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Oct 9, 2012

The Kline Directive: Introduction

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, defense, economics, engineering, ethics, finance, philosophy, physics, policy, space

Science and engineering are hard to do. If it wasn’t we would have a space bridge from here to the Moon by now. If you don’t have the real world practical experience doing either science or engineering you won’t understand this, or the effort and resources companies like Boeing, Lockheed, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corp, Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic, and the Ad Astra Rocket Company have put into their innovations and products to get to where they are, today.

If we are to achieve interstellar travel, we have to be bold.
We have to explore what others have not.
We have to seek what others will not.
We have to change what others dare not.

The dictionary definition of a directive is, an instruction or order, tending to direct or directing, and indicating direction.

Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, US Department of Defense 2005, provides three similar meanings,

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Oct 1, 2012

Debunking Antimatter Rockets for Interstellar Travel

Posted by in categories: education, engineering, physics, policy, space

Previous Post in this Debunking Series.

Why is it necessary to debunk bad or unrealistic technologies? If don’t we live in a dream world idealized by theoretical engineering that has no hope of ever becoming financially feasible. What a waste of money, human resources and talent. I’d rather we know now upfront and channel our energies to finding feasible engineering and financial solutions. Wouldn’t you?

We did the math required to figure out the cost of antimatter fuel one would require just to reach 0.1c and then cost at that velocity, never mind about reaching Alpha Centauri.

Table 2: Antimatter Rocket Fuel Costs to Alpha Centuariat 0.1c (in metric tons)
Source of Estimates Amount of Antimatter Required Maximum Velocity

Spacecraft Mass

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Oct 1, 2012

Debunking Conventional Rocket Interstellar Travel Once And For All

Posted by in categories: education, engineering, physics, policy, space

Previous Post in this Debunking Series.

Why is it necessary to debunk bad or unrealistic technologies? If don’t we live in a dream world idealized by theoretical engineering that has no hope of ever becoming financially feasible. What a waste of money, human resources and talent. I’d rather we know now upfront and channel our energies to finding feasible engineering and financial solutions. Wouldn’t you?

We did the math required to figure out how much fuel one would require just to reach 0.1c and then cost at that velocity until you reach Alpha Centauri and reverse thrust to orbit the star.

Table 1: Conventional Rocket Fuel Costs to travel to Alpha Centauri at 0.1c
Maximum Velocity (km/s)

1980’s cost ($/lb)

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Oct 1, 2012

Liquor & Glass — Sellafield/BNFL Keeping a Lid on It

Posted by in categories: engineering, ethics, nuclear energy, policy, sustainability, transparency

Fukushima reawakened the world to the dangers of nuclear power, and reading back over Fearing Sellafield (2003) by Colum Kenny recently, I reflect back on how deflective and dishonest industry can be to steer clear of critical opinion. Seeing parallels suggested in other industries today, I wonder if much has really changed.

Highly Active Liquor (HAL) produced by the reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel at Sellafield, reached a level of 1,500 cubic meters in storage at its peak circa 2001, the capacity of a 50 meter Olympic swimming pool. Particularly unstable, a disruption to electricity & water coolant could result in such liquor boiling, overloading the ventilation filtration systems and leading to a nuclear accident. Containing about 80 times the amount released during the 1986 Chernobyl accident according to a report for the European Parliament at that time, we are rather fortunate such a serious accident never occurred. This analysis was provided by what became known as The WISE Report — so called due to associated with the World Information Service on Energy (WISE) in Paris. In response BNFL set out to reduce this liquor to a solid form known as ‘glass’ — borosilicate glass — much safer than when kept in liquid form, and put in storage — though much of it still remains to be vitrified.

In 2000/2001, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) of the HSE published a number of reports on aspects of Sellafield that led to causes of concern. One report in particular entitled ‘an investigation into the falsification of pellet diameter data in the MOX demonstration facility at the BNFL Sellafield site and the effect of this on the safety of MOX fuel in use’ suggested deliberate dishonesty in keeping records. BNFL subsequently complied with most of these recommendations.

Authors of the WISE report however still had concerns regarding increases in levels in certain sea discharges and aerial releases, and inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under the OSPAR Convention. It stated that the deposition of plutonium within 20km of Sellafield attributable to aerial emissions has been estimated at 160–280 billion becquerels — several times the plutonium fallout from all atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, and that 250kg-500kg of plutonium from Sellafield has been absorbed as sediments on the bed of the Irish sea ‘representing a long-term regional hazard of largely unknown proportions’. The report had been treated with caution by the European Commission and conveniently dismissed by the National Radiological Protection Board in the UK by claiming that some of the conclusions drawn in the report were based on ‘lacking objectivity’. It seems that governments are always bent towards safeguarding industry first, leaving environmental concerns and the health of our Mother Ship as a secondary issue.

Sep 29, 2012

Debunking Time Travel (Looper)

Posted by in categories: media & arts, physics, policy, space

Previous Post in this Debunking Series.

I just watched Looper the movie. It is such a good movie and a great story. But then I’m biased. Anything with Bruce Willis is a great movie. Bruce Willis is getting older, which reminds me so am I!

For those who have not watched Looper I won’t give the story away … Looper is a must watch for science fiction fans. And there were other great movies and episodes about time travel. The three Back to the Future, and the Star Trek episodes, for starters.

That was the good news, and now for the bad news. Time travel is impossible. The mathematics behind time travel is excellent, but the physics is not. In contemporary physics, the mechanism of time travel requires wormholes. You get into a wormhole on one side and you pop out the other side either in the future or in the past, depending on what the wormhole was designed to do.

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Sep 28, 2012

The Social Sciences Revolution

Posted by in categories: biological, complex systems, economics, geopolitics, philosophy, policy

Scientific discovery in the natural sciences has proceeded at an exponential rate and we are now seeing the social sciences experience a profound transformation as a consequence of computational social science. How far computational social science will reinvent social science is the big question. Some of the themes I’ve explored in my own work have been about the relationship between political philosophy and science and whether the computational sciences can help formulate new conceptions of societal organisation. Many in the field seem to think so.

These three things—a biological hurricane, computational social science, and the rediscovery of experimentation—are going to change the social sciences in the 21st century. With that change will come, in my judgment, a variety of discoveries and opportunities that offer tremendous prospect for improving the human condition. It’s one thing to say that the way in which we study our object of inquiry, namely humans, is undergoing profound change, as I think it is. The social sciences are indeed changing. But the next question is: is the object of inquiry also undergoing profound change? It’s not just how we study it that’s changing, which it is. The question is: is the thing itself, our humanity, also changing? (Nicholas A. Christakis, A NEW KIND OF SOCIAL SCIENCE FOR THE 21st CENTURY)

A biological understanding of human nature combined with new insights derived from computational social science can potentially revolutionise political, social and economic systems. Consequently there are profound philosophical implications. Secular political philosophy specifically emerged out of the European experience of Church and monarchical rule, and socialism emerged out of the experience of industrialisation and capitalist ideology. Therefore is it possible that a new political philosophy could emerge out of the reinvention of the social sciences?

One question that fascinated me in the last two years is, can we ever use data to control systems? Could we go as far as, not only describe and quantify and mathematically formulate and perhaps predict the behavior of a system, but could you use this knowledge to be able to control a complex system, to control a social system, to control an economic system? (Albert-lászló Barabási, THINKING IN NETWORK TERMS)

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Sep 22, 2012

Debunking the Black Hole Interstellar Drive

Posted by in categories: business, engineering, fun, physics, policy, space

Louis Crane and Shawn Westmoreland co-authored the paper Are Black Hole Starships Possible? (http://arxiv.org/abs/0908.1803) that suggested that one could use Small Black Holes to propel starships close to the velocity of light for interstellar travel. To give them credit, they stated that this is at the “edge of possibility” and would only be possible in the very distant future:

“The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether it is possible to build artificial BHs of the appropriate size, and to employ them in powerplants and starships. The conclusion we reach is that it is just on the edge of possibility to do so, but that quantum gravity effects, as yet unknown, could change the picture either way… Many questions which arise in this program lead to calculations in general relativity which have not been done. Whatever the other merits of our proposal, we are confident it will pose many interesting problems for classical and quantum relativity.”

Note, BH = Black Holes

That is it. Crane & Westmoreland were presenting an academic exercise to pose “many interesting problems for classical and quantum relativity”.

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Sep 6, 2012

Flexible Path Flim Flam revised

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

I do not regret voting for this President and I would and will do it again. However.……I am not happy about our space program. Not at all. One would think there would be more resistance concerning the privatization of space and the inferior launch vehicles being tested or proposed. Indeed there would be objections except for a great deception being perpetrated on a nation ignorant of the basic facts about space flight. The private space gang has dominated public discourse with very little answering criticism of their promises and plans.
This writer is very critical of the flexible path.

It is a path to nowhere.

Compared to the accomplishments of NASA’s glory days, there is little to recommend the players in the commercial crew game. The most fabulous is Space X, fielding a cheap rocket promising cheap lift. There is so little transparency concerning the true cost of their launches that one space-faring nation has called the bluff and stated SpaceX launch prices are impossible. The Falcon 9, contrary to stellar advertising, is a poor design in so many ways it is difficult to know where to begin the list. The engines are too small and too many, the kerosene propellant is inferior to hydrogen in the upper stage, and promising to reuse spent hardware verges on the ridiculous. Whenever the truth about the flexible path is revealed, the sycophants begin to wail and gnash their teeth.

The latest craze is the Falcon “heavy.” The space shuttle hardware lifted far more, though most of the lift was wasted on the orbiter. With 27 engines the faux heavy is a throwback to half a century ago when clusters of small engines were required due to nothing larger being available. The true heavy rocket of the last century had five engines and the number of Falcon engines it would take to match the Saturn V proves just how far the mighty have fallen.

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Sep 6, 2012

GENCODE Apocalypse

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, complex systems, counterterrorism, defense, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, open source, policy, space, supercomputing, sustainability, transparency

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905134912.htm

It is a race against time- will this knowledge save us or destroy us? Genetic modification may eventually reverse aging and bring about a new age but it is more likely the end of the world is coming.

The Fermi Paradox informs us that intelligent life may not be intelligent enough to keep from destroying itself. Nothing will destroy us faster or more certainly than an engineered pathogen (except possibly an asteroid or comet impact). The only answer to this threat is an off world survival colony. Ceres would be perfect.

Sep 2, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 3

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, counterterrorism, defense, education, engineering, ethics, events, futurism, geopolitics, life extension, media & arts, military, policy, robotics/AI, space, sustainability, transparency

A secret agent travels to a secret underground desert base being used to develop space weapons to investigate a series of mysterious murders. The agent finds a secret transmitter was built into a supercomputer that controls the base and a stealth plane flying overhead is controlling the computer and causing the deaths. The agent does battle with two powerful robots in the climax of the story.

Gog is a great story worthy of a sci fi action epic today- and was originally made in 1954. Why can’t they just remake these movies word for word and scene for scene with as few changes as possible? The terrible job done on so many remade sci fi classics is really a mystery. How can such great special effects and actors be used to murder a perfect story that had already been told well once? Amazing.

In contrast to Gog we have the fairly recent movie Stealth released in 2005 that has talent, special effects, and probably the worst story ever conceived. An artificially intelligent fighter plane going off the reservation? The rip-off of HAL from 2001 is so ridiculous.

Fantastic Voyage (1966) was a not so good story that succeeded in spite of stretching suspension of disbelief beyond the limit. It was a great movie and might succeed today if instead of miniaturized and injected into a human body it was instead a submarine exploring a giant organism under the ice of a moon in the outer solar system. Just an idea.

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