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Archive for the ‘finance’ category: Page 53

Aug 24, 2012

How to Build a Spaceship again

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

This essay was originally posted last year and is now back with small changes. Enjoy.

The first decade of the 21st century ended with human space flight nowhere near to fulfilling the predictions made at the beginning of the space age. Not even close. Just as the Vietnam war robbed the space exploration budget, the end of the century found vast public funds, a truly mind boggling amount of treasure, spent on the cold war toys that have yielded guaranteed huge profits for the military industrial complex. Many of these incredibly expensive weapon systems do not work as advertised and very few of them have any application in the present war on terror. 911 did not stop the money flowing to new super fighter planes and missiles designed to shoot down other missiles. The promise of space was in truth sacrificed for the profits of the weapons industry. The expected moon bases and colonies on Mars were never funded and no human being has escaped earth orbit since the last Apollo mission. The underfunded space shuttle completely failed to provide the cheap lift and multi-mission capability that was never really possible to achieve. The showpiece International Space Station is little more than a 100 billion dollar collection of tin cans flying in endless circles.

Over a quarter century wasted and the human race seems in large part to have accepted the end of the space age. Despite a collection of old and new inferior lift vehicles incapable of accelerating a spacecraft to escape velocity, there is endless hype concerning the privatization of space and the bright future these for profit enterprises will bring about. The single point of failure in these schemes is the false miracle of fuel depots in space. These orbital gas stations will supposedly enable all the missions that previously could only be accomplished by a Heavy Lift Vehicles like the Saturn V. Cryo fuel storage and transfer is at this time a myth and has never even been attempted due to the extreme difficulties involved. It is simply a smoke screen to disguise defeat. We are not going anywhere if we stay on this path. The only hope for human space flight is the realization that deep space travel may at any time mean the difference between humankind surviving or disappearing forever. If this truth cannot unlock the vast resources required then we are sealing our collective fate. The Spaceship is the only insurance against extinction. Safeguarding the entire human race is the ultimate military mission, yet is completely ignored by our leaders and the defense industry. The inevitable asteroid or comet impact and the threat of a 100 percent lethal plague are with us right now. We as a species are playing a game of Russian roulette. We truly do not know when, but we know what is coming.

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when it is explained that disastrous impacts only occur an average of once every several million years. The key fact never discussed is impacts are random. An impact could occur tomorrow, and again the next day, and it would just be a blip on a curved line representing the immensity of geologic time. No one would be left to exclaim, “WOW! What were the odds of that happening?” In the same way the threat of engineered pathogens is ignored, overlooked, or scoffed at in the hopes it will just go away. Just as there is little than can be done to stop seasonal flu, there is very little that could be done to stop such an airborne plague once it begins. Naturally evolved pathogens always leave a certain percentage of survivors but an engineered virus does not follow that rule. We are led to believe there is no defense, but we are being decieved and there is nothing further from the truth.

Continue reading “How to Build a Spaceship again” »

Aug 24, 2012

The Fermi Paradox and Silent Planets

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120823150403.htm

In a recent comment John Hunt mentioned the most probable solution to the Fermi Paradox and as more and more planets are discovered this solution becomes ever more troubling.

Whether civilizations are rare due to comet and asteroid impacts- as Ed Lu recently stated was a possibility- or they self-destruct due to technology, the greater danger is found in human complacency and greed. We have the ability right now, perhaps as hundreds or even thousands of other civilizations had, to defend ourselves from the external and internal threats to our survival. Somewhat like salmon swimming upstream, it may not be life itself that is rare- it may be intelligent life that survives for any length of time that is almost non-existent.

The answer is in space. The resources necessary to leave Earth and establish off world colonies are available- but there is no cheap. Space travel is inherently expensive. Yet we spend billions on geopolitical power games threatening other human beings with supersonic fighters and robot missile assassins. The technology to defend civilization as a whole from the plausible threat represented by this “Great Silence” will cost us no more than what we spend on expensive projects like vertical take-off stealth fighters and hyper-velocity naval rail guns. But it is not the easy money of weapons; it is the hard money of vehicles and systems that must work far from Earth that is unattractive to the corporate profit motive.

Atomic spaceships capable of transporting colonists and intercepting impact threats are the prerequisites to safeguarding our species.

Aug 20, 2012

New Findings on the Antimatter Drive

Posted by in categories: business, engineering, finance, fun, particle physics, physics

Andrew Skolnick drew my attention to this great article by John Eades, a CERN senior scientist, about antimatter engines and weapons.

Antimatter Pseudoscience by John Eades in the Skeptical Inquirer http://www.csicop.org/si/show/antimatter_pseudoscience/

We, Andrew Skolnick and I, did the calculations and showed that it would cost 42,876x our 2011 World GDP to use antimatter as a propulsion fuel to get to Alpha Centauri!!

John Eades goes one better and shows that it is not technologically feasible, ever. His article is facinating reading, and shows that we cannot base our hopes to leave Earth on antimatter drives.

Continue reading “New Findings on the Antimatter Drive” »

Aug 17, 2012

Ivanpah as the future

Posted by in categories: business, economics, education, engineering, ethics, finance, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, media & arts, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/solar/concentrating-solar/ni…tinue.html

Cover the deserts in solar energy plants and use electric trains for our transportation infrastructure; the best future I can imagine. A favorite Einstein quote is “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Perhaps the number we are counting that counts is the amount of energy it would require for a future population of 10 billion people to live like we do in the west.

I was surprised to find a statement to the effect that only one method of generating this energy is practical; solar energy beamed to Earth from the Moon; from wiki–

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Aug 16, 2012

GMO Armaggedon

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, homo sapiens, media & arts, military, open access, open source, policy, transparency

http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/bre87f15x-us-california-gmo/

Filthy Lucre will certainly destroy us all if we cannot even pass a law that makes food companies tell us what they are feeding us.

Aug 14, 2012

Boom and Bust for Wind Energy

Posted by in categories: business, economics, engineering, ethics, events, finance, futurism, human trajectories, policy, sustainability, transparency

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120814121119.htm

Just as the tax incentives that expired after the Carter Administration destroyed a whole new industry, and just as bio fuels recently turned into the bio bomb, wind energy is poised to crash.

We just will not stop destroying our future.

A coal fired power plant runs for years with very little maintenance, without being shut down or started up- the boilers make steam and turn the turbines and we cannot see the stars because we might as well burn those city lights all night long. It is impossible to compete with black rock you dig out of the ground and put on a train and turn into dependable cheap electricity.

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May 29, 2012

Spiralling Debt & The Road to Breaking Point

Posted by in categories: business, economics, ethics, finance, sustainability

The biggest challenge to the ‘ecosystem’ of world economics that keeps society ticking over is how to overcome our inability to regulate a sustainable economic model. In Europe at present we are undergoing the difficult measures in setting about rules of austerity to ensure that government borrowing never gets as out of hand as it has done on our watch. I post on this topic now as it is topical to me — back home here in my native Ireland we are voting on a referendum this week to ensure we no longer borrow from our children to fuel indulgences today — a referendum on rationality and responsibility.

The topical of austerity reminds me of an opinion I blogged on a crisis in the Obama administration last August on national debt in the light of striking comments from foreign figureheads amid the storm from the ‘Tea Party Taliban’. I share with you for to see if anyone cares to comment on an operandi of living like parasites off the global economy:

Living Like Parasites Off The Global Economy, originally written 3 Aug 2011:

With the US in turmoil over its national debt, and held to ransom by a ‘Tea Party Taliban’, last week China publicly mocked American democracy. Yesterday, the world witnessed the humbling of America after a trillion-dollar deal marked the end of an era for the US. The US now faces a shift in its relations with creditor nations, and it was not all too surprising to hear Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, yesterday accusing Americans of living “like parasites off the global economy”. If America had defaulted on its international debt obligations, that is exactly what it would be. While America continues to service it’s debt, it is quite the opposite — for now at least- as is perpetually paying interest to its creditors.

Continue reading “Spiralling Debt & The Road to Breaking Point” »

Apr 16, 2012

One Key to The Future is Financial Clarity

Posted by in categories: business, economics, education, finance

On the cusp of graduation, I’ve had two major realizations in college.

One: most of America’s worst economic crises have been a result of financial obscurity. The first major crash in my lifetime was in the tech bubble of the early 2000s, where Wall Street traders were overrating the quality of Internet stocks. Once the broader market realized this, the values of many tech companies were obliterated. Millions of investors exposed to this sector lost their entire investments because they were unaware of these misrepresentations. In the most last recession, where lenders were underrating the riskiness of homeowners and financial institutions were securitizing riskier-than-advertised mortgages, millions of investors lost their entire investments yet again because they were unaware of further misrepresentations.

Two: economic history repeats itself, even if as a society, we might be aware of this pattern. Taking these two market crises as an example of this bleak fact about our species, it seems that we’ll always have the shortest of memories. In this case, history repeated rather quickly – twice in the span of a decade. Is it possible that people are cognizant of a recurring mistake before it happens, even if it’s happened before in their lifetimes? Most likely not, if the last recession is any example. A significant number of real estate professionals, banking gurus, and regulators were responsible for inflating a price bubble in the housing market, even though some fraction should have been economically conscious enough to understand the problems that would eventually arise.

The question then remains: is there a way to solve both of these problems, assuming the best of all possible worlds? Yes. Imagine a place where peoples’ understandings of basic economics and financial practices was commonplace, where a homeowner and a lender had an equal comprehension of a mortgage, where a hard-working breadwinner knew the dangers of payday loans, and where a child could sit side-by-side with his or her parents while overseeing family finances. All of these possibilities – and more – can come into fruition if we as individuals place a greater emphasis on financial awareness. Note: I don’t say “financial learning” because all of these concepts are innate to us, though hidden by verbiage and stigma. Whether we like it or not, if our career is in finance or not, we must come to terms with the economic world that surrounds us.

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Apr 14, 2012

Earth’s Titanic Challenges

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, complex systems, economics, ethics, existential risks, finance, fun, geopolitics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, lifeboat, media & arts, rants
RMS <em>Titanic</em> Sails

What’s to worry? RMS Titanic departs Southampton.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster in 1912. What better time to think about lifeboats?

One way to start a discussion is with some vintage entertainment. On the centenary weekend of the wreck of the mega-liner, our local movie palace near the Hudson River waterfront ran a triple bill of classic films about maritime disasters: A Night to Remember, Lifeboat, and The Poseidon Adventure. Each one highlights an aspect of the lifeboat problem. They’re useful analogies for thinking about the existential risks of booking a passage on spaceship Earth.

Can’t happen…

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Jan 10, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, fun, futurism, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, robotics/AI, space, transparency

Steamships, locomotives, electricity; these marvels of the industrial age sparked the imagination of futurists such as Jules Verne. Perhaps no other writer or work inspired so many to reach the stars as did this Frenchman’s famous tale of space travel. Later developments in microbiology, chemistry, and astronomy would inspire H.G. Wells and the notable science fiction authors of the early 20th century.

The submarine, aircraft, the spaceship, time travel, nuclear weapons, and even stealth technology were all predicted in some form by science fiction writers many decades before they were realized. The writers were not simply making up such wonders from fanciful thought or childrens ryhmes. As science advanced in the mid 19th and early 20th century, the probable future developments this new knowledge would bring about were in some cases quite obvious. Though powered flight seems a recent miracle, it was long expected as hydrogen balloons and parachutes had been around for over a century and steam propulsion went through a long gestation before ships and trains were driven by the new engines. Solid rockets were ancient and even multiple stages to increase altitude had been in use by fireworks makers for a very long time before the space age.

Some predictions were seen to come about in ways far removed yet still connected to their fictional counterparts. The U.S. Navy flagged steam driven Nautilus swam the ocean blue under nuclear power not long before rockets took men to the moon. While Verne predicted an electric submarine, his notional Florida space gun never did take three men into space. However there was a Canadian weapons designer named Gerald Bull who met his end while trying to build such a gun for Saddam Hussien. The insane Invisible Man of Wells took the form of invisible aircraft playing a less than human role in the insane game of mutually assured destruction. And a true time machine was found easily enough in the mathematics of Einstein. Simply going fast enough through space will take a human being millions of years into the future. However, traveling back in time is still as much an impossibillity as the anti-gravity Cavorite from the First Men in the Moon. Wells missed on occasion but was not far off with his story of alien invaders defeated by germs- except we are the aliens invading the natural world’s ecosystem with our genetically modified creations and could very well soon meet our end as a result.

While Verne’s Captain Nemo made war on the death merchants of his world with a submarine ram, our own more modern anti-war device was found in the hydrogen bomb. So destructive an agent that no new world war has been possible since nuclear weapons were stockpiled in the second half of the last century. Neither Verne or Wells imagined the destructive power of a single missile submarine able to incinerate all the major cities of earth. The dozens of such superdreadnoughts even now cruising in the icy darkness of the deep ocean proves that truth is more often stranger than fiction. It may seem the golden age of predictive fiction has passed as exceptions to the laws of physics prove impossible despite advertisments to the contrary. Science fiction has given way to science fantasy and the suspension of disbelief possible in the last century has turned to disappointment and the distractions of whimsical technological fairy tales. “Beam me up” was simply a way to cut production costs for special effects and warp drive the only trick that would make a one hour episode work. Unobtainium and wishalloy, handwavium and technobabble- it has watered down what our future could be into childish wish fulfillment and escapism.

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