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Sep 22, 2012

Debunking Laithwaite’s Critics

Posted by in category: physics

Pervious blog post in this debunking series

Recently I had an interesting discussion about Laithwaite’s Big Wheel demonstration.

Note that the late Professor Eric Laithwaite was Professor of Heavy Electrical Engineering at Imperial College, and inventor of the linear motor, and the maglev train technology which Germany and China have taken the lead. The poor Brits they missed out on their own invention.

The Big Wheel experiment is basically this. Attach a wheel to the end of a 3-ft (1 m) rod. Spin this wheel to 3,000 rpm or more. Then rotate this rod with the spinning wheel at the other end. The technical description is, rotate the spin vector.

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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 18, 2012

The Propagation of Life: Infecting other Worlds

Posted by in categories: biological, ethics, evolution, existential risks, habitats

It is with great bewilderment that I read the precautions that NASA rovers are sterilized to, to ensure that Life does not infect the Martian environment. I understand NASA want to explore Mars for signs of Martian life — but which is more important — to explore whether Life almost evolved on Mars, or to induce the whole process and allow it to occur?

We can get caught up in the concept that preservation of Human Life as the ultimate goal, in how do we colonize other worlds as soon as possible — but perhaps the most honorable pursuit is the propagation of Life itself — we should be introducing bacteria or simple xerophytic plants to Mars, algae to Europa and such worlds, in the anticipation that if a foothold can be taken, evolution could take hold — and we may not live to see it — but we have then passed on the gift of life to another world.

Whimsical Notions or Planning With Foresight? Unless we cause our own demise by inadvertently engineering our downfall, as often discussed here, or are struck by a statistically unfortunate large asteroid impact, Life is here on Earth for the long haul — it has been durable for billions of years, albeit with significant setbacks, and one can expect it will be here for billions more to come. We may well have time on our hands.

If we sow the seeds now, we may have other worlds to move to in a few million years — long before we may need it — such as in five billion years when the Sun has expired into a Red Giant. It is quite reasonable to expect that if we seed Mars with our bacteria now, and other basic forms of life at the bottom of the food chain — in some million years from now Mars may be flourishing with vegetation — evolved to suit the terrain — that a colony there could live off.

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Sep 17, 2012

iPhone 5 Hyper-Anticipation: It Didn’t Mean What You Think it Meant (AGAIN)

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, economics, events, rants

iPhone 5 Hyper-Anticipation: It Didn’t Mean What You Think it Meant (AGAIN)
https://lifeboat.com/blog/2012/09/iphone-5-hyper-anticipatio…eant-again

Okay, now — bear with me on this — and check it out:
For now and for better or worse, The United States is home to a plurality of the world’s techiest technology, investment capital, productive creativity, and cutting edge research. As such, hiccups in those technology-driven economies of real currency and ideas can ripple around the entire planet.

Amid considerable anti-intellectualism and various public & private R&D funding issues, American tech leadership and innovation is stuttering and sputtering and might be in danger of faltering. While we’re not at that point just yet, there is an interesting harbinger with a peculiar manifestation: New iPhone Anticipation Loopiness. As I said, bear with me.


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This is a repost & redux from an October 5, 2011 Anthrobotic.com piece — published a day before the suspected-to-be-iPhone 5 was released as the iPhone 4S. While the fanboy drool and mainstream gee-whiz was considerably dialed down this time around (in part due to lots of leaking), the sentiment of this piece remains relevant and largely unchanged. Now, we did have the Nuclear-Powered Science Robot Dune Buggy with Lasers (AKA the rover Curiosity) this year, and that was very big, but on a societal level we still have a sad hole in our technology heart.

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Sep 16, 2012

Complexity decomplexified [First Revision]

Posted by in category: complex systems

Complexity decomplexified: A List of 200 Results Encountered over 55 Years

Otto E. Rossler

Faculty of Science, University of Tubingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 8, 72076 Tubingen, Germany

Abstract

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Sep 11, 2012

Only One Interstellar Travel Community Will Succeed

Posted by in categories: engineering, finance, philosophy, physics, space

There four camps that comprise the present day interstellar travel community and only one camp will succeed.

The first camp, the conventional rocket camp, believes it is possible using conventional rockets (chemical, ion, nuclear or antimatter) to realize interstellar travel to our nearest star Alpha Centauri. One of the problems is the costs, estimated at an unthinkably large $238,596 billion and upwards. It is several thousand times greater if we choose to use antimatter.

Further, John Eades, a former senior scientist with CERN, in his March/April 2012 Skeptical Inquirer article “Antimatter Pseudoscience”, lays down the reasons why antimatter based propulsion will never be technologically feasible.

Black Hole of wealth. One down three to go.

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Sep 10, 2012

International Nuclear Services Putting Business Before Safety

Posted by in categories: business, economics, ethics, nuclear energy

Whilst I was checking up on C.O.R.E. (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment) this weekend, I read of latest plans to ship plutonium MOX fuel assemblies from Sellafield to the small German port of Nordenham near Bremerhaven on the NDA’s (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) ageing ship Atlantic Osprey.

The Atlantic Osprey, built in 1986, is a roll-on roll-off ferry purchased third hand by British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) in 2001 and converted to carry radioactive materials. It is the only ship not to be custom-built of the UK’s designated nuclear cargo ships, and so is not double-hulled, and has only a single engine, among other short-comings.

According to CORE it has a chequered history as a nuclear carrier that includes an engine-room fire and breakdowns at sea, and equivalent sister ships have historically been retired at or before a standard 25 years of service. Whilst the ship is soon to finally brought to the scrapyard, it is due to be replaced by a 25-year old ship Oceanic Pintail recently saved from the scrap yard itself — and one would get the impression that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority are cutting corners on safety to save on expenditure.

CORE spokesman Martin Forwood has pointed out that INS (International Nuclear Services — a subsidiary of the NDA) appears hell-bent on shipping this MOX fuel to Germany on a third-hand ship with second class safety and kept afloat on first class INS PR alone” and on learning about the current state of affairs, one would be inclined to agree.

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Sep 9, 2012

Open Letter to CERN

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics

Dear CERN:

I love you as only a scientist can love the biggest scientific institution on earth. My proposal how to stabilize the ITER (a still larger big-science experiment than your LHC) so it can produce unlimited usable energy for the planet, just got published. I very much cherish high tech whenever it serves humankind.

This attitude of mine notwithstanding, I have been asking you in public for 4 ½ years to, please, falsify some other results which prove that your LHC experiment is jeopardizing the planet on a maximally short term basis. Specifically, I showed in mounting detail that the black holes that you are trying to produce in the LHC, (i) arise much more readily than hoped for, (ii) are invisible to your superb detectors, and (iii) are going to grow exponentially once gotten stuck inside matter (so as to shrink the earth to two centimeters in perhaps ten years’ time).

As you know, I dearly hope that the result can be shown to be false at a critical junction. Anyone who succeeds in doing so is your closest ally. However, as long as this aim is waiting to be achieved, I continue being your only ally. All other apparent allies who support your strategy of non-updating your 4 ½ years old safety report are your worst enemies. They have good reason never to show their face in public. Anyone who is opposed to the danger being disproved is obviously not your friend.

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Sep 9, 2012

The Recurring Parable of the AWOL Android

Posted by in categories: cybercrime/malcode, defense, ethics, media & arts, military, robotics/AI

Greetings to the Lifeboat Foundation community and blog readers! I’m Reno J. Tibke, creator of Anthrobotic.com and new advisory board member. This is my inaugural post, and I’m honored to be here and grateful for the opportunity to contribute a somewhat… different voice to technology coverage and commentary. Thanks for reading.

This Here Battle Droid’s Gone Haywire
There’s a new semi-indy sci-fi web series up: DR0NE. After one episode, it’s looking pretty clear that the series is most likely going to explore shenanigans that invariably crop up when we start using semi-autonomous drones/robots to do some serious destruction & murdering. Episode 1 is pretty and well made, and stars 237, the android pictured above looking a lot like Abe Sapien’s battle exoskeleton. Active duty drones here in realityland are not yet humanoid, but now that militaries, law enforcement, the USDA, private companies, and even citizens are seriously ramping up drone usage by land, air, and sea, the subject is timely and watching this fiction is totally recommended.

(Update: DR0NE, Episode 2 now available)

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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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