Category Archives: Political Commentary

Persecuting The Heretics

It’s crazy that a bill like this should even be necessary:

Lockman, however, wants to protect all people with opinions on global warming and prevent a Republican attorney general from conducting a similar investigation.

“I don’t want to see a Republican state attorney general issuing subpoenas for the records of progressive or liberal think tanks or public policy groups to chill their free speech,” Lockman told AP.

“It’s about Citizens United and the government abridging speech,” Lockman said. “It’s not about climate science. It’s about climate policy.”

Maine Democrats and environmentalists oppose Lockman’s bill, so it doesn’t have much hope of passing. Some environmentalists apparently want state prosecutors to be able to investigate “climate deniers.”

“Clearly an attempt to provide cover for climate deniers,” Dylan Voorhees, with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, told AP. “I see a trickle down from the Trump administration that has emboldened some folks to make climate denial statements.”

Calling skeptics “deniers” is slanderous, unscientific, and trivializes the Holocaust.

Living In Space

Things you’re not allowed to do.

a) I find it difficult to believe that no one in the past several decades, especially with women in the mix since the early 80s, has not joined the 150-mile club. They even flew a married couple in the early 90s. Shuttle had very sensitive accelerometers, and I imagine ISS does too. Mission control knows what’s going on.

b) I also find it difficult to believe that anyplace with engineers and scientists and sugar doesn’t have hooch in short order. The free fall might make the fermentation an interesting process, but I’ll bet it’s been happening.

These are things that are against the rules, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

The First Falcon Reflight

It may happen this month. Eric Berger has the story. But this seems just wrong for the 21st century:

it can occur no earlier than March 29, because the launch of an Atlas V rocket has slipped to March 27, and it requires about 48 hours for the Air Force to reconfigure its downrange tracking system for a launch from a different pad.

There was a panel at the satellite conference a couple weeks ago on the need not to just rethink the range, but get rid of the concept entirely, as it becomes more like an airport. Like “human rating,” a “range” is an archaic concept from the early days of launching things into space on ordnance.

[Update a while later]

More thoughts from Chris Petty:

If the SES-10 launch proceeds without problems many of the doubters may be silenced and SpaceX could truly be on the brink of a real revolution in spaceflight – a tipping point at which expendable rockets become the exception for a launch company rather than the rule as they have been since the dawn of the space age in 1957. But can reusability really work? It has become something of a fashionable mantra from some within NASA to state that the Shuttle proved reusable vehicles couldn’t be economically competitive with expendable launchers. Whilst this was certainly the case for the hugely expensive shuttle, this single example shouldn’t be taken as a rule that can be broadly applied to reusable vehicles per-se. There were many factors inherent within the shuttle’s design that conspired to mean that the planned high flight rates could never be attained, nor could the aspiration of ‘aircraft-like operations’ with highly automated check-out procedures and rapid turnarounds between flights ever be achieved. Many of these had their roots in the restricted post-apollo budgets from which the compromised design for the Space Transportation System emerged.

With the Falcon 9, SpaceX has been able to iteratively design a launch system that could gradually test elements of reusability while still carrying out the all important revenue generating work of delivering payloads to orbit. Unlike the shuttle, failure during recovery was an option for the Falcon 9 during its development. This points to one of the key differentiators that SpaceX and fellow reusable commercial launch company Blue Origin, have on their side. With founders coming from the technology startup culture, both firms have concepts of lean, agile development ingrained into their corporate DNA. Functioning as space launch OEMs, they have developed their own vehicles and propulsion technologies from scratch. The risk in these new developments has been met partly by the significant financial resources of their founders, but also by clients willing to chance their fortunes with less-proven technology in return for reduced launch costs. While some still refer to SpaceX and Blue Origin as ‘New Space’ both are now well into their second decade of operation, so perhaps it is more appropriate to refer to Commercial Space as compared to the more established Government Space represented by NASA, where the cost-plus contract is still king and development takes place at a far slower pace, insulated to a large extent from market forces.

And at some point, as he notes, SLS will become so obviously ridiculous that it won’t survive.

[Update a few minutes later]

Sorry, solved the missing link.

[Update a few minutes later]

The Death Of Expertise

Thoughts from Glenn Reynolds:

In the realm of foreign affairs, which should be of special interest to the people at Foreign Affairs, recent history has been particularly dreadful. Experts failed to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union, failed to deal especially well with that fall when it took place, and then failed to deal with the rise of Islamic terrorism that led to the 9/11 attacks. Post 9/11, experts botched the reconstruction of Iraq, then botched it again with a premature pullout.

On Syria, experts in Barack Obama’s administration produced a policy that led to countless deaths, millions of refugees flooding Europe, a new haven for Islamic terrorists, and the upending of established power relations in the mideast. In Libya, the experts urged a war, waged without the approval of Congress, to topple strongman Moammar Gadhafi, only to see — again — countless deaths, huge numbers of refugees and another haven for Islamist terror.

It was experts who brought us the housing bubble and the subprime crisis. It was experts who botched the Obamacare rollout. And, of course, the experts didn’t see Brexit coming, and seem to have responded mostly with injured pride and assaults on the intelligence of the electorate, rather than with constructive solutions.

By its fruit the tree is known, and the tree of expertise hasn’t been doing well lately. As Nassim Taleb recently observed: “With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers.”

There was also the failure of the CIA to see the Iranian revolution coming. And certainly the “experts” in charge of space policy haven’t been covering themselves in glory, at least if the goal is to expand humanity’s economic sphere into the solar system (as Marburger once said).

Stem Cells

in spaaaaaaaace:

“Stem cells are inherently designed to remain at a constant number,” Zubair explains. “We need to grow them faster, but without changing their characteristics.”

The first phase of the investigation, he adds, is answering the question: “Do stem cells grow faster in space and can we grow them in such a manner that they are safe to use in patients?”

Investigators will examine the space-grown cells in an effort to understand the mechanism behind microgravity’s effects on them. The long-term goal is to learn how to mimic those effects and develop a safe and reliable way to produce stem cells in the quantities needed.

Just once, it would be nice to discover something that can be done in space that can’t be later mimiced on the ground. I hope that Made In Space has found one.

And of course, as I point out in the book, this kind of research could be accelerated if they added one more crewperson to ISS. The only reason they haven’t is lifeboat requirement, something that doesn’t exist in Antarctica.

Confession Of A “Climate-Change Denier”


There are two things necessary for a mass movement to succeed: true believers and a well-defined enemy. The enemy of the climate change mass movement is fossil fuels and the Industrial Age, with the “deniers” being the enablers of planetary destruction.

In the past, the term “denier” has been associated with that extreme group who denies the existence of the horrible, tragic historical fact, the Holocaust. Many climate change true believers want the public to put anyone who questions or disagrees with climate change projections in the same category as the Holocaust deniers. But one is a fact, the other a contested projection. Nevertheless, they have been quite successful.

Here is one of the definitions of “denier” found on the Internet: “a person who denies something, especially someone who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of the scientific or historical evidence: a prominent denier of global warming.”

Here is Hoffer’s warning on the role of the true believer: “where mass movements can either persuade or coerce, it usually chooses the latter.”

Something we are seeing in spades.

It’s demagoguery. And it trivializes the Holocaust itself, in the service of a(nother) collectivist political agenda.