anyplace where we can't walk around outside in shirt sleeves for at least part of the year.

The second pattern is that government funded exploration (Ferdinand and Isabella paying for Columbus’ voyages, Jefferson sending Lewis and Clark westward, Kennedy pledging to land a man on the moon, etc.) is always followed by true colonization being performed by private enterprise (the Massachusetts Bay Company, settlers travelling the Oregon trail, Dutch East India Company, railroads spanning the west, etc.). In fact, the early colonization efforts in the Americas were the work of the world’s first stockholder corporations. Planetary Resources, Inc. (asteroid mining) and SpaceX (private space launches) are just the first corporations being formed to colonize and exploit the “New World” of the Solar System. Which means we won’t be colonizing planets.

Screw planets.

The near-term future of manned colonization of space should be the asteroid belt. So instead of Mars, we should colonize the dwarf planet Ceres (the largest body in the asteroid belt) in order to establish a logistical base for asteroid prospecting and mining. Ceres has no significant gravity well to overcome and lots of water for life and fuel.

So instead of Star Fleet planting human colonies on the surfaces of planets, we'll have the Weyland-Yutani Corporation contracting out the asteroid equivalent of arctic oil rig and crab fishing operations - extremely dirty and dangerous work with a high death rate. Think "rough necks in space" performing work that makes investors back home extremely wealthy, mankind more prosperous and the workers themselves a small fortune with each service contract (if they live long enough to return to Earth to spend their money).

Maybe we'll have the occasional scientific base established on Mars or floating in the atmosphere of Venus, but they'll be no bigger than a current Antarctic weather station. So forget about the bright, shiny and clean Enterprise piloted by bright young academy grads, our future in space is the dirty, gritty and dangerous Nostromo manned by blue collar truck drivers. In fact, our whole future in space will look more like the "Alien" universe instead of "Star Trek" (hopefully without face huggers and chest bursters).

DP said...

But if you want to colonize planets there is an historically proven pattern for doing so whose first rule is that the colonies have to have an economically viable reason for existing (gold and silver from New Spain, tobacco from Virginia, etc.).

Mercury can provide metals. Venus can provide carbon from it's atmosphere to make carbon fiber. Luna could provide helium-3 assuming fusion ever becomes a reality, Phobos (which someone described as teh most valuable piece of real estate in the solar system) and Deimos have volatiles, Ceres has water, Psyche is a big ball of metal, millions of asteroids can provide volatiles. Pretty much everything you need for a self sustaining industrial region is already out there - except for Mars.

Ironically, Mars doesn't seem to have anything that can justify the cost of hauling it up from its gravity well.

The colonization stages would be:

Dig a tunnel or use existing lava tubes to establish a base of operations that protect the few human workers from radiation. Venus would use floating aerostat cities (not sure if they would be protected from radiation high up in the Venusian atmosphere).

Make said bases self sufficient.

Perform prospector missions to nail down the locations and extent of valuable raw materials.

Begin mining, mining, factory, shipyard and construction operations.

Population, mining, industry, shipping and construction expand exponentially with triangle trade shipping routes established. After a certain point, colonies would no longer require input from Earth and can grow on their own.



Move on to the moons and trojans of Jupiter, the rings and moons of Saturn, the outer planets, Kuiper belt, the Oort cloud, and brown dwarfs between the stars.

Should take about a millennia.

David Brin said...

I agree with much DP said. Though ALL of it depends on how far we go with robotics, which could maybe make it all happen within 50, not 1000 years.

Note in EXPANSE they rule out rob otics. They had to, for plot purposes.

DP said...

Only one thing missing that could prevent are colonization of the solar system and then the stars - a lack of phosphorous.

It's so rare outside of Earth it may explain the Fermi Paradox.

Tim H. said...

Two important facilitators, radiation shielding and spin gravity sleeping berths could make interplanetary exploration more survivable. would've been a better use of money than SLS.
Another interesting thing to do at ISS EOL, add propulsive and maneuvering capability and fly it remotely to lunar orbit, to get an idea of how serious the radiation is in cislunar space, and how much shielding we need.

Alfred Differ said...

I agree in principle regarding the asteroids… with one significant qualification.

It doesn't matter if substance X is present on body Y. (e.g. He-3 on Luna)
What matters is whether substance X can be mined, refined, and brought to market at a profit.

There's probably a huge diamond in Jupiter's core. Good luck getting it to market.

The only argument for industrial development of Luna in the near future is the time cost of money* in bring asteroid resources to market. A poor mine next door might actually be profitable earlier than an excellent mine in the back of beyond.

It won't stay that way, though. Engineering advances will push the envelope at every location and markets might expand outward. As with every other commodity on Earth, futures contracts will decide what makes sense and what doesn't.

* Risky ventures funded by private money typically start their demands around 55% compounded yearly. Failure is expected, so private money maintains a portfolio in the hopes that enough will pay off to compensate for utter failures. This is common behavior among VC's.

Tony Fisk said...

A lunar space elevator would be an undertaking worthy of the US. Definitely feasible there, and it might help figure out how what's needed to stretch to an earthly one. And there's that longer term 'bootstrapping' project to consider.

That still suggests neos are a better short-term goal.

Alfred Differ said...

Anyone here actually worked in the mining industry?

DP said...


"There's probably a huge diamond in Jupiter's core. Good luck getting it to market."

And even if you did, a diamond that size suddenly being available on the market would crash the price of diamonds to the point where the diamond retrieval venture is no longer profitable. Same if you brought back to Earth orbit an asteroid of pure platinum the size of a mountain. Platinum prices would crash and you would lose money.

"A poor mine next door might actually be profitable earlier than an excellent mine in the back of beyond."

You just described mining metals on Luna.

scidata said...

Re: mining industry

Spent a brief time in hard rock robotics (they also did deep sea ROVs). Damned expensive work, even here on Earth. Seems to me the real money isn't in production, but rather in managing markets.

locumranch said...

Artemis exists for one purpose & one purpose only:

To put a woman on the moon, preferably one of colour.

"Through the Artemis program, we will see the first woman and first person of color walk on the surface of the Moon."

It's a cynical publicity stunt, this planned big budget remake of Al Green's megahit 'Ride, Sally Ride' (a tribute to the USA's first woman in space).

In 1983, the Sally Ride show brought NASA out of a TV ratings slump & made it marketable again but, less than 7 year later, the same publicity stunt failed spectacularly and led to the immediate cancellation of Christa McAuliffe, 6 other crew members & most of its programming, condemning NASA to technical & political irrelevance.


Larry Hart said...

Netflix just added an eleventh episode of the Sandman series based on Neil Gaiman's graphic novels. This one contains the story, "A Dream of a Thousand Cats".

Strongly recommended, even if you don't care about the series as a whole.

When I lament that we could re-make the world if as few as a thousand Democrats would dream it, but what are the chances of getting even ten Democrats to do the same thing at the same time?, this is the source whence that came.

Larry Hart said...


Al Green's megahit 'Ride, Sally Ride' (a tribute to the USA's first woman in space).

I have to believe the astronaut was named after the lyrics in "Mustang Sally".

Alan Brooks said...

Who says that people would be the colonizers? It would be transhumans/posthumans—we’re obsolete. If we colonized Antarctica, we’d likely ruin it eventually.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

If we colonized Antarctica, we’d likely ruin it eventually.

We're already ruining it.

duncan cairncross said...

I agree except that Phobos and Deimos are better than the asteroid belt (to start with) - Mars while a dubious destination provides an excellent location for aerobraking

David Brin said...

TimH is right that a rotating space station would be a VASTLY better project for the US than a footprint stunt on the moon…. though in parallel with NASA *robotic* lunar work to stay ahead down there, while China etc. rush to their bar moonzvah rituals.

Alfred is right that Luna beats asteroids if TIME is involved. Hence asteroids are purely robotic for the foreseen future. But in that case time is less important (to robots) than energy and ore… how pre-refined the stuff is. And in those cases asteroids are vastly better than anything on the moon, even for water.

Tony a lunar space elevator makes sense on paper… but it is not ‘near-term’. There must be paying customers at both ends. Though see how I use such a thing to save the planet! Lift the Earth! an entertaining video- - and the numbers behind the idea:

LH: “what are the chances of getting even ten Democrats to do the same thing at the same time?, this is the source whence that came”

Alas, the wing of the DP that does share a common dream is the crazy wing.

Alan Brooks said...

I don’t think there’ll ever be one non-augmented person living off Earth permanently. How many people are in the ISS now? A half-dozen? And they’re rotated.
A half-century after Apollo, there are a few people living on a rotated basis in Earth orbit.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

I don’t think there’ll ever be one non-augmented person living off Earth permanently.

Since Tacitus has returned to us, I seem to recall him being particularly amused by a conversation from Out of the Silent Planet concerning Professor Weston's desire to replace native populations of other planets with modified humans. The protagonist, Ransom, was grilling him on essentially, "What's the point?", because to supplant aliens, humans would have to become aliens. And he pointed out that as a "humanist", Weston only seemed to care that the surviving conquerors be descended from the loins of earthmen, even if there was nothing else human about them.

Larry Hart said...

Concerning the above, C.S. Lewis is the only one I've ever read who makes "humanist" sound insular, something like "human chauvinist". Other religious people use "humanist" as a pejorative, but they mean it in the sense of secular rather than spiritual. Lewis meant it to sound the way we would use terms like "nativist" or "white supremacist".

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Alas, the wing of the DP [Democratic Party] that does share a common dream is the crazy wing.

I'm not entirely sold on that. The ones that care about pronouns aren't necessarily the ones that care about defunding the police. Some insist on identity politics, while others want to purge language of anything referring to race. Manchin and Sinema don't seem to agree on anything except their roles as monkey wrenches.

Paradoctor said...

Larry Hart:
Star Trek addressed the speciesism of 'humanist'. A Federation officer was talking to Klingons about inalienable human rights, and a Klingon said, "We're not human."

As for colonists becoming aliens in place of the aliens they displace so what's the point: how about founding new ecosystems, with the post-humans as keystone species, where there was no life before?

Larry Hart said...


As for colonists becoming aliens in place of the aliens they displace so what's the point: how about founding new ecosystems, with the post-humans as keystone species, where there was no life before?

Nothing's wrong with that. But that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing, of displacing living aliens in order to colonize their worlds with modified humans who would (of necessity) be more like the aliens than like humans.

Larry Hart said...

We live this scenario out already. Liberals now villainize Columbus and the 16th century Spaniards and Portuguese for displacing natives of the Caribbean and the Americas. But now, we villainize our own selves for exploiting Latin Americans--the descendants of those very Spaniards and Portuguese. We don't tend to think of the current day inhabitants of Latin America as Western Europeans because in order to occupy Latin America, they had to become Latin Americans.

Alan Brooks said...

Ransom: what’s the point?

As Hillary (no, not that Hillary) said about the point of climbing Everest:
“because it’s there.”
And to beat another climber there.
What was the point of going to the Moon decades ago?: Because it’s there. And to beat the Russians there.
What would be the point of going to, say, Mars? Because it’s there. And to beat the Chinese there.
What was the point of hominids evolving to walk on two legs instead of four? And why did they climb off trees onto the ground? Because it’s there.

IJV said...

"Alfred is right that Luna beats asteroids if TIME is involved. Hence asteroids are purely robotic for the foreseen future. But in that case time is less important (to robots) than energy and ore… how pre-refined the stuff is. And in those cases asteroids are vastly better than anything on the moon, even for water."

In a free market system time, in the form of Net Present Value, is always an important or most important factor in making these kinds of decisions. Its getting a bit old, but Mark Sonter's thesis on the technical and economic feasibility of asteroid mining lays it all out.


Larry Hart said...

Even as roughly half the states have moved to enact near-total bans on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, anti-abortion activists are pushing for a long-held and more absolute goal: laws that grant fetuses the same legal rights and protections as any person.
Georgia Right to Life is pushing for more, arguing in its petition that the Dobbs decision “is the pivotal opportunity we’ve been praying and working for,” paving the way for a personhood amendment. “We will lay the foundation to protect all innocent human life, from earliest beginning through natural death — no exceptions.”

This line of argument blows my mind. Fetal personhood doesn't grant the unborn "the same rights and protections" as any person, it grants the unborn extraordinary rights over those of women. If a person is hooked up to a life support machine and dies anyway, no one is accused of murder, but now women who miscarry will be charged or at least suspected of manslaughter.

Beyond the multiple legal cans of worms that fetal personhood opens up, I just don't understand the reasoning which says that fetal personhood would invalidate any exceptions in abortion bans. By this logic, police or armed citizens would have no right to shoot a person in self-defense. By this logic, a person who required a transplant to save his life could claim one from another person, as his life would trump the other person's liberty.

And by this logic, any man who forcibly impregnates a woman who might be willing to have an abortion had better be prosecuted for child endangerment, for placing an innocent baby into harm's way!

My pushback is to demand a "Female Personhood" amendment, establishing once and for all that women are human beings. That would at least make clear that fetal personhood doesn't get around the fact that abortion is not about whether one party has rights at all, but about competing rights.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Alan Brooks, I think you are in error regarding the "because it is there" quote. I believe it was said by George Leigh Mallory, another Everest climber who died in an ill fated effort to climb the mountain in 1924.

I am a bit of an Everest geek.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

And to beat another climber there.
What was the point of going to the Moon decades ago?: Because it’s there. And to beat the Russians there.
What would be the point of going to, say, Mars? Because it’s there. And to beat the Chinese there.

All duly noted, but beside the point.

The fantastical scenario argued by Ransom with Weston involved humanity taking over an already-inhabited planet. The implied "What's the point?" was at the notion of replacing aliens with humans who would have to morph into similar aliens in order to survive.

That aside, though, I didn't mention the book as a defender of Ransom's argument. I mentioned it as an example of C.S. Lewis using the term "humanist" in a way I've never heard it used otherwise--as an exclusionary concept rather than an inclusionary one.

Jon S. said...

"What was the point of hominids evolving to walk on two legs instead of four? And why did they climb off trees onto the ground?"

An omnivorous diet provides greater calories, and also helps protect against starvation (the more food sources there are, the less likely they'll run out). This is best provided by moving out of forests. (Or are you contending that the great apes also "left the trees" due to vaulting ambition?) And walking upright both freed our forepaws to develop dexterity, and turned us into persistence hunters - the Jason Voorhees of the animal world. Our prey may flee faster than we can pursue, but they can only run like that for so long, while we can jog along for miles. And when the prey has to stop and catch its breath, or take a drink, or simply cool off, here we come over the horizon, relentless...

duncan cairncross said...

Jon S
Persistence hunting did NOT drive our humanity - persistence hunting does not require big brains
Throwing however DOES require and reward a larger brain

Jon S. said...

Duncan, persistence hunting does work better with bipedal locomotion. Since our walking is basically falling forward in a controlled fashion, we expend less energy on it than quadrupeds. Alan was contending that we started walking "because it's there", not because it let us exploit an unfilled evolutionary niche.

The bigger brains thing meant that we didn't have to catch all the way up to the prey in order to attack, which was also nice, because we could throw things. Then we figured out how to craft better stuff to throw, and how to make it go farther than we could manage with just our arms. We're cool like that.

duncan cairncross said...

Jon S
Throwing is interesting - you have make all of the "decisions" before you let go
And throwing faster (harder) cuts the time down even further
How do you "calculate" faster?
You parallel up the operation! - more brains
Which enables harder faster "rocks" = more food

Alan Brooks said...

I was attempting to illustrate that there’s no purpose in trans/posthumans colonizing space—or Earth for that matter. Because then we’re not us anymore. (An analogy is reincarnation: how can a sentient ‘come back’ as someone/something else? It’s not them anymore.)
Hominids climbing off trees was merely trying to say ‘no purpose’ in evolving... just happens. There’s no reason, for humans, in trans/post-hominids eventually colonizing space.
They might not have colonies—they could exist independently. They could shape-shift. But there is nothing in it for us as humans in such. It’s as Edmund Hillary said: “Because it’s there.”
‘Because it’s there’ is a heuristic; there’s no verifiable reason, purpose. No meaning to advanced beings going to space. It merely is (depending on what the definition of ‘is’ is.)
Again, imo no un-augmented humans are ever going to live off-Earth. I used to hear, “man has a thirst (or hunger) to travel to space.”
Doesn’t necessarily mean there’ll be Significance in doing so.

Alfred Differ said...


Someone's done their homework! (Thank you IJV.)

I usually quote/paraphrase from Sonter's thesis when we come around to this topic. I got a copy back when it was still fairly new and got to meet him a couple of times at conventions. I was an 'Asteroids' guy back then, but his arguments (covered in the thesis) broadened my perspective.

I also pile on some material from VC coaching books since no asteroid project is already an established, profitable business.


When private money is involved, expected NPV rules investment decisions.

The mining industry has only just so much that they invest in risky ventures and they do NOT risk it all on a crap shoot.

Typical expected rates of return start at 35% compounded yearly IF

1. The tech involved is well understood.
2. The management team is well established and has proven experience.
3. The political environment is stable enough to permit a project to run to completion.

Add to the return rate if any of these are missing. It's very easy to get to 55% with just one missing piece.

The difference between xNPV and NPV involves a branching tree of possibilities. At time T a decision is made that could produce different outcomes. Each branch has a probability. The leaves on the tree are all the possible end-states regarding investment outcomes. Some involve loss of everything. Some involve the very rosy outcomes. All leaves have probabilities calculated as from a product of branch probabilities. One leaf is an NPV. A weighted average of them is an xNPV.


The reason Lunar mining will be tried before asteroid mining is the compounding rate occurs over a shorter time frame. No space mining project has all the tech figured out. No space mining project has the political environment figured out because things like the Moon Treaty exist. The expected rate of return will be large due to risks, so the investment time frame MUST be short to start.

Fortunately, there is something NASA and other space agencies of mature countries can do about this. They can push the tech.

Governments in these mature nations can can establish a property rights regime friendly to mining interests… or get out of the way and let the miners sort out what works and then come back and adopt the tested solution.


The main thing to be avoided here is hubris. We aren't out there in large enough numbers to avoid mistaking our presence as a round-off error for zero. We don't know what techniques work out there… but we can learn. This is what humans do best if other humans avoid the trap of pretending they already know.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: avoid the trap of pretending they already know

This was the environment during the incredible post-war boom up right up until the early 1980s. I mentioned my time at GM earlier. I was labelled a Robotics Engineer, but was really a 'Transistor Whisperer'. Hands-on familiarity with early processors and Forth made me a Merlin of sorts. Others I knew back then brought even much more innovation to the table. They were a joy to work with, with nary an MBA in sight. Those were the days just before hyper-specialization and soul-crushing doctrine took over. Maybe explains my tolerance of Elon Musk's foibles.

Early exploration ships usually had less formal crew credentials, Ship's Carpenter and Captain's Companion for example. If every eventuality can be predicted and accounted for, then why send flesh and blood into sea/space? The misfortunes of ships run by dandies and bean-counters and not sea-dogs is the theme of so many books and movies.

locumranch said...

Some updated lyrics for Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey on the Moon":

Gender just a social construct,
So we need women on the moon.

Race just a social construct,
So we need races on the moon.

Don't know what a woman is,
But we need women on the moon.

Don't care what your color is,
But we need more color on the moon.

Found out that Armstrong wore a dress
Now we've transgenders on the moon.


Jon S. said...

Genus Homo and genus Pan separated because Homo exploited open evolutionary niches. It "just happened" only in the sense that the niche could have been exploited by similar mutations in other species. (Our mutual precursor, however, was already approximately the correct shape for this niche.)

Humans seek to explore because that's part of the result of evolving to be curious. Other species that display curiosity also explore their limits. "Because it's there" is a poor attempt to explain it in terms that don't involve evolution.

Larry Hart said...

Reportedly, the pressing concern that justified a warrant was not any particular document, nor any particular imminent action (like, say, handing materials over to the Russians). It was, instead, the sheer volume of material that the former president retained, even after multiple attempts by the government to reclaim it. Remarkably, the DoJ still isn't certain they've got everything, and they want to review security footage from Mar-a-Lago to see if there might be clues as to more purloined letters.

They might need to check Ivana's coffin.


Alan Brooks said...

Don’t know, for random example, if Everest was climbed due to curiosity, or sheer hubris. Could be E. Hillary was on to something with “because it’s there.”
Perhaps it might be three words to describe the blindness of evolution; it is will o’ the wisp.
A religionist says the deity is guiding evolution: there’s some purpose, meaning, rhyme & reason. An atheist might think there’s a purpose. But maybe there’s none: throw of the dice.
Hillary meant that he climbed Everest for no reason—next time we see him, we’ll ask.

Paradoctor said...

Ransom proves too much; for his argument is as much against colonizing future Earth as it is against colonizing other planets. Why reproduce? Your descendants will not be you, and given enough time, they won't be our species of human either. If in tens of megayears, raccoons, bonobos, corvids and others will evolve language, tool-use, and societies, then why set our spawn to compete with them?

Paradoctor said...

Locumranch accuses an entire faction with the follies of a minor and annoying subfaction. But two can play that game. Letters 6, 7, and 8 of his handle spell "ran": may we therefore accuse him of cowardice? I could make worse jokes.

Larry Hart said...


Locumranch accuses an entire faction with the follies of a minor and annoying subfaction.

I have no reason to believe that loc has read any of the comic books written by self-described anti-feminist Dave Sim, but his lines of argument are eerily reminiscent of Dave's. Dave has touted his "16 Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast in order to be a good feminist", trying to prove reducto ad absurdum that feminism relies on illogic. Examples are worded like, "A car works best with two steering wheels and two drivers, so a relationship works best with co-equal partners."

Paradoctor said...

As for our far-future post-human spawn, on or off Earth, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that far-future humankind will have superhuman powers. Our distant descendants will be superior to us in their intelligence, creativity, resilience, wisdom, health, empathy and cunning. Their immune systems will shrug off cancer, airborne Ebola, and radioactive fallout. They will be poets, artists, musicians, athletes, acrobats, and lightning calculators from childhood. They will have profound spirituality, superb sales resistance, and a magnificent sense of humor. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that they will need all of those superhuman talents, and more, to survive long enough to reproduce.

Paradoctor said...

Reductio ad absurdum is a dangerous game. Dave Sim's reductions to the absurd reduce Dave Sim to the absurd.

Paradoctor said...

A car works best with only one wheel.

Alan Brooks said...

If only Armstrong had worn a red white and blue dress sewn by Betsy Ross.
I don’t mind what LoCum writes; it’s the pure conservative status quo stuff you hear all day, everywhere. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
Some far-leftists said during Apollo that the funding for it would’ve better been spent on Earth-bound human needs.
By that logic, we should’ve remained in the Garden Of Eden: no pollution, no traffic jams, no washing machines. Plenty of low-hanging fruit. If ‘first do no harm’ is the credo, then living in a cabin on a remote plot of land would be the Way.
Prayer, fasting, meditation, contemplation. A bowl of rice—a small bowl of rice.

Larry Hart said...


A car works best with only one wheel.

(I assume you mean one steering wheel)

Yes, that's exactly Dave's point. That feminism, by insisting on equality within a male/female relationship, asserts an absurdity equivalent to "A car works best with two steering wheels." That since a car works best with one steering wheel and one driver, a relationship therefore works best with a dominant man and a submissive woman.

My rejoinder at the time was that an airplane works best with a pilot and a co-pilot who can spell each other.

I was noting the similarity between the way Dave phrased his Impossible Things to Believe and the way locumranch expressed his supposed-paraphrasing of liberal arguments. Such as:

Race just a social construct,
So we need races on the moon.

He presents it as a contradiction, a claim that race doesn't matter but we need to categorize people by race. The same sort of argument that asserts that "Black Lives Matter" is a demand for special privileges for black people. No, "Black Lives Matter" properly means, "All lives should matter, but black lives have been treated as if they don't matter. So, cut that out."

Likewise, "Race shouldn't matter, but non-whites have been historically underrepresented. So, cut that out."

David Brin said...

“Weston only seemed to care that the surviving conquerors be descended from the loins of earthmen, even if there was nothing else human about them.”

See my short story “Detritus Affected” in which it turns out that’s what happened with an alien invasion of Earth, with surprising results.

GMT have you seen the photos of Mallory’s frozen body, recently found off-trail on Everest?

Jon S… the relentless human jogging hunter (which I portray in The Uplift War) is one thing. Probably earlier came the Carrion Thief. Humans could throw (maybe not so accurately, yet) before they could jog great distances. A band would follow the circling of vultures to a lion-kill and wait till the lions had sated and were just lounging around. Sated, they would not bother much to defend the carcass when pelted by stones, which also kept at bay the primary carrion eaters like hyenas and jackals, As first scavengers they found a terrific niche.

See Bill Calvin’s book THE THROWING MADONNA.

Alfred, mining WATER from small asteroids may be easy (a NIAC project) by throwing a baggie around the roid and using focused sundlight to get water vapor off the roid and into the bag.

locum was actually kinda cute this time… woof. What’re those vitamins?

Larry Hart said...

True dat...

And at a broader level, we’re seeing the trouble with dictatorships, where nobody can tell the leader when he’s wrong. Putin seems to have invaded Ukraine in part because everyone was too afraid to warn him about the limits of Russian military power; China’s Covid response has gone from role model to cautionary tale, probably because nobody dares tell Xi Jinping that his signature policies aren’t working.

So autocracy may be on the march — but not because it works better than democracy. It doesn’t.

Unknown said...


I was surprised to learn that Gen. Douglas MacArthur agreed with you - in a discussion he took part in in Manila pre-Dec.7 1941, he pointed out that while autocrats like Hitler and Tojo can make decisions faster than democratic governments, they have no way to correct errors, which is why he opined that the Axis would lose. Mac may have been an arrogant popinjay but not a dolt.


Alfred Differ said...

In terms of private money, water from small asteroids has three strikes against it.

1. No one has tried the bagging technique out there yet.
2. Delivery time to market is quite large making launch costs from Earth competitive.
3. The market for that water doesn't exist yet.

Private money would calculate on a tree that includes possible customers that don't yet exist... here and out there... and likely wind up with a weighted sum (xNPV) that is negative.

THAT'S why I support NIAC involvement. At a minimum, they might defeat issue #1 and I would consider my tax money well spent.

Jon S. said...

"3. The market for that water doesn't exist yet."

You should visit the American Southwest sometime. Check out the water levels of Lake Mead, which the entire region depends on.

Or take a look at the Yangtze River, or the Loire, or the Danube, or the Po, or...

TheMadLibrarian said...

I'm not sure we want to add water to the Earth, which due to climate change, is redistributing what we have in ways (floods, droughts, melting icecaps which are pushing shorelines up and in) that living critters have problems with. Better to work with what we have, and use it more sensibly, that and not ruin what's here.

David Brin said...

Alfred, space is different. Especially for robotically mined asteroidal resources. What matters is not the transit time back to Earth, but the PIPELINE of stuff on its way. If you keep the stuff flowing homeward, it soon doesn't matter when each lump got put into the source end. There are no salaries or ship maintenance budgets... just stuff coming in at a steady pace.

Paradoctor said...

Larry Hart: I meant a unicycle car. Ya wanna drive one?

Regarding BLM and the diversionist retort "All Lives Matter": all lives _should_ matter, but in reality they do not; that's BLM's point. To get past the futile moralism of 'should', some cynics would say #SBNALM: "Some But Not All Lives Matter". But I contend SBNALM is the ruling class's version of naive idealism, as they believe that theirs are the lives that matter. I am an even worse cynic: I hold that the dirty, gritty, down-home reality is the opposite of SBNALM, namely #ALMOND:

All Lives Matter Or None Do.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

I live in Southern California right now. I did my college years in Vegas. So... yes. I've seen what's happening to the water supply.

Dig further and you'll find desalinization is cheaper than bringing water down from space. There is already a huge water supply here... that needs refinement.


I get that. A pipeline turns it all into a futures market with a poor response time to demand shocks. I'm not dissing the path, though. It is A SMART way to go for supplying water needs in cis-lunar space, but we might see other sources (including launch from Earth) before that pipeline gets established. [It is the ONLY SMART way to supply it beyond cis-lunar space.]

In fact, I'm 95% sure we will see Earth launched water first because that establishes the market demand covering strike #3. If NIAC helps deal with strike #1, we'll just need bootstrapping money to establish the pipeline. Bootstrappers can be motivated with property rights in advance of delivery dates, so this is politically do-able.

David Brin said...

Just because I demand vigorous support for JoBee from cynical-chic flakes, that doesn't mean I always agree. I am ticked he hasn't submitted a list of presidential rule changes, including the War Powers Act and hemming in the power to pardon. Re: Student debt, the FIRST thing should be to end the GOP law against the owers of that debt being able to REFINANCE IT!! At prevailing rates, as mortgages can be. That was criminal and changing it would point out who did that.

IJV said...

"Alfred, space is different. Especially for robotically mined asteroidal resources. What matters is not the transit time back to Earth, but the PIPELINE of stuff on its way. If you keep the stuff flowing homeward, it soon doesn't matter when each lump got put into the source end. There are no salaries or ship maintenance budgets... just stuff coming in at a steady pace."

Yes, but... Space might be different, but investment decisions are going to be similar. What matters is the payback period, Net Present Value in another guise, and the probability of getting that payback.

For an asteroid mine considerations include, favourable launch windows that only occur every 15 months or so for main belt asteroids to several years for the NEAs. Followed by cruise times of months to years to get to the target. Then pipe line of stuff back is more intermittent than steady for the same reasons.

Then when you are on site, trying to earn a dollar by the sweat of your robotic brow, there is the probability of something breaking and what if anything you can do about it. This is mining, things will break... On top of that for the first few mines, there is technology risk. Mining an asteroid is unlikely to be anything like mining on Earth or the Moon for that matter.

So without having run the numbers myself, my suspicion is that for the near term, lunar mines are a better bet, longer term, its what ever the market dictates.

One final, slightly depressing consideration, is that for low value commodities like water, is that assuming the market is in Earth orbit, then water from the Moon or asteroids has to compete with simply launching it from Earth. Lower launch costs while making water mining more feasible also makes it less valuable.

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman stating the obvious...

Again, I don’t want to sound Trumpian and claim that Biden is doing an awesome job, a perfect job, the best job anyone has ever seen. What he has done — and was doing even before the media narrative turned — is deal, reasonably effectively, with the real problems America is facing.

The thing is, what we’re getting from Biden should be routine in a wealthy, sophisticated nation; indeed, it was routine before the G.O.P. took its hard right turn. At this point, however, competent, reality-based government comes as a shock.

locumranch said...

When we invest an event, item or circumstance with meaning that is greater than itself, it's called SYMBOLISM.

It's a kind of equivocation wherein we argue that one thing equals, represents or 'stands for' something entirely different than what it is.

This is especially true of the Artemis Mission which equivocates between 'a trip to the moon' and cultural diversity AS IF space travel somehow equals, represents or 'stands for' racial & gender equality.

It's a formal type of logical fallacy; it's stupidity personified; and we see it everywhere.

As a matter of example, Jon_S just mentioned global drought & the current news feed affirms the following consequent:

This is the WORST DROUGHT EVER, just like the previous one, because we now know that "Man-made climate change, however, is not only responsible for the water crisis" but it also caused a similar drought over 500 years ago !!

It's TIME TRAVEL, people!! We are DOOMED!!


David Brin said...

The recurring drought is (reliably) in Locum's vitamins, alas.

Unknown said...

I have pretty much given up on Locspeak but while glancing past I saw

"Man-made climate change, however, is not only responsible for the water crisis" but it also caused a similar drought over 500 years ago !!

I thought this bozo was scientifically literate? I'm a RETIRED weatherman, not a climatologist, but even I can figure out that if your "hundred year floods" and "hundred year droughts" are now happening every few years, and capped by a 500 year drought, there might be reason for concern. How's this for a fact not getting any play any more because it's old hat:

Recent Daily Average Mauna Loa CO2 Aug 23 : 416.85 ppm.


PS no time to provide ocean acidification level. Do your own research.

David Brin said...

I have for years had a liberal policy toward 'trolls,' who come by to yell here... more liberal than ANY other public figure you can name. (I actually kinda miss the old ent, Treebeard, and would have welcomed perspectives from our former correspondent from Ukraine, if he had not gone around the bend.)

Anyway, regulars know I must set limits when yells become howls and yowls.

A truly awful person has harrassed me by email, enlisted friends to join in and has apparently pursued me here. (That he is a nut is forgivable. Rudeness in invading another's space - after being asked repeatedly to leave - is a cousin to rape. Gossip-lying elsewhere is a ticket to hell.)

I have options. If he returns using a Google account, we can all (or most) pile on with abuse reports and get that G account canceled.

Don said...

Apparently Brin can't handle th effective truth so he deletes my comment and then rails into mental gymnastics about the benefits of his neo fascist liberal bent and how his defective morality will save everyone from themselves. Your lack of seeing the world as it really is!

Alfred Differ said...

Not trying to be nit picky, but there will always be payroll and ship maintenance costs for robotic asteroid mining. Someone will be monitoring the pipeline and all equipment involved will have to be depreciated. Whether legal depreciation will match the punishment dished out by the mining environment will have to be watched. No matter what form a process takes (human, robotic, or in between) there will be costs paid to have them persist.

I'm not as pessimistic about how launch windows would impact the pipeline, but that's because I do not imagine the payload will return to cis-lunar space on a purely ballistic trajectory. Watch how Falcon-9's land a while and you'll see they point the lower stage to miss the landing site just before they do correction burns. IF a burn is successful, they return their orientation to the correct path. Failures (engines deconstructing themselves) will cause their infrastructure to be missed. This happened with one stage trying to return to the launch site. It landed in the water at the beach nearby.

Shipments of refined asteroid 'ore' will likely come back in a similar way. That means transport ships with minimal capabilities for orbit changes. Insurance underwriters would likely demand this even if governments didn't.

So… I assume a transport 'ship' of some kind. Start with that assumption and the launch window problem can be mitigated. Let that transport ship be something like a solar sail (low thrust, long duration) and all sorts of possibilities open up that improve pipeline continuity and demand response.

None of those ships will be developed, though, unless someone believes there will be a demand for them. Lots of generations of chickens and eggs here, so groups like NIAC have a big role to play.

DP said...

Sorry, but what get's mined in the asteroid belt stays in the asteroid belt.

We can't make a habit of hauling dinosaur killer sized asteroids into Earth or even Lunar orbit for processing.

One mistake and we have the biggest ooops in human history.

Even if we process and refine asteroid metals out in the belt, a relatively small load finished product could take out a city or cause a 3 year long winter.

And why go to all that trouble only to haul back a mountain worth of material which causes an over supply and crashes the price of said material - wiping out your anticipated profits?

So what can can be made in space and safely sent back to Earth? What is the space equivalent of Incan gold, Virginia tobacco or east indies spices?

Energy is the Killer App

what would be the economic benefits of mining the asteroid belt? What industrial activity in the belt would be profitable enough to justify this activity in the first place? Granted it has a wealth of mineral and metal resources that can be obtained and processed without the excessive cost of dragging equipment and material up from a deep planetary gravity well. As such it these resources will later be invaluable for building the infrastructure and transportation necessary to colonize the solar system.

But what would be the initial Earth market for such materials that would justify asteroid mining and give investors a profitable reason to invest? And could this industry compete with its terrestrial competitors? The answer unfortunately is no - it can't hope to be competitive. It simply makes no economic sense to feed Earth bound industries with asteroid resources. Even if an asteroid of solid platinum the size of a mountain could be found and dragged back to Earth orbit, all this sudden oversupply would accomplish is to crash its market value to the point where it wasn't worth getting in the first place (and to create a permanently depressed market value that would discourage further such ventures). And forget about baser metals like iron and nickel. We won't be dropping loads of iron from orbit (the price of which would greatly add to the operating costs of a material whose oversupply has just caused its market value to crash).

So what would be the economic justification for colonizing the asteroid belt? Colonies need to make money or they become expensive and unnecessary white elephants. Spain's New World empire was made economically viable by gold and silver. The Virginia colony survived because it grew tobacco. Brazil and the Caribbean provided sugar. Space colonization will require a similar economic rationale for existing. It would have to provide a commodity that can ignore the costs of climbing up a gravity well or dropping down through an atmosphere.

DP said...

Only non-material commodities like energy and information meet these criteria. Scientific information brought back from planetary probes is invaluable in its own way, but doesn't have much in the way of actual market value. However, infinite amounts of clean energy from the sun however can transform our economy and our civilization.

And it’s all done with mirrors. Mirrors and lenses.

At present, mankind’s annual energy use comes to about 20 terawatts, and is increasing approximately 3% per year. But this is tiny compared to the sunlight received every second by planet Earth, which is approximately 175,000 trillion watts (175 petawatts), or 8,750 times more than our current energy use. Altogether, the Sun radiates 385 yottawatts (385 trillion trillion watts) of energy, or 2.2 BILLLION times more than is received by the Earth.

In space no one can hear you generate nearly infinite amounts of essentially free energy, all you need are simple – if very large - mirrors and lenses. And these are remarkably easy to make in the zero gravity of space.

Making giant lenses and mirrors of different shapes could direct concentrated sunlight to desired locations in the solar system. More than one lens or mirrors in multiple locations seems like a feasible task.

Large lensing structures may not be something of the far future. There was a 2007 NASA NIAC study for making large bubbles in space. Devon Crowe of PSI corporation made a study for making large space structures from bubbles that are made rigid using metals or UV curing.

A single bubble can be 1 meter in earth gravity, 100 kilometer in low earth orbit or 1000 kilometers in deep space. Foams made of many bubbles could be far larger in size.

The size of a 1000 kilometer bubble is nearly the size of Charon, the moon of Pluto. Charon is 1200 kilometers in diameter. Saturn's moon Tethys is 1050-1080 kilometers in diameter Ceres the largest object in the asteroid belt is 970 kilometers in diameter. A single tesselation foam (like in the picture) of 1000 kilometer bubbles would be about the size of Earth's moon. A Penrose tesselation of 1000 kilometer bubbles would be in between the size of Neptune or Saturn. A Tesselation foam of 100 kilometer bubbles in earth orbit could form an object the size our existing moon or larger.

DP said...

P.S. If asteroid mining that ships raw materials to Earth ever becomes a thing, the smart investment would be in parachutes.

You are going to need millions of them every year to allow the reentry of loads of processed materials from the belt.

Tim H. said...

My $.02 worth, resources mined off-planet will mostly be used off-planet. For example, launching a custom instrument package to be installed in a chassis awaiting final assembly out in the belt will involve a smaller expenditure of propellant in the atmosphere, a small but measurable benefit.

DP said...


Replace world steel production (1,950,500.000 tons annually) with asteroid steel production would require many many many parachutes for re-entry.

The Apollo command module (re-entry module) weighed about 16 tons.

So the equivalent of almost 122,000,000 Apollo triple parachutes would be required annually.

Each parachute contained 7,200 square feet of fabric, or 21,600 sf total.

To allow for reentry of asteroid steel loads would require about 2,633,175,000,000 sf of parachute material each year.

Yep, what is mined in space will be mined to further expansion of colonies in the belt and and other planets.

Jon S. said...

Then the asteroids will not be mined, because no company is going to sink money into a project that they can't recover. Nobody's going to be building deep-space habitats as a hobby.

Also, there are benefits to offplanet mining for Earth's resources beyond what you're imagining (especially with this fixation on the technology of the 1960s). For example, you can mine an asteroid all year and never once have to worry about environmental mitigation, other than making sure nothing you throw away goes to Earth or hits another spacecraft. You literally cannot pollute outer space. That means our planet gets a lot cleaner, with major corporations no longer desperately clawing for exceptions to environmental law that allow them to dump their mine tailings into local streams ( or pour noxious chemical byproducts into the atmosphere (

WilliamG said...

I like the idea of going to the moon prior to asteroids or Mars just to figure out how to safely live in space long term - Scott Kelly didn't return in great health after a year on the ISS. A small moon base - preferably in a lava tube - with shorter duration, heavily monitored visits gives us a change to do quite a bit of biological science.

scidata said...

The New World was explored and exploited with the aim of sending its riches home to Spain. Today the New World is the hub and hope of civilization, and Spain is a quaint little museum-scape.

Santayana nailed it (as did Asimov).

Larry Hart said...

Santayana nailed it (as did Asimov).

As did this guy:


And deepen on Palmyra’s street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on ...

David Brin said...

DP you may neglect many of the ways robotic mining and delivery will shake out. If the robotics are durable, they will amortize over long periods. If solar sails develop fully, then orbit-matching and return are not costs and time remains the only consideration.

"Don"... zzzzzzzz. snork! anyone hear a gnat? zzzzzzz

locumranch said...

Pay attention to Scidata's little homily about Spain's disastrous attempt to exploit the resources of a New World.

It's called 'outsourcing', the idea of shifting mining, resource extraction, manufacturing, production & pollution to somewhere else, and our recent attempts to do so prove that it is, was & will always be a socioeconomic disaster for every culture that engages in it, so much so that a shift to asteroid mining & orbital manufacturing will impoverish all who remain within our gravity well.

Many thanks to Pappenheimer, btw, for illustrating my formal logical fallacy argument so well, by equivocating "your hundred year" droughts with those that happen "every few years" in order to redefine these events as EQUAL & INTERCHANGEABLE when they are neither equal nor interchangeable.

I will not bother to refute his panicky 'end of days' narrative, especially in regard to drought severity & duration in the US southwest, when the following scientific article absolutely refutes it & finds minimal correlation between environmental warming and drought occurrence, severity or frequency:


scidata said...

Re: Spain

Outsourcing didn't cause Spain's decline; they were imperialist nationalists - conquistadors. Not pluralistic democrats. Those are different things, in fact the opposite thing.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I actually kinda miss the old ent, Treebeard, and would have welcomed perspectives from our former correspondent from Ukraine, if he had not gone around the bend.

He always presented as American, but it is instructive that he hasn't been seen since Russia cut itself off from much of the foreign internet.

* * *


Those are different things, in fact the opposite thing.

My work is done. :)

Alan Brooks said...

People such as Treebeard and LoCum will change their minds someday. They oppose something, but later on accept it.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

They oppose something, but later on accept it.

Then insist that they were always in favor of it, and furthermore had to bravely defend it against us.

duncan cairncross said...

Simply not needed
You simply need to blow your Iron/Nickel payload into bubbles - with a low enough density to survive re-entry and to survive the ocean landing so that they can be towed to the steel plant that has ordered them
Determining the optimum size/density of the bubbles will take a bit of work
Spinning on formation to get a different shape may also be a useful variable

Alan Brooks said...

I don’t say that they are Wrong; obviously there’s no proof that they’re so. But they don’t back up what they write—not only with facts, but sometimes their comments are so vague as to leave you nonplussed. Can’t say someone is wrong if you don’t know what it is they’re saying.
There was something here I took definite issue with: that rural dwellers are more-moral. Life is more dangerous, and sometimes the work is harder in the countryside. But no evidence the residents are morally superior.
A farmer down the road had an arm pulled off by a tractor fanbelt—he bled to death. But he was not a moralist, and getting tipsy while driving was of no benefit. Esp the final drive.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

I don’t say that they are Wrong; obviously there’s no proof that they’re so

I wasn't arguing against you. Just extending the prediction further in time.

Like the way the right now embraces Martin Luther King as one of their own, or claim to have always been against slavery.

Robert said...

Like the way the right now embraces Martin Luther King as one of their own, or claim to have always been against slavery.

But they've always been at war with Eurasia…

Larry Hart said...


But they've always been at war with Eurasia…

I realize you're Canadian, but have you heard our Republicans lately?

Eurasia has always been their friend.

We've always been at war with Eastasia.

Robert said...

have you heard our Republicans lately?

I regularly get PenceNews (2-3 times a day), updates from Jim Banks, DeSantis, the NRA, and of course my good friend Donald Trump regularly writes with SPECIAL EXCLUSIVE OFFERS JUST FOR ME!!!!…

Does that count?

They seem pretty down on Eurasia, except for Hungary and (possibly) Russia.

Larry Hart said...


I was talking about the country which has the most land mass in both continents. :)

locumranch said...

Outsourcing, Economic Imperialism or Colonialism:

There is nothing inherently democratic and/or pluralistic about these economic models as all involve the financial subjugation and the political & economic exploitation of a dependent territory.

And, like the European Empires which came before & the US Empire which came after, those who remain earthbound will suffer the same fate when they try to subjugate & exploit orbital and extraterrestrial resources, as these would-be imperialists will eventually become dependent on what they extract from elsewhere, while the colonies from which they extract will become increasingly willful, independent & demanding.

I think Dr. Brin knows this but, like the 'Cloud Minders' from the original Star Trek, he chooses to identify with the enlightened who live in orbit, rather than those mud dwellers who remain within the gravity well.

Bruce Sterling explored this topic quite well with his early short stories.


David Brin said...

Slightly vitamined L offer a crazy hallucination much-better parsed. I'll reward by answering.

I have one top political agenda. To prevent return of the utterly failed mode of governance that made life hell for 99% of our ancestors, crushed science and progress and freedom and kept civilization imprisoned for 6000 years in grinding poverty and ignorance.

No rationalization-incantation you offer... or strawman lies about my positions ... will change the fact that all good things benefited when we started replacing tyranny based on inheritance or lucre or dogma with maximalized distribution and enhancement of opportunity - allowing as many and as diverse a range of beings as possible - to compete or cooperate in open and fair arenas.

Yes this results in new elites of meritocratic accomplishment. And while that meritocratic competition makes them arguably inherently vastly better than priests and inheritance brats and trog bullies, they are still elites! And thus in need of scrutiny/accountability/transparency.

OTOH most of the fact/creativity/merit elites are inherently COMPETITIVE WITH EACH OTHER. Constantly ready to leap on each others' flaws and mistakes.

So no. Propaganda against them - funded by old wealth-based oligarchs - is unconvincing.

I'll trust scientists before inheritance brats and casino moguls and murder princes, any day.

Alan Brooks said...

I didn’t think you were arguing.
Again, there may well be a grain of truth in what Treebeard and LoCum have written; but what are they saying? Too convoluted.
Agreed on the hijacking of MLK’s legacy. They don’t mind how Hoover had monitored him. And their ploy of choice is to exclaim “the Confederacy was Democrats!”

Alfred Differ said...


There are likely many ways around your concerns. I was going to mention blowing bubbles in the deliverable (foam it actually), but Duncan beat me to it.

Rather than go through a list of possible solutions or mitigations to meet your concerns, though, I invite you to talk to someone with engineering experience. Any of them with a decent skillset will look at each concern and be able to image three possible ways around it. Give them a bit of time and money and that list will double in size and be accompanied by project specs, purchase items, and related costs that would enable each idea to be tested against reality.

Talk to the engineers. This is what they do.


As for why we should bother, I invite you to pick any particular mining industry segment and look at the processes involved from start to finish. Look carefully at the pollutants dumped on the landscape by refinement. For example, look at how we extract platinum and the toxicity of the byproducts. After you do that (consult a mining engineer if you need help) consider what you'd pay to have that entire mining segment sent off-world.

Hint: Platinum group metals in general are quite toxic. A few of them aren't, but refinement/reduction of ore to metals often involves chemicals that are almost as toxic. Platinum is rather important as an industrial metal, but it is usually found in very low concentrations in ores primarily mined for iron or nickel. A LOT of rock gets processed for very little platinum.

Hint: Helium is one of the safest things you can mess with and not harm yourself or others. The biggest danger is accidental suffocation, but the stuff escapes anything but a well designed container easily. It is a wonderful industrial gas too because it does essentially nothing chemically and stays gaseous even when really, really cold. No one mines for helium, though. It is a by product of natural gas mines and retained (not vented to the sky) only if the price of helium justifies processing it. So… what happens to our helium supply when we try to get away from burning fossil carbon, hmm?

There is a lot of stuff out there between the planets that we could process and refine if we cared to learn how. If we do, we get to spare Mother Earth and the biosphere upon which all life down here depends. Well… mostly spare it of certain processes. Which processes would be worth sending off-world?

Alfred Differ said...

Outsourcing, Economic Imperialism or Colonialism

My Sesame Street experience intrudes here.

"One of these things is not like the other, not like the other, not like the other."

Sing along with me!

"One of these things is not like the other..."


I'd argue the last two are the same thing. Colonialism was about economic exploitation. The political angle served a that purpose.

Robert said...

I thought this might amuse some of you.

[A] Florida man [Chaz Stevens] plans to “flip bureaucracy 180 degrees and use its weight against itself” by papering Texas with Arabic-language posters bearing the motto.

“We’re going to donate hundreds of Arabic-language ‘In God We Trust’ posters to schools in Texas, flooding the public school system with our Arabic IGWT artwork,” he wrote. “Don’t fight the man; let the man fight himself.”

Initially he planned to donate just Arabic signs, but then realized that other languages would also be useful.

“Future artwork will not only include Arabic, but also Hindu, Spanish, Chinese, and perhaps African dialects,” Stevens told CNN.

The law, Senate Bill 797, was passed last year and requires schools to display such signage if it is donated or “purchased with private donations,” as The Texas Tribune reported.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

And their ploy of choice is to exclaim “the Confederacy was Democrats!”

Which is weird because their most fervent supporters hate Democrats, but literally wave the confederate flag.

Just like they accuse liberals of being Nazis, but their own people sometimes wave swastikas and admire Hitler.

A while back, Marjorie Taylor Greene gave a speech insisting that we not give arms to Ukraine because the weapons might end up being used by Nazis. The editors of the site snarked that someone from the press should have asked her straight faced what would be so bad about arming Nazis. It would have been interesting to see her response.

Alfred Differ said...


Which is weird because their most fervent supporters hate Democrats, but literally wave the confederate flag.

There is a kind of logic to it if you can sit still and listen to the pretzel logic.

They don't see themselves as the old Confederacy. They see themselves as the True America. They are re-using the Confederate symbols as expression of rebellion, but without being actual rebels. WE are the rebels betraying America as they see it.

I agreed with our host enough regarding symbols for the Union that I bought a blue kepi. I wear it occasionally.

Some get confused and worry I'm advocating violence. I smile calmly and let them know I'm not doing anything more than making it clear which side I'll take if it comes down to it... and say I hope it doesn't come down to it.

Some get the symbol immediately as an attack on their belief system. They self-identify when the glare back at me, so I return the glare. One quick incident involved a guy I passed going the other way in a crosswalk. His hostility damn near melted the pavement. He actually said I should be wearing gray. Pfft!

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

They don't see themselves as the old Confederacy. They see themselves as the True America.

Isn't it more accurate to say that they see the old Confederacy as the True America?

They are re-using the Confederate symbols as expression of rebellion, but without being actual rebels.

What about all the gnashing of teeth over removal of Confederate monuments? They're not exactly disavowing the 1861 rebellion. It seems to me that they're saying that that rebellion was in support of what they consider American values--white Christianism backed by authoritarianism and violence.

...He actually said I should be wearing gray. Pfft!

Because of where you reside in California, I'm wondering if he was one of us and thought that you were advocating Civil War (without focusing on the specifics of which side your hat represented).

My hair is thinning, so when I'm out in the sun, I wear a cap with my Alma Mater's brand on it. The cap isn't red, but I still worry that people on the street may take me for a Trump supporter.

Paradoctor said...

How about sending metals back to Earth in the form of unmanned one-way gliders to planned crash-lands? Then mine the wreckage.

Or take the near-Earth asteroids. Rather than inventing unknown micro-gee mining methods, how about crash-landing those asteroids on Lunar Farside? Then mine the resulting craters. Your equipment can have gee-force-dependent parts, so you won't have to literally re-invent the wheel. Also this gets the Earth-orbit-clearing part of the operation done first.

Why Farside? Because my daughter insists. She's a Preservationist; she doesn't want to look up one day and see that the appearance of the Moon has changed. I'm a Developer; I retort that the Moon is already a junk-heap. Our compromise is to keep all the development big enough to see from Earth on Farside. Feel free to put that political deal in your next book.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Paradoctor

Using a planet/moon to obtain a few meters per second squared of aceleration appears to be a huge misuse of resources - a few hundred meters of cable and a bit of spin can get the same effect without burning all the fuel AND ending up somewhere where your power source (the sun) moves across the sky and hides half the time

If you use "bubbles" or Alfred's "foam" (better) then you land your lightweight gliders in the ocean and tow them to the smelter

We could even use the foam/bubbles as a sun shade for earth - how light a foam could we make??

duncan cairncross said...

Forgot to copy the link

David Brin said...



IJV said...

If you use "bubbles" or Alfred's "foam" (better) then you land your lightweight gliders in the ocean and tow them to the smelter

Why smelt? Its likely that metal foams, weird alloys and other stuff that can only be made profitably in space are the products that will make extra terrestrial resources worthwhile.