False Dawn

in Silicon Valley:

…in applied research, all of those new discoveries are ultimately going to slow or stall because the ‘pull’ of innovators who want to put those technologies to work, is fading. Sure, some big and aggressive companies like Intel will put some these inventions to work. But the big pull has always come from the thousands of fast-moving, risk-taking new start-up companies who find unexpected (and sometimes vast) new applications for those technologies.

Those companies aren’t there anymore. The crucial center of the tech world – new and fast-moving companies – the meat in the technology sandwich – is gone. Under the press of an economic slowdown, government regulations that have handcuffed entrepreneurs and venture capitalists – and perhaps most of all, an Administration that increasingly seems actively hostile to entrepreneurship and small business – high tech is hollowing out.

It all still looks good – the new cars in Silicon Valley traffic, the announcements of exciting new inventions – but there is no there there. It is a comforting illusion, one that has us believing that good times are just around the corner, that the next Apples and Googles are waiting in the wings to help restore the country to economic leadership and prosperity, and that Silicon Valley will once more become the generator of millions of new jobs across the land.

But it isn’t true. Over the last couple months, I’ve seen some spectacular new start-up companies, some with finished products on the market. All of them are starving from lack of capital –and their business plans, which would have attracted tens of millions of dollars two years ago, earning only shrugs and apologies from straitened venture capitalists and banks. My guess is that several hundred new start-ups in Silicon Valley have already been lost, with no sign anywhere on the horizon.

SOX is a big part of it, but the general political climate, in which “profit” is a four-letter word, and we have a president who elevates “public service” and denigrates business is a big one, too. And we won’t be able to do much about either for another year. Though if the polls are looking good to throw the kleptocratic anti-freedom rascals out next summer, perhaps the recovery can start a little sooner in anticipation.

A Warning Shot

…it’s just the latest one:

On 8 October an asteroid detonated high in the atmosphere above South Sulawesi, Indonesia, releasing about as much energy as 50,000 tons of TNT, according to a NASA estimate released on Friday. That’s about three times more powerful than the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima, making it one of the largest asteroid explosions ever observed.

However, the blast caused no damage on the ground because of the high altitude, 15 to 20 kilometres above Earth’s surface, says astronomer Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario (UWO), Canada.

Brown and Elizabeth Silber, also of UWO, estimated the explosion energy from infrasound waves that rippled halfway around the world and were recorded by an international network of instruments that listens for nuclear explosions.

Emphasis mine. We get hit a lot more often than people realize. And we’ve been very lucky so far that none of them have hit populated areas.

What He’s Really Hiding

Frank J. says that the birth certificate issue has nothing to do with Kenya:

…while Obama’s original birth certificate has never been made public, Hawaii has issued a certificate of live birth that declares Barack Obama to be a forty-eight-year-old man. Usually I’d consider something like that official enough, but evidence has mounted that’s made me doubt it. First it was his weakness on foreign policy. Then there were his complaints about Republican opposition. Next was just how easy he is to push around. Finally, there is his whimpering about Fox News. Now, I think we owe it to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers to analyze Obama and ask ourselves: Are these the actions of an adult male or a whiny, sissy little girl?

This is an important question, and we should treat it seriously. Now I know partisan hacks are going to scream, “He’s not a little girl! Shut up shut up shut up!” But the evidence is devastating. Just look at Obama’s foreign policy since taking office. As enemies like Iran oppress their people and move towards obtaining nuclear weapons, does he strike back against them forcefully like any real man would? No, that’s too scary for him. Tough talk like that would make him hug his dolly. He just wants to talk and be nice so no one yells at him.

He even tried inviting Iran to a barbecue. That sounds a lot like a sissy little girl too afraid to stand up to people. Any day now, he might invite Ahmadinejad over to play house with him. Obama even took missile defense out of Eastern Europe because he didn’t want people getting all angry — just the sort of thing a little girl would worry about. For wimpy actions like this, Norway awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize, which is basically a prize awarded to people in recognition of them being dainty little girls.

Tut, tut, tut. Such disrespect of the Commandress-in-Chief.

I have to agree with many of the commenters, though. This is insulting to little girls everywhere.

Not Today

The Fourth of July display at the cape has been scrubbed for the day due to weather.

If they don’t do it tomorrow morning, they’ll be delayed for weeks. Of course, tomorrow morning will also see a much more promising, if less spectacular event, with Masten’s attempt to win Level II of the Lunar Lander Challenge in Mojave. Unfortunately, the weather may not cooperate for that, either. A high is settling in over the Great Basin, and combined with the low over the eastern Pacific off shore, that means Santa Anas (though cold ones this time). There are gusts of 60 mph forecast for the desert this afternoon, and it’s not expected to die down much until later tomorrow. I don’t know what kind of wind conditions Masten has designed for, but if they can handle winds, I’m sure that the steadier the better. There’s got to be a certain point at which they will decide not to fly, not just risking a bad flight, but the vehicle itself. I’ll keep checking in throughout the day, and decide if I’m going to go up in the morning or not.

[Update mid morning]

There is a certain irony that a prize planned with the intent of developing lunar landing technologies would be affected by wind. Of course, a big side benefit for both NASA and those developing the vehicles (though it’s not clear that the former recognizes it) is that it also contributes to technology that could eventually lead to reduced launch costs and increased operability from earth to space.

[Update a couple minutes later]

From Dave Masten’s Facebook notes:

I think we are ready for #ngllc level 2. All tests are done. Last was a nice stable hover of 195sec in 30+ knot winds.

Sounds like it may be worth the trip. Though I wonder how steady the winds were. As I said, I would think that, short of a hurricane, the wind variation is more of an issue than the magnitude per se.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!