Monday, November 28, 2005

The High Road

Or .. can't we all just get along?
The world is awash in capital. We have trillions of dollars of houses, cars, and businesses. The world’s productive capacity is growing all the time. We are figuring out how to build old things better so quickly, we have to find an ever-increasing pace of new items to produce. Ever more of our productive economy is being devoted to entertainment, beauty, recreation, vacationing, art, luxury food, leisure, and lifestyle medications. And it is doing so with less energy per dollar of GDP . It is only a matter of time before early adopters follow the style of Paul Allen, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos, and start their own space programs—or at least go for a ride.All the existing aerospace related firms and many others can prosper if demand and capitalization grow for space enterprise. All of the following companies and more can succeed: ATK Thiokol, Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Energia, Imaginova, Incredible Adventures, Lockheed Martin, Liftport, Masten Space Systems, Northrup Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, Rocketplane, Space Adventures, The Spaceship Company, SpaceShot, SpaceX, TGV Rockets, t/Space, United Space Alliance, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Skill, and XCOR Aerospace.

While there are long-term lean scenarios, there are also extended boom scenarios. If there is an elevator that is put up, we will need more rockets, not fewer. We will spark a vast new era of development, colonization, and exploration with lots of rockets and spaceships flying off of a space elevator.

As Monte Davis recently said on “The Space Show”, we have to set aside our petty differences. Shut up about Moon vs. Mars, hybrid vs. liquid, SSTO vs. TSTO, alt vs. biz, tourism vs. military, private vs. public, orbital vs. suborbital, robots vs. people, and asteroids vs. space invaders. Start subordinating our unimportant grousing about other’s companies and products to common goals. Start smoothing over our differences, agree to disagree, and push forward a positive message about our own and all competing products. Start teaching each other how to promote in a positive way and teach the media how to cover us in a positive way.

Mark Twain's quip comes to mind; the reason that school board elections are so vicious is that the stakes are so small. The opposite is true here - time to realize that, yes, the stakes might be high, but the payoff is huge for all concerned.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Taking bets on the first kilogram to orbit by space elevator

Travis is taking bets on the first kilogram and the first man to orbit via space elevator.
On the dog walk today I asked Nick when he thought we’d have a space elevator that could lift 1kg from the surface to orbit.

I was thinking 35 years.

Nick said “With 75% confidence…10 years”.

OK, what are everyone else’s bets?? Feel free to divide into “1kg to orbit” and “1 man to orbit”.

My bets are 35 and 40 years respectively.
I think Nick is being foolishly optimistic, but Travis is guilty of not anticipating a massive uptick in enabling technology. Something like what happened in England in the first decade after Watt perfected thesteam engine, but with more acceleration. If the steam engine was a light shining a dark era the coming decade is going to be a laser beam.

I am of course optimistic.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

'space elevator' slipping into casual usage

I don't know who CrackBass is. That is beside the point.
maybe not even a god, but The God. we dont deserve him. there is no way he is from this planet. Perhaps he arrived here via a space elevator. Maybe he is from the future, and has traveled back to now so that he can just completely kick everyone's a$$ on drums. whatever. doesn't matter. what matters is - he is here, and deserves your worship.
He's talking about Jeff Ballard, a drumer. I don't know who he is either. The point is the casual usage of the phrase 'space elevator'.

* If it's slipped into common usage .. great. Better than that if you want to build one.

* You guys who want to rename it 'cosmic funicular' or something else? You're about five years too late. Space elevator it is, and always will be. Sloppy and imprecise but there it is.

* Better than Keith Moon? You'll have to convince me.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hacking Google - deserved mocking

Google 'failure'. The first hit is the White House biography of George Bush. The second is Nothing like rooting for the underdog . . .

Failure. Failure. Failure. Failure. Failure.

Me, I think a google hack aimed at Bruce Gagnon would be more amusing, but since failure is taken ...

. Goofball. Goofball. Goofball. Goofball.

Thanksgiving coda

The Dunbar family had a nice Thanksgiving. Snow, but just enough to dust the ground. Family and friends over for the day. Leftover enough to tide the family over for a week of turkey sandwiches, turkey ommlettes and so on.

That is - we had enough leftover turkey for the week. We now have a few ounces of turkey and a very full German Shepherd.

A likeness of the guilty party - in happier times.

Nuclear Power makes you go AAAGH!

From Leyden's Jar.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Free Market Management Style

one fateful day in 1962, Charles, also an MIT engineer, plucked a book from his father's library on the free-market principles of the so-called Austrian school of economics. "The experience changed my life," Koch wrote in a 1998 article for Chief Executive magazine. After Koch took over the company when his father died in the late 1960s, he spent the next three decades knocking down the "command-and-control" tenets of traditional corporate structure and replacing it with more of an "intellectual framework."

You've probably never heard of Charles Koch or Koch Industries. So what do they have to offer?

30,000 employees in 50 countries. Growth of 1,600-fold since 1961. Koch just bought Georgia-Pacific, taking it private. Might be worth paying attention to.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Dil Bahadur Shrestha

Dil Bahadur Shrestha. Goes by both 'Dil' and 'Bahadur'. From Kathmandu, Nepal. Has had recent business dealings in Germany and Wisconsin. I will not publish defaming information in public but if you are doing business with him you really should get in touch with me for our side of the story. Use the contact email address for this web site.

This has nothing to do with Liftport - I'm doing this as a favor for a close friend who (may) have been burned by the guy; using the power of the lazyweb for good not ill.

Friday, November 18, 2005

WKRP In Cincinnati - end theme lyrics

WKRP was, I think, the best sitcom ever filmed. The cast had chemistry, the jokes were good and 'twas funny without smut. Plus Jan Smithers. And that closing theme. For years and years I thought there weren't really any lyrics - just a guy belting out nonsense - but rocking good nonsense.

Turns out if you listen long enough .. there is something there.
Said to the bartender "Best night I ever had"
Sang to the bar
Had a microphone in(to) her heart

I said -
Goodbye madam
I'd had a bird in hand

I said - I'm doing good
And put love in her heart

Makes more sense than some of translations from 'Cowboy Bebop'. Poor quality wav at the link - but a rocking GOOD poor quality wav it is.

Update: I forgot about the Cloth Monkey 'homage' page to Jan Smithers. This might be where I picked up a 'thing' for girls wearing glasses.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

US Army Military History Institute - online documents

Via Jerry Pournelle - the US Army Military History Institute has a number of interesting soruce documents online. Index at

An Epidemiology of Representations

Via Event Horizon, An Epidemiology of Representations - A Talk with Dan Sperber;
This is where I part company not just from your standard semiologists or social scientists who take communication to be a coding-decoding system, a transmission system, biased only by social interests, by power, by intentional or unconscious distortions, but that otherwise could deliver a kind of smooth flow of undistorted information. I also part company from Richard Dawkins who sees cultural transmission as based on a process of replication, and who assume that imitation and communication provide a robust replication system.
More at the link.

Evolutions of thoughts, transmission of culture. Ever since T.R. Fehrenbach introduced me to the idea that not just the cowboy but the entire Plains horse culture was transmitted entire from the Spanish on the lower Rio Grande to Anglo-Celts filtering out of the wooded Southeast, I've been interested in how ideas .. culture .. migrates to a new people.

Semper Gumby, Micah.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Is this blog an "Anglosphere Blog"?

From Albion's Seedlings;
The Anglosphere is the growing world network of English-speaking nations and people increasingly connected by electronic media, fast cheap air travel, and other modern developments. In that sense, it is a subset of globalization, but a globalization that is not happening smoothly, evenly, or at the same pace or degree in all directions at once. There are vectors, and the evidence continues to accumulate that participation in the cultural complex that includes speaking, writing and reading English, and sharing in the institutions, culture and history of the English-speaking world is an important one of those vectors.

Anglospherists differe from universalists by saying "we can't really come up with a quick formula that fits Mozambique and Iceland equally and usefully." We can say that stronger civil societies are freer and more prosperous, and we can even say "reducing public goods reduces the corruption of public processes", but we can't instantly come up with a formula that would tell how to rewrite a constitution to implement these insights
Maybe. There is worse company to be in.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Space elevator takes romance out of the void

Space elevator takes romance out of the void
The fact is, no matter how many carbon bells and nano-whistles you put on it, an elevator is still an elevator -- the most boring and awkward conveyance ever concocted. And all its annoying traditions would be sure to seep into any space-age upgrade as well.

LEO on the Cheap

LEO on the Cheap
Methods for Achieving Drastic Reductions
In Space Launch Costs
Air University Research Report AU-ARI-93-8
Lt. Col. John R. London III

Published in 1994, "LEO on the cheap" is easily accessible for the lay public. Colonel London explored why existing space launch is expensive and presented recommendations to drastically reduce the the cost of space transportation.

The conclusions are hard to argue with
The United States needs a means of space access that costs much less than the current launch systems. Foreign competition continues to chip away at the US commercial launch industry. A dramatic expansion in military, civil, and commercial space initiatives could help fuel a technology-based economic revitalization in the United States, but this expansion will not come about unless drastic reductions in space launch costs are achieved.
He then goes on the argue for development of a minimum cost design booster - minimum cost because (supported by arguments in the preceding chapters) boosters do not need to be complex or expensive - good enough is sufficient and cheap.
An ultra-low-cost launch system cannot be developed using traditional government acquisition practices. A large number of personnel, heavy documentation requirements, complicated and time-consuming procedural compliance, and an almost inevitable complexity in design are all associated with typical acquisition of an aerospace system. These traditional acquisition characteristics will drive the cost of the launch system well above what anyone would consider low. Therefore the program for developing a low-cost launch system must be accomplished in a highly streamlined manner.
In other words - it can't be done the way we've always done it. However, the cynic in me is convinced that an organization laden with 'crats and procedures is unable to reform itself absent external competition. There isn't any at this point in time. Space X is, yes, busy building the Falcon and Virgin Galactic may loft tourists but these guys alone are not going to force the US government and Boeing/Lockmart to change their ways.

Colonel London goes on to list forty recomendations in procedure, policy and so on.

All in all, a good read for the lay public, invaluable if you're in the industry, or simply want to be informed. Available online in PDF format at

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Thinking Cleary About Space

Monte Davis' 'Thinking Clearly' series is worth a seperate blog entry.

Thinking Clearly About Space Part I: Hustling the Future
For more than a century, space enthusiasts have been hurrying the future: projecting how the world will be changed by technologies and capabilities humanity does not yet have.

Thinking Clearly About Space Part II: Everybody Wants Space
Who can resist the poetry of Humanity’s Timeless Outward Urge? Space is the endless frontier, we say—it’s in our genes. It’s the next inevitable step in evolution. It’s our species-level insurance against global disasters. It’s the spread of life and intelligence from a pale blue dot to the 99.9…% of the cosmos that isn’t Earth. Throw the bone, cue the music, match dissolve to orbit: thank you, Mr. Kubrick.

It’s all profoundly moving. It may even turn out to be true. But it’s an obstacle to progress, if talk of Humanity persuades us that most actual human beings share our enthusiasm.
Thinking Clearly About Space Part III: Hardware and Hand-Waving
One of the clichés of space enthusiasm is author Robert Heinlein’s "Once you’re in orbit, you’re halfway to anywhere." It’s a vivid expression of the physics of launching a spacecraft and escaping earth’s gravity well. The velocity change required to attain low earth orbit, just 200 miles up, is more than twice that needed to go on from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to the Moon. It’s comparable to that needed for reasonable travel times from LEO to other planets, thousands of times farther away.

We usually repeat the cliché in the service of our hopes. After all, we put a satellite in orbit in 1957, and human beings in 1961. We were halfway to anywhere two generations ago—let’s get on with it!

But the cliché misleads as much as it enlightens.

Thinking Clearly About Space Part IV: The Virtuous Cycle

The temptation to slip from hurrying the future to hustling it is always present. You can see the latest variation at every space conference, on every space forum and weblog:

* “What will make us a space-faring civilization is people making money on space tourism and orbital hotels; on solar-power satellites or on helium-3 from the moon or asteroid mining.”

* “NASA and the big aerospace vendors and the politicians are all in the same bureaucratic swamp, maintaining their turf and their constituencies. Look at Spaceship One! Only private enterprise is lean and innovative enough to get us out.”

* “Sure, rockets have always been expensive, but that’s only because we make so few of them and fly them so rarely. With high flight rates and the streamlined operations that will bring, costs will drop to a fraction of what they are today.”

The common thread is that we don’t need more federal spending or new technology to speed our progress into space. All we need is the proven power of market economics to transform what is new, rare and expensive (electricity 1850, automobiles 1900, computers or jet aircraft 1950) into the routine and affordable.

Monte Davis on Livingston's Space Show

Monte Davis, historian, science writer and all-around good guy writes;
I'll be on David Livingston's Space Show tomorrow, starting at noon Pacific time. We'd be happy to hear from you during the show; details for calling or IM/ICQ'ing in during the show are here.

The main topic is "mythbusting" about where we currently are (and aren't) in space -- the real technological, economic, and political constraints, and what seem to me the shortcomings of most space advocacy.

But I expect we'll also get around to possible alternatives to chemical rocketry: nuclear, laser launch, and... you guessed it.

For a preview of the angle I'm coming from, go to here and see the four-part "Thinking Clearly About Space" series under the "more top stories/recent headlines" tabs.

Beats the snot out of listening to A Prairie Home Companion.

Ready to break out of the post-Apollo doldrums

Good name for this era - post-Apollo doldrums.
UI and other students are likely to have a lot more such opportunities in the future, said Gregg Maryniak, former executive director of the X PRIZE Foundation, which sponsored the $10 million prize for the first privately funded manned space flight, won last fall by SpaceShipOne.
"For the first time in many, many years I feel a real resurgence in hope for the future ... right in your careers," Maryniak, now director of the J.S. McDonnell Planetarium in St. Louis, told the students.
But Maryniak said the Bush administration's push to return to the moon and eventually travel to Mars is only part of the reason he thinks the nation has a chance to break out of what he characterized as its post-Apollo doldrums.
He said NASA's $15 billion annual budget – about what Americans spend on lipstick or pizza every year – is unlikely to ever do much more than double, if that.
"It's not enough money to make space happen on a strong and perpetual basis," he said.
But government programs can overcome initial hurdles – like proving the feasibility of bases on the moon, which might become resource harvesting and manufacturing outposts later – that need to be cleared to attract private investment, Maryniak said.
Oh yes - Tom Nugent is at SEDS, doing nifty things with robots and space elevator proto tech.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day

I wrote this on Steve Barnes website in response to his review of "Jarhead". Let it stand as a comment on Veterans Day. It is not that I think my words are epic or worthy of wider notice - but they are mine.

There is indeed something about service in hard places with like minded men that calls to the heart of a man.

I spent eight years in the Corps. I had some good times, some bad times, overall I was not the best Marine I could have been but .. ah gawd when it was good, it was grand indeed!

I've yet to find - after thirteen years - anything to compare to that feeling.

I've found a substitute with my wife and family - and it's a good life and relationship we have, and I'll not trade it for the world. She is my rock and my heart and my life.

But it's not the at all the same, not by half.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Happy 230th, Marines

Happy Birthday to my brothers and sisters in the Corps. Hoist a glass, toast the oldest and youngest present and keep the faith.

Semper Fi.

Nick at Brutally Honest says it much better than I.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

60 Minutes: Being The First Man On The Moon

Some choice bits from the '60 Minutes' interview with Neil Armstrong on 11/6/05.
After the almost-fatal ordeal (with an experimental LEM simulator), Armstrong went back to his office to do some paperwork. “I did. There was work to be done,” says Armstrong, matter-of-factly.

“Wait a minute. You were just almost killed,” Bradley says.

“Well, but I wasn't,” says Armstrong.

Armstrong clearly remembers the lunar surface. “It's a brilliant surface in that sunlight. The horizon seems quite close to you because the curvature is so much more pronounced than here on earth. It's an interesting place to be. I recommend it.”

Armstrong knew the Apollo program had a limited life but expected it to last longer. “I fully expected that, by the end of the century, we would have achieved substantially more than we actually did.”

“And why do you think we didn't continue?” Bradley says.

“When we lost the competition, we lost the public will to continue,” Armstrong replies.

“You said you would like to see us go back to the moon, and then go on to Mars. Something you want to do at this point in your life?” Bradley asks.

“I don't think I'm going to get the chance. But I don't want to say I'm not available,” Armstrong says, laughing.

If you're looking for a hero - however you define the word - you could do worse.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


October 28, 2005

We're all familiar with the more common names for FTL (faster than light) drives in the SF universe. Warp drives, hyper drives and so on. Here are some of our suggestions. The Top 9 Other Names for FTL Drives

9. The "No we're not there yet, now shut up before I turn around and smack you" drive.
8. Science Fiction Nerd "Lack of Sex" Drive.
7. Einstein's Blowjob.
6. FTMFF (Fleeter Than Michael Flatley's Feet) Drive.
5. TTE ("Take That, Einstein!") Drive.
4. FTL: Fatter than Light. A new drive system based on the Atkins Diet.
3 . Deus Ex Machina Drive.
2. Who cares, as long as I can save money on my car insurance!

and the Number 1 Other Name for an FTL Drive...

1. Bubba's Interstellar Drive-O-Matic.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Liftport week at Bull Dork's place

It's Liftport Week at Bull Dork's blog. I promised the man I'd make it Bull Dork week on the Liftport blog (or something like that) but some things have conspired against my doing that.

* An appraiser is due next week to look at the house for a refinance inspection. All those fiddly chores I've put off for the past year? It's all come due. I've been up till the wee hours of the morning moving stuff around, sanding, painting and so on. The good news is we'll have a set of really nice rooms sans smelly old carpeting and with newly painted hardwood floors.

* I spent the past few days fighting with Automator and learning it's a better man than I. Automator really wants you to use and not Thunderbird and is very very picky about the whole 'using OpenOffice to create PDF files thing'. All of this to produce a PDF with a potential investor's name and to mail it back to them.

You've not seen the last of ME Automator.

* I approached the central committe about the 'make the Liftport blog into a celebration of Bull Dork's life and times' deal and they looked at me as if I'd sprouted an extra head. I'm on thin ice after the Commodore Decker thing.

Anyhoo. Hie thee to the Dork's site and comment.

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