Category Archives: Technology and Society

Elon’s Announcement

I didn’t see it, and I couldn’t view it on my notebook because Firefox can’t handle HTML5 (WTF?).

But from what I can glean from my Twitter feed, the plan to send a bunch of artists into space excited a lot of people on Twitter not normally excited about what SpaceX has been doing (we saw a similar effect with the FH launch of the Tesla and rocket man, though some who didn’t like that love this). Anyway, I’ve been saying all weekend, and told people at the conference today that I’d be very surprised if someone booked an entire BFR flight and didn’t take friends along. The other thing that seems clear is that the schedule is slipping (Commercial Crew has slipped from November to December for test flight, and from next April to “second quarter” for first crewed launch).

Only about 5% of SpaceX resources are going to BFR currently, but once development is done on Commercial Crew, that will increase dramatically, but a 2023 lunar mission means no Mars prior to that. His flight, given the amount of the down payment, will be the highest BFR priority. Here’s a link from Business Insider.

[Tuesday-morning update]

Here‘s Eric Berger’s take.

A Sea Change In Dietary Advice

Low-carb should be the first approach in treating diabetes and obesity.

[Update a few minutes later]

Meanwhile, “Big Pasta” Barilla has been meddling in nutrition science.

[Sunday-morning update]

No, despite the headline, there is zero scientific evidence that listing calories on menus is helping people lose weight, and this article provides none. This “study” is nonsense. First, it’s self reporting. Second, it’s premised on the assumption, for which there is zero evidence, that counting calories is helpful, when calorie counting is a scientifically bogus concept, that assumes all calories are equal in their effects on metabolism. The kind of calories matter, and the way they measure calories, by literally burning food, is not how your body metabolizes calories, so it doesn’t even make sense thermodynamically.

BFR News

Among other things, its fins are growing. This happened with X-33, too. Hope BFR has a better fate.

In terms of the passenger announcement, it’s worth noting how different this trip will be from Apollo 8 (whose fiftieth anniversary comes in December), in terms of how spacious the accommodations will be. This is not your grandfather’s moon voyage.

[Update a while later]

Tim Fernholz has some questions. I have one for him: What does “certifying the Falcon Heavy to carry people” mean? Or look like?

[Update late morning]

Scott Manley analyzes.

Branding In Space

There seems to be a lot of concern in the science journalism community about Bridenstine’s potential proposal to allow sponsorship of missions:

Bridenstine’s proposal would set a dangerous precedent for NASA’s future. By suggesting that commercial partnerships could help fund NASA’s missions, it implies that the agency is not worth funding through the usual means—annual budgets carefully negotiated and ironed out by lawmakers. And their constituents believe that the space program is important; according to a study from the Pew Research Center in June, 72 percent of Americans say it’s essential for the United States to continue to be a world leader in space exploration. If Nike is ready and willing to drop millions of dollars to sponsor the next mission to Mars, why should lawmakers bother spending any taxpayer money on it? The world’s premier space agency shouldn’t have to resort to brand sponsorships in the absence of political will. And even if brands could float the first few years of a mission, they might not have the stomach for the years, or even decades it sometimes takes for NASA’s most ambitious missions to come to fruition. [Emphasis added]

There is a false assumption here that a) the purpose of NASA spending is “space exploration,” and that the negotiations and “ironing out” have much to do with “space exploration” as opposed to zip-code engineering. The sooner that we recognize that there is in fact an absence of political will, and accept that space exploration should be privatized, the way it was until the end of WW II, the sooner we’ll start to make more progress.

[Update a few minutes later]
More from Ken Chang.

The Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that it’s been seventeen years. Glenn Reynolds has some links and thoughts. Yes, Barack Obama was feckless, but part of the reason we got him was due to the fecklessness of George Bush, and the mismanagement of Iraq. I thought at the time the administration had a strategic plan for the Middle East, but I was wrong.

[Update a while later]

Here’s a lot more.

Tracing Circuits

I have a switch in the house that I have no effing idea what it does. I’d have thought that it would be easy to buy a tone generator that can be detected through drywall to follow the wire, but after going to Home Depot, and searching on line, I’m coming up empty. What am I missing?

[TUesday-morning update]

I’m not looking for theories of what it might be, I’m looking for a tool that will tell me.