Category Archives: Technology and Society

Seek, And Ye Shall Find

Another huge oil discovery in Brazil.

What’s amazing is not so much that Congress won’t allow us to pump oil, which we badly need to do. They won’t even allow us to look for it, especially if it’s in a “pristine” (aka barren coastal plain, frozen in the winter and a mosquito-infested bog in the summer) region, at least according to Senator McCain.

What are they afraid we might find?

Only Cat 5?

For that kind of money, I’d expect Cat 8, at least.

An audiophile and his money are soon parted.

[Update a few minutes later]

As noted, the Amazon customer reviews are hilarious.

[Update in the evening]

Stephen Dawson (from Down Under) has a defense (albeit pretty flimsy. as he admits) of Denon.

I have to admit my disappointment as well. I’d always respected Denon up until this. As someone in comments said, one hopes that the marketing person responsible will have a few of these cables run through them from one end to the other. Or be keelhauled with them.

A Hopeful Long Shot

Some interesting progress in polywell fusion.

“We’re fully operational and we’re getting data,” Nebel said. “The machine runs like a top. You can just sit there and take data all afternoon.”

So was Bussard correct? Will it be worth putting hundreds of millions of dollars into a larger-scale demonstration project, to show that Bussard’s Polywell concept could be a viable route to fusion power?

Nebel said it’s way too early to talk about the answers to those questions. For one thing, it’s up to the project’s funders to assess the data. Toward that end, an independent panel of experts will be coming to Santa Fe this summer to review the WB-7 experiment, Nebel said.

“We’re going to show them the whole thing, warts and all,” he said.

Because of the complexity, it will take some interpretation to determine exactly how the experiment is turning out. “The answers are going to be kind of nuanced,” Nebel said.

The experts’ assessment will feed into the decision on whether to move forward with larger-scale tests. Nebel said he won’t discuss the data publicly until his funders have made that decision.

Let’s hope it pans out. If so, Bob Bussard will be smiling from the grave, or wherever he is.

Fighting Global Warming

With geoengineering. But the hair shirters don’t like it:

Stabilization can only be achieved by cutting current carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent. This means implementing highly unpopular policies of carbon rationing and higher energy prices. So some climate change researchers and environmental activists worry that the public and policymakers will see geoengineering as way to avoid making hard decisions. “If humans perceive an easy technological fix to global warming that allows for ‘business as usual,’ gathering the national (particularly in the United States and China) and international will to change consumption patterns and energy infrastructure will be even more difficult,” writes Rutgers University environmental scientist Alan Robock.

Well, boo frickin’ hoo.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Commenter Chris Potter has a pithy translation: “If there’s no good reason for people to do what I want them to do, they won’t do it.”

A New Project In The Works?

Alan Boyle has an interview with Paul Allen. This isn’t right, though:

Adrian Hunt, the collection’s executive director, told me that putting a pilot in the V-1 turned out to be a terrible idea.

“The theory is that you open the cockpit and you jump out just when you’re getting close to the target,” he said. “There’s a slight design fault there. Once you open the cockpit, that’s the intake for the rocket – and it tends to suck in things, including people.

“…intake for the rocket”?

It was a pulse jet.


A brief survey of potential global warming solutions. What is more interesting to me than the engineering is the politics and ethics of all this. Asteroid diversion falls in the same category. But at least some of these things could drive a need for low-cost space access in an unprecedented manner.

But this is one that doesn’t really seem to be in this category, unless it were mandated. It’s more of a “think globally, act locally” approach:

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the ultra-low-tech approach of painting rooftops white to reflect sunlight.

We’ve been thinking about doing that anyway, just to reduce our air conditioning bill. With a gray cement tile roof, that soaks up a lot of sun, it’s hotter than Hades’s kitchen in the attic this time of year, and that could really cool things down.

Mormons And Infrastructure

Jon Goff has a truly excellent post on what will be required for space settlements, with useful historical analogies. I’ve always considered the LDS analogy quite apt, both in terms of types of technologies and infrastructure needed for the emigration, and the motivations. As he notes, unfortunately, the space community often uses unuseful historical analogies and/or fails to recognize where they break down.

But what he describes would be a true “Interstate Highway System” for space, as opposed to what Mike Griffin considers one (Ares/Orion).