Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Have You Dug His Scene

In a better world this guy would have achieved fame and eternal royalties as Captain Picard.

What?  Well he auditioned for the role.


Is there any doubt that when it came down to 'who would kick whose ass, Kirk or Picard' that Yaphet Kotto's Picard would have it all over Shatner's Kirk?

The post title? Refers to a kick-ass spoken word - jazz piece that Kotto recorded in 1968.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Sensible Comment of the Day

Sensible Comment of the Day
I’m sure if a full scale space elevator was to be constructed, any airplane flying into the area would be instructed to turn around, and if they don’t they’d probably get shot down. Plus really, if I was a pilot, and knew my heading was in the direction of a giant laser beam powering a 20 ton climber I would generally do what I can to avoid it.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

You know you're a computer nerd when

you invite people to your house for a house-warming party and in the email to a global mailist write
For automated directions (including Google Maps URL), you can finger
directions@xxxxxxcom or send email to directions@xxxxxxx.net.
but neglect to include information that mundanes might need like what town you live in.


Hugh got some email
No talent. None. Way too obscure for general consumption.
And responds
I think worrying about what interests you, what stirs your passion, is a far more effective recipe for success than worrying about "general consumption".

God, I hope so. It certainly seems that all the really succesful people I know are doing what they want to do, and not pleasing the masses.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Firefox 2.0 - Performancing - Optimized Build

  Test to see if Performancing and Firefox 2.0 (Optimized Firefox build from BeatnikPad) play well together.


And they do. You gotta like stuff that Just Works. Puts the fun back into trying new tools.


What is living with a terrier like?

Like that.

Read Little Dee - it's good for your soul.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Level playing field

This was an interesting comment to come across in a blog post;

I think (redacted) brought a great deal of criticism on himself by making the rules subject to his own changing opinions, rather than keeping them as fixed limits that teams could rely on.

Well then.

Things I did not know this morning

English Electric Lightning

A unique way of minimising the drag of the twin engine installation was put forward by Petter. This involved stacking the engines vertically (staggered to avoid too much weight aft, with the lower engine forward of the upper), effectively tucking them behind the cockpit, fed from the nose and achieving minimum frontal area. This effectively gave twice the thrust of its contemporaries for an increase in frontal area of only 50%.

Orthographically projected diagram of the English Electric Lightning.

Emergency Beam Out on my mark ...

I have a far superior idea to plating school books with kevlar.

Outift each child with a personal teleporter ala Star Trek or Niven's Known Space.  Pre-program them to take the child somewhere safe - the local police station would do.

Sure, the idea is in it's planning stages and I have no idea how much a personal teleportation unit for each child would cost. And yes, I have no idea how to make one. I'm the ideas man you can't expect me to meddle about with fiddly bits.

This, citizens, is a time that has come. Or will come in the 23rd century. Thank you.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Jeff Harrell: A brief and surprisingly dull encounter with an extraterrestrial life form

It's like a vintage Spider Robinson short. By that I mean it's good.

“So what you’re saying is,” Brithpth said slowly and distinctly, “is that you eat with the same orifice you breathe with?”

“Yup,” I replied.

My guest did that thing again. He paused, in the way that a glacier might be said to pause. For a slow ten-count, he was perfectly still.

“How do you keep from clogging the tube?” he asked for the third time in an hour.

Let me go back

Do the clicky-thing and read. It's pretty good.

rocketboom - space elevator

Rocketboom covers the recent space elevator competition.

Hearts and Minds

Armoured Cav Paint Ball

As long as players wear masks and thick clothing, no one suffers anything worse than a bruise. The basic concept is simple: he who is the least-splattered is the winner. National tournaments can pull in hundreds of devotees and paintball has built up a solid appeal among stag - and hen - parties, pub teams, students and office workers.

But none will ever have faced a paintball gun like the one I am swivelling into position - which is just as well given that it could be lethal to anyone not protected by a thick layer of armour.

When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow

A very short cautionary tale

A very short cautionary tale

Epitaph: Foolish humans, never escaped Earth.
- Vernor Vinge

More at Wired
Via Armchair Anarchist

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Things I did not know this morning

Things I did not know this morning
The Martin B-57 Canberra was a twin-engine jet bomber and reconnaissance aircraft which entered service in the 1950s. Originally based on the British English Electric Canberra, the US-built B-57 had evolved into several unique variants.
Weather reconnaissance version.
RB-57Fs used for high altitude atmospheric sampling in support of nuclear weapon testing and weather research. Two WB-57F aircraft were transferred to NASA and are the only WB-57s still flying in the world today [4]. They are used for atmospheric research and for monitoring Space Shuttle takeoff and landing.

Zing .. Zoom

If this


doesn't make your heart go zing and your imagination go zoom


then I don't know you. It is, of course, Shuttle launch as seen from ISS.


Update - I should know better - WB-57 not ISS.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

That's it?

I thought there would be more

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?


Friday, October 20, 2006

Earth and Sky - 'Space elevator: a nanotube ribbon to space'

Block and Byrd of Earth & Sky recently posted a segment about space elevators and featured Liftport. That link also has links to source material, the full interview with Michael Laine and so on.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What the hell have we been doing?

The contents of Mr. Rutan's speech may not accurately reflect the views of Liftport or the people who work there. On the other hand, it may.

A blog is never intended to be a place for position statements or to lay out policy, except where specifically noted. The flip-side of that is that our blog is a reflection of what Liftport is and stands for as a company, and who and what it's employes are and stand for.


Burt Rutan may be considered in some quarters to be wrong in the details of his speech - his achievements with SpaceShipOne merely duplicating what has already been done. Yet he's an American and entitled - expected - to speak his mind. When a guy who is that smart and has - really - done so many things in aerospace stands his ground and speaks his mind, what he says deserves more than a passing and dismisive glance.

Burt Rutan, speaking at the National Space Society’s 2005 conference.
Once commercial guys do this and they it for profit and once it is successful and profitable the whole picture changes. I'm convinced that investment will no longer be a problem if we do our job right. And that is to go out and do the right things to solve the safety problems and start flying a lot of people.
The SR-71 and Concorde] went all the way through their life cycle until they got too rusty to maintain, and got shut down and we retreated back to the same performance, military and commercial, that we had in 1960. Guys, that was 45 years ago. Now go back from 1960, 45 years earlier when airplanes were biplanes with fabric wings and wooden propellers. What the hell have we been doing?

What do you think?

Respectfully Submitted,
Brian Dunbar

Orbital debris solution

It's late and the line between good and bad ideas will blur ..

The question is "How can orbital debris be required by international law to de-orbit or move to a graveyard orbit?"

My first thought is to question the assumption of requiring international law to do anything.

The root problem is debris. It's in the way, a hazard. It needs to be minimized or eliminated.

Solution - provide incentives to the owners and operators to do so.

International law is one avenue and it should be pursued.

Another incentive would be for the operators of launch systems to offer discounts to satellite operators who demonstrate they practice debris minimization. They suffer a small profit loss in return for the assurance that the satellite won't cause problems for them later. Enlightened self-interest anyone?

Jasper - your satellite has no delta-v budget. If the launch provider offered to cut your launch cost by 20%, would your program find the budget then? How much would it take? We might make an exception for universities.

Note I am not speaking of a cartel or any action that would be construed as a restraint of trade - merely a basic self-serving convention. The satelllite owners could turn it around as well, arbitrte between launch services.

The question is am I off-base thinking that a launch operator who has a vested interest in reducing orbital debris can use the market to make that happen?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Zombies - Sandra Bullock

From archenemy blog

The proper name of the movie is “28 Days Later”. I’m not trying to be a prick, I just don’t want anyone to rent “28 Days” thinking there is zombies in it. “28 Days” is a Sandra Bullock movie where “A big-city newspaper columnist is forced to enter a drug and alcohol rehab center after stealing a limousine and crashing it into a house.” Man, sounds like some zombies would have really improved that flick.

A statement that can be applied to almost all movies starring Ms. Bullock.


test of znitch


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Zhen He

Nick Szabo writes about the Zheng He fleets.  Fascinating stuff. Impressive ships for the era . . .

Two contemporary ships - Santa Maria and a Zheng He treasure ship.

The parallels between the Zheng He treasure fleets vs contemporary Portugese commercial ventures and Apollo (and Shuttle and ISS ..) and efforts like Virgin Galacitc and SpaceX are obvious and Nick does a better job at that than I can.

IZheng He (Qeng Ho) serves as the namesake for the 'good guys' in one of my favorite novels 'A Deepness in the Sky'.

Ben Stein - You Can Complain, or You Can Make Money

Sound advice from Mr. Stein.
Just to give you an idea of current inequality, statistically speaking, the top 1 percent of all income earners in this great land earn roughly 20 percent of the total income. The top 1 percent of wealth holders have close to one-third of all wealth. The top 5 percent of wealth holders have very roughly 50 percent of all wealth in this country.

As you can see, that does not leave a lot for everyone else.

There are a number of ways to respond to this situation. You can become indignant and say that it’s a violation of American democratic principles. This is a good way to put yourself into a sanctimonious mood, and it offers some psychic satisfaction.

Another way, possibly more satisfying in the long run, would be to ask yourself how the top 1 percent of wealth holders and income earners got to be that way, and then to try to do it yourself. My own observation, having been both a critic and a moderately well-paid person, is that while it’s nice to be a critic, it’s also nice to have your own swimming pool. (The best is both, but that’s another story.)

Worth a read.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Frequently you'll hear consultants referred to as consulticks. For good reason; sure they can provide a valuable service but there are numerous exceptions where the organization finds itself being sold a white elephant.

Jeff Harrell found a consultant who might or might not be a Liar McLiar - at any rate he seems to be talking out of his rear end regarding a Mac he purchased.

This article smells as fishy as last week’s halibut. Let’s start at the top. Bodine describes his Mac as a “Power Mac G5 Dual 2.7GHz computer.” He then says that he paid $4,552.71 for it “on May 21, 2006.”

Go read - it won't take long and Harrell is always a good read.

Harrell focused on the inconsistencies (and isn't liar such an ugly word).  I found my own problems. with Bodine's account.

The signs of doom were there on day one, but I ignored them. I pretended that I liked the one button mouse.

Any mouse with the right plug works. I like my Logitech mouse just fine. Has a nifty scroll wheel and everything.

Doing a simple screen capture was an immense chore. On a PC you just press Alt and tap PrtScr. With the Mac I had to download and launch special programs to accomplish this simple task.

Or look in Utilities and lauch Grab. There is also a key combination that does this but I'd have to look that up.

I didn't even bother with the Mac's iCal or Mail, which required me to buy an @mac.com address

I've never had a @mac.com address and have been using iCal since day one, and Mail for a variety of accounts.

For me the killer was the Web browser. Safari simply cannot read Flash. It is, quite simply, a second-rate browser.

Hunh. I don't think I've had to do anything special to make Flash read in Safari - it just worked.

Now, yes, some of the above problems you'd have to know about or do a Google search to know about.

I realized it was time to unload the silvery box of frustration when I had to buy a "Dummies" book on how to operate it

Or buy a Dummies book and read it. Bodine might be smart as hell about marketing but I hope his clients - or the readers of Legal Technology - don't listen to him for computer advice.

Compare and Contrast

These things fall into your lap from time to time. A top ten list you nod at and say 'um-hmm' and then a few minutes later a similar list from across the aisle. One is a guide to life, the other an attempt to define an ideology.

From Francic Porretto - The Commandments Of Beneficial Conservatism
  1. No one is as smart or knowledgeable as he needs to be.
  2. That goes for you too, hero, so show a little respect.
  3. Other people are not mere means to your ends.
  4. Other people's opinions and tastes do not require your approval.
  5. No one owes you one damned thing just because you're alive; the converse is also true.
  6. Things are the way they are for a reason. You're expected to learn the reason before you open your yap to complain about them.
  7. If the reason is still sound, don't monkey with the works.
  8. If the reason has become unsound, or has been superseded by developments, it's still wise to make changes slowly, and with full attention to the consequences.
  9. Many things, once done, cannot be undone. About these, be supremely cautious.
  10. Admit your mistakes and make good on them; to do less is to be less than a man.

From Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, iauthor of "Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime" - What it means to be a liberal.
  1. Liberals believe individuals should doubt their own truths and consider fairly and open-mindedly the truths of others.
  2. Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference.
  3. Liberals believe individuals have a right and a responsibility to participate in public debate.
  4. Liberals believe "we the people" are the governors and not the subjects of government, and that government must treat each person with that in mind.
  5. Liberals believe government must respect and affirmatively safeguard the liberty, equality and dignity of each individual.
  6. Liberals believe government has a fundamental responsibility to help those who are less fortunate.
  7. Liberals believe government should never act on the basis of sectarian faith.
  8. Liberals believe courts have a special responsibility to protect individual liberties
  9. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, for without such protection liberalism is impossible.
  10. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, without unnecessarily sacrificing constitutional values.

A Scott Miller lyric resource

Google 'highland county boy' and this post is the first result.

Excellent. My blog is an ad-hoc lyric resource for a Scott Miller song.

You're welcome, Scott.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Where in the world

Robots - engineers - high-speed low-drag technology that (might) change the world.

It's all going to be at the Seattle Robotics Society meeting on October 21. Be there or be square.


Water rights determined settlement patterns in what is now the American Southwest. The same thing could happen in the Belt.
Despite lacking known metallic resources that would make it attractive towards future space corporations, Ceres does have one element that would make this asteroid worth its weight in gold--water. Scientists believe that Ceres could contain up to 200 million cubic kilometers of fresh water--about five times as much as planet Earth.

Beats having to ship rations from earth. I am not, however, completly convinced that Ceres will automatically dominate the belt.

With the heart of the asteroid belt located around 2.7 AU (astronomical unit), Ceres lies in perfect position to supply future colonists with the necessary food supplies, as its orbit ranges between 2.55 and 2.98 AU. As the asteroid king makes its journey around the sun, mining colonies could be easily resupplied with food grown on the rocky world, enabling permanent outposts to focus on extracting minerals and precious metals.

A mining camp, sure.  People who go to settle might prefer to have a local source of food.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fighting Back

Dr. Helen quotes J. Reid Meloy who writes in Violence Risk and Threat Assessment
I have worked several mass murder cases during both criminal and civil suits, and I have discovered something that has important implications for survival: the people who live through these horrible events are active and aggressive. They either run out of the building, or if cornered, they aggress against the perpretrator, and then run. People who are killed do not run or hide effectively: they usually choose obvious hiding places, like under a desk or table. As a psychologist, this behavior appears to be acutely regressive-like the child who hides in an obvious place, believing that if he closes his eyes and cannot see, he won't be seen.
A reasonably intelligent person might conclude it's better to stand and fight than to die on your knees (or cowering under a desk).  The topic of discussion on her post is  that the Burleson ISD is teaching their kids to fight back.

It seems like a simple enough equation; Black Hat walks into a room with a gun in his hand and murder on his mind. He will find you under the desk (as Meloy points out it's an obvious hiding place). And once he does you're dead. You're trapped and it's a piss-poor place to defend yourself - you're on the ground, curled up.

Confront the Black Hat and you might live. Certain death or a chance at life?

During boot camp the Sergeant Major was held up as an example of What to Do. In Vietnam during a close ambush his squad did the correct thing - turned and charged the enemy. This is the hardest thing to do - you're taking fire it's natural to seek cover to find a hole in the ground.

The thing is if you are on the receiving end of a close-ambush there is no cover, there is no safe place - you're on killing ground chosen with care and attention to detail. There is no safe place - you're seconds from dying if you hesitate. The only safe place is to run - charge - the enemy.

If you stay you will die. If you charge the enemy position you may die; you may also live.

The Sergeant Major's squad charged, to a man. Eleven of them died, on the killing zone or defeating the enemy with 'fire and close combat'. The twelfth man - who two decades later was Sergeant Major of MCRD San Diego - lived.

There was a video shown to me long long ago in a nearly forgotten course on counter-terrorism. Still B+W pictures, taken every half-second. Taken during a bank robbery; robber has a gun. Off duty cop twelve feet away draws his a pistol from an ankle holster and it fails. Robber turns to shoot the cop. Cop leaps up from a crouch, hurls himself at robber. Robber gets of three shots at the cop. None landed. Cop body slammed the robber, smashed him into the ground and kept pounding until the robber was out of commission.

Had the man frozen in place he would have been murdered. And many others. He acted with alacrity and lived.

Act quickly and you may live. I don't say this is easy and I don't truly know that I'd have the guts to act quickly and correctly. I am a bit of a klutz and I am not a brawler or physical possessing.

More - these are kids.  Not Marines or cops or even adults who should know enough to fight back. Would I want my child to learn how to fight back?

Yes. They're children. Innocent and all that jazz. But the minute a madman stalks into their classroom, hunting them, or a looney tries to grab them off the sidewalk, if they survive they're no longer innocent. I'd rather my kids have memories of fighting back and not hiding from a monster come-to-life.

Which is a horrible thing to contemplate. I'm off to read a bedtime story now. Something with fuzzy lions and cute bunnies for a choice.

Dr. Helen via TJIC.

Optimism: it’s not for the weak

Lileks - he shoots .. he scores!

From Fark, a piece on what the Earth would look like without humans. Maybe it’s me, but it can’t quite keep the wistful tone from showing through; it has more admiration for Earth’s self-healing properties than for mankind’s accomplishments. The Fark comments were just what I expected – flamers dumping on the “eco-tards,” bitter little pills who hate people and wish them gone so Gaia can breathe free, witty snipers, believers who posit a higher purpose, cynics who think they can shatter deeply-held religious convictions with a deft analogy. The usual. This entry stuck out:

The truly hilarious thing in this thread is that those offended by the article actually imagine that they (or the human race in general) are important or worthwhile or are more deserving of existence on Earth than a Grizzly Bear or a mosquito or a Blue-Footed Booby. What a howler.

Guess what? You're wrong.

God didn't create the Earth for you. You aren't superior to, or even more interesting than, any other life form. You have no more value or worth than anything else, but you do have gigantic egos and a twisted perspective.

When you die or Homo sapiens goes extinct, it won't mean anything and will have no more cosmic significance than the extinction of the Dodo Bird. In fact, the persons who are offended by this article are the least rational among us, and therefore the most animalistic, the most degraded, and the least "superior" to other life forms. Ooga Booga!

What irony! Did you know that you're walking cartoons?


A nest of maggot larvae, a newborn ward at a hospital: ten French chefs say No Difference. Dude’s hard core! But so is Lewis Black, a comic I’ve heard here and there. Funny guy. Shouts a lot. Got that angry man thing going for him. This web ad pops up on some sites I visit:

Yes, that’s us, all right; living in a society which represents the pinnacle of freedom and comfort in the history of the species, and we’re SCREWED, and only the idiots think we aren’t. Of course we’re screwed, inasmuch as the grave yawns in front of us all, but in time, in time. “Red White and Screwed,” however, suggests that Americans are really truly screwed, and I can hear the crowd whooping and wooing in agreement. Perhaps there’s a moment in his speech where he notes that it could be worse than being an American; you could be a Falun Gong believer getting a truncheon in the face in a Chinese jail, or a Saudi woman with an off-the-charts IQ sitting in a windowless room unable to go outside until the resident penis comes home, but I suspect that Mr. Black views everything as Pretty Much Screwed, with America uniquely screwed in ways that make him shout truth to power.

You can tell by the ad – it’s been cleverly defaced to suggest you should buy an SUV. An SUV! Moloch’s Chariot! The Sled of Baal! The vehicle no one wanted until ad campaigns reprogrammed your brain, and now gas is three dollars and you’re SCREWED! Well, it’s down to $2.15, but only because it’s being manipulated, which is more proof you’re SCREWED! 


Optimism: it’s not for the weak.

Life - talk to me about life

Genius - the man is a fricking genius.

It's like he's peering over my shoulder, taking notes. Except he's not, this is just life.



A Perspective on the Controversy Concerning Liftport's Space Elevator Roadmap by Bryan Laubscher

Linked without comment - A Perspective on the Controversy Concerning Liftport's Space Elevator Roadmap by Bryan Laubscher.

The current controversy over Liftport’s release of a roadmap for the Space Elevator is important because it is allowing for a larger set of issues to be considered. In my opinion, the root of the action by Liftport and the contention to the release of its roadmap point to what is missing in the Space Elevator community.

Because we are in the “infancy” of the Space Elevator, it is not clear what it will grow into in its maturity. Therefore, we have a broad range of work that is valid, ranging from speculative visions to detailed scientific and engineering research. Unfortunately, not all of it is of high quality nor does all of it further the Space Elevator. In short, we have exuberant individuals and small teams working independently and in concert, some for the positive and some for the negative! There has been no oversight, criticism or acclimation of effort, no matter how well carried out or how shabbily executed. This must change!

As a community we need to work more closely together to encourage and support good work while discouraging shoddy work. And we need to do this out of the public eye. All of us need to be willing to have our work reviewed. Indeed, my most talented scientific colleagues insist on having their work reviewed by peers because they know the importance of their work and they honor their reputations! This level of activity is for adults with serious intentions. It is not for the insincere or insecure. Through this process we will all be called to a higher standard of work.

Moreover, the release by Liftport of a roadmap, does an important service by, in fact, pointing toward the need for a roadmap for the Space Elevator effort. I am taking a stand that a roadmap must be generated by the community, be of appropriate depth and call out milestones. In this way, our now separate efforts can be focused to produce a greater, cumulative effect. This will not be easy or without dissent, but it is important and necessary.

I call upon the Space Elevator community to attend the 2nd Biennial Space Elevator Workshop (which is a part of the Space Exploration 2007 Conference sesinstitute.org). If the community responds, we will set aside an afternoon to have first a structured discussion and then a more free-ranging session concerning a roadmap outline. We must quickly and efficiently determine the intent, timescale, scope and depth of the document. Then we can select the major milestones and finally elect a small group to draft a first draft for posting on spaceelevator.com for review.

In the meantime and as preparation for the workshop, I call upon every space elevator group to discuss the roadmap concept and to distill the most important milestones they see as necessary for Space Elevator development. As a guide, I refer everyone to NASA’s roadmaps a few examples of which are:

* Astrobiology Roadmap
* Exploration of Neighboring Planetary System
* NASA Origins Map

These are available on line and usually are the result of a process in which the interested scientific and engineering community was heavily involved in the development of the roadmap.

When you come to the workshop, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Thursday, October 12, 2006



I know this guy - but only by his blog so I don't know if that counts as 'friend' or not. His blog persona certainly seems like the kind of guy I'd count as friend, and it's seemingly not too far from who he really is.

At any rate. I know this guy, he's got a kick-ass company called SmartFlix. They rent how-to videos. Like NetFlix but with content you can use and enjoy.

Start a company, make a few billion and have a grand time - the American Way.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Things I knew but had forgotten I had known.

I knew this once but had forgotten.  Then I read  Dr. Edwards bit about space elevator lifters
To reduce the mass of the systems, advanced materials (composites) are needed in all structural components.
And recalled the MiG-25 Foxbat.  Built to counter a high-altitude bomber that never made it into production it was rumored to be one hell-on-wheels wonder machine.

Then Viktor Belenko flew his MiG-25 to Japan in 1976, and defected. The USAF got to dismantle the bird (before returning it in thirty crates - take that KGB) and found that
  • Welding was done by hand and construction was relatively crude. As in many Soviet aircraft, rivet heads were left exposed in areas that would not adversely affect aerodynamic drag.
  • The aircraft was built of a nickel-steel alloy, and not titanium as was assumed (though some titanium was used in heat-critical areas). The steel construction contributed to the craft's massive 64,000 lb (29 ton) unarmed weight.
  • The majority of the on-board avionics were based on vacuum tube technology, not solid-state electronics. Seemingly obsolete, the use of vacuum tubes was ingenious because they were far less susceptible to EMP in case of nuclear warfare and were more tolerant of temperature extremes, removing the need for complex environmental control inside the avionics bays. In addition, the vacuum tubes were easy to replace in remote northern airfields where sophisticated transistor parts may not have been readily available. As with all Soviet aircraft, the MiG-25 was designed to be as rugged as possible.

The MiG-25 was built 'good enough' for it's mission and environment; to fly high, fast and shoot missiles at enemy bombers and serviced by poorly trained conscripts.

The point? I am no engineer but it seems likely to me that the people that do build space elevator lifters might do well to take a page from the Russian design book and go cheap but sturdy where possible. If a surface is not going to be exposed to airflow - why not use exposed rivet heads? If steel works and is cheaper than the alternative - why not use it?

Yes, mass matters but it's not nearly as critical as a high-performance interceptor or a rocket. Lifters will after all leave their motor and fuel on the ground. Any minor weight penalties will incur against the profit margin (less cargo capacity) and not performance.

It seems like an area where 'good enough' will work.

                                   Space Elevator Rendering


Bias prohibits me from block-quoting any of Tom's post,' Reply to Edwards’ Comments on the Roadmap', which is a reply to Dr. Edwards post 'Analysis of Liftport's Space Elevator Roadmap'.

Bias?  Yes - I think it's good and merits reading.  Bblock-quoting forces you, constant reader, to consider what I think most imortant. I'd rather you approach the post with as few preconceptions as possible.

It's also - I think - a good template to follow for situations like these.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Quote of the Day

I don't do 'Quote of the Day' but I'll happily point out good examples when I see them. Like this

It stands to reason that self-righteous, inflexible, single-minded, authoritarian true believers are politically organized. Open-minded, flexible, complex, ambiguous, anti-authoritarian people would just as soon be left to mind their own fucking business.

R.U. Sirius
In How To Mutate and Take Over The World
[From a conversation and followup email from Kevin at The Smallest Minority.--Joe]

Ya - that's pretty good.

New Gear

Work was kind enough to buy me one of these.

Setup was easy - booted the old G4 PowerBook into Firewire target disk mode at the right time, and forty minutes later (give or take - I wasn't timing it) all of my old files were on the new disk. All of my old setup information came across as well. Reinstalled Firefox - there was my history and bookmarks. Reinstalled Thunderbird - hey look, my email. And so on.

I'm not an old Mac user - the G4 was my first. I'm not religous about using OS X - I simply like an operating system that will allow me to play system administrator but will otherwise get out of my way. This OS X does very very well.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

BSG Filk

Scifi does .. filk?

A New Crew In Town

"I like your bluish glow and your drunk XO .."

Friday, October 06, 2006

seven years progressive experience with Whompfoozle 3.9

If you've ever looked for a job in the technical field you've seen help wanted ads that read
... candiate must have seven years progressive experience with Whompfoozle Version 3.9 ...
when Whompfoozle 3.9 was released six months ago, and didn't exist two years before that.

Reading Dr. Bradley Edwards criticism of Liftport's Roadmap reminded me of that.

The team that compiled this roadmap consisted of: Michael Laine who has no technical background, Tom Nugent is a recent graduate with limited experience on the space elevator, and two student interns at Liftport.

Right. Michael is the business guy - you need one of those if you're going to actually build something. But it struck me as unfair to expect Tom to have real-world experience with a system that is so far, really, a bunch of paper studies and thought experiments.

Which leaves aside the inconvenient fact that Tom isn't a recent graduate and negates the work he's done at MIT, JAXA and so on

What - the interns? They're bright, and they work cheap. This is a virtue when you're running a business.

This post is a personal opinion of Brian Dunbar and does not reflect the views or opinions of his employer.

Meaningful Work or Death

Because of the Roadmap, I just rewrote the 'Why the Countdown'
Why October 27, 2031?
In October 2006, Liftport released the first comprehensive analysis of the steps needed to design, manufacture and deploy a space elevator.   The results of this study pushed the former date, April 12, 2018, back a few years.

And I wanted to howl about how unfair it all is. 2031?  I'll be an old man of 61. My youth! My faded beauty!

Then I realized I was being silly, settled down and published the page. Got back to work in other words. This is what happens with complicated projects that are being run well; you adjust to reality and don't demand that reality adjust to your deadline.

In the end, we're better for it. We've got a solid grasp of the broad outlines of what needs to be done. It's going to take longer - and we always knew it might - but in a perverse way we're in a better position to say we can (probably) do this thing.

I am taking odd pleasure in this quote from Hugh MacLeod - Meaningful Work or Death. Any other form of existence doesn’t interest me.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Now Liftport isn't just a bunch of guys from the unfashionable part of Seattle with PowerPoint slides. Now we've got GANNT charts.

Space Elevator Roadmap Version 1.0 Public Beta

Liftport Group is happy to announce that we have (some might say at long last) produced a draft roadmap for space elevator development.

In conjunction with the Roadmap and to help foster an open approach to space elevator development, Liftport Group is also offering the LiftPort Space Elevator Questions Database (i.e Questions Database).

The product of a determined effort by our staff and interns over a busy summer, the Roadmap provides the most realistic timetable yet for the development, deployment and operation of our proposed space elevator.

The Questions Database is intended to be a public repository for research and design questions related to the development of the space elevator.

Questions is still under development, and is only the latest tool we're using to involve the public.  We encourage people from all walks of life and all over the world to become involved with space elevator research and advocacy.

Tom Nugent's blog post is here.

The Roadmap is available here.

A graphic (not to scale) suitable for your desktop is here.

A graphic (not to scale) suitable for printing is here.

LiftPort Space Elevator Questions Database (LPQDB) is available here ,

Kidding aside the links above represent a great deal of hard work by the guys at the home office and the interns we had over the summer. And this is - no puffery intended - the best attempt to date for a realistic schedule for deployment, development and operation of the space elevator.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Mike the Marine laments his youth

Man, I hated the "digital" uniforms when they first came out. I thought they looked stupid. And initially they WERE stupid. The original concept included things like zip-off SLEEVES. Does that seem smart to ANYONE? "Sorry Gunny. I can't go war… I lost all my left arms in a tragic laundry day mix-up."

But they grew on me. I mean hey, wash and wear, baby! Nowadays you don't iron your cammies, you don't polish your boots, and all your brass is anodized. What the hell to the D.I.s do to screw with the recruits anymore? No starch. No Kiwi. No Brasso. Em-Nu stock has plummeted… hell, do they even MAKE Em-Nu anymore?

I'm not even supposed to buy black socks from here on out. Now they're all "coyote" brown. Apparently "sand" wasn't as cool a name for brown as "coyote" was... but I'm stuck with green t-shirts which look downright silly behind desert cammies...

For everything there is a season; farewell woodland pattern.

The only thing that remains the same is the spirit of the Marine.

That is a lot of hops

\Homer Simpson\ Oh sweet mother of God no!
YAKIMA, Washington (AP) -- Federal investigators were set Tuesday to begin an investigation into a fire that ruined about 4 percent of America's yield of hops, used as flavoring in the brewing of beer and ale.



You can't shake a stick without hitting new ideas for space launch.

An enormous ring of superconducting magnets similar to a particle accelerator could fling satellites into space, or perhaps weapons around the world, suggest the findings of a new study funded by the US air force.

A ring?
Previous studies have investigated the use of magnets to accelerate satellites to the high speeds required for launch. But most have focused on straight tracks, which have to gather speed in one quick burst. Supplying the huge spike of energy needed for this method has proven difficult.

The advantage of a circular track is that the satellite can be gradually accelerated over a period of several hours. And the setup is technologically feasible and cost effective, suggests a recent, preliminary study of the idea funded by the air force's Office of Scientific Research.

But it's not for people
Anything launched in this way would have to be able to survive enormous accelerations – more than 2000 times the acceleration due to gravity (2000g). This would seem to be an obstacle for launching things like communications satellites, but Fiske points out that the US military uses electronics in laser-guided artillery, which survive being fired out of guns at up to 20,000g.

They do indeed. Artillery shells are mass-produced which brings the cost down a bit.

I'm not knocking the idea - if it works, great. A mature transportation system has room in it for all kinds of ways to get to orbit. Rocket planes for a sub-ortibal hop, launch rings for stuff that stand 2000 Gs (wow) and, perhaps, space elevators.

There are problems - aren't there always?
Although Epstein is sceptical about the prospects for such a ring, he cautions that if built, the ring itself could become a target for attacks. This is because of its potential for use as a weapon, launching missiles that could reach anywhere in the world. "The ring then becomes one of the most important targets on the planet," he told New Scientist.

I've heard that one before


You can almost hear the 'whoosh'

Monday, October 02, 2006

Discworld Cake

Behold! The Discworld Cake.

It's cool. I wonder if she can do a Ringworld?


Conspiracy Snark: 9/11 Edition

Why the "9/11 Truth" movement makes the "Left Behind" sci-fi series read like Shakespeare
by Matt Tabbi

CHENEY: Well, we need to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. So what we've decided to do is crash a whole bunch of remote-controlled planes into Wall Street and the Pentagon, say they're real hijacked commercial planes, and blame it on the towelheads; then we'll just blow up the buildings ourselves to make sure they actually fall down.

RUMSFELD: Right! And we'll make sure that some of the hijackers are agents of Saddam Hussein! That way we'll have no problem getting the public to buy the invasion.

CHENEY: No, Dick, we won't.

RUMSFELD: We won't?

CHENEY: No, that's too obvious. We'll make the hijackers Al Qaeda and then just imply a connection to Iraq.

RUMSFELD: But if we're just making up the whole thing, why not just put Saddam's fingerprints on the attack?

CHENEY: (sighing) It just has to be this way, Dick. Ups the ante, as it were. This way, we're not insulated if things go wrong in Iraq. Gives us incentive to get the invasion right the first time around.

BUSH: I'm a total idiot who can barely read, so I'll buy that. But I've got a question. Why do we need to crash planes into the Towers at all? Since everyone knows terrorists already tried to blow up that building complex from the ground up once, why don't we just blow it up like we plan to anyway, and blame the bombs on the terrorists?

RUMSFELD: Mr. President, you don't understand. It's much better to sneak into the buildings ourselves in the days before the attacks, plant the bombs and then make it look like it was exploding planes that brought the buildings down. That way, we involve more people in the plot, stand a much greater chance of being exposed and needlessly complicate everything!


Worth the read

Home Schooling

There is this much about home schooling
A gunman killed six people at a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday morning in Pennsylvania's bucolic Lancaster County, and several others were taken to hospitals with injuries, authorities said.
I doubt like hell a wack job will walk into my house and execute my children. It's not why we home school (okay 'public charter school distance education'), more of a unanticipated benefit.

Don't hide your light under a bushel basket

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Nelson Mandela
Anousheh goes on to write

But this is no longer only my Quest. It is the duty of every one of you to go beyond just reading and writing on the Space Blog. It is your duty to make sure this excitement, this wave, this wonderful force that has awakened the best in us continues on.

I don’t like to be idealized or become an icon. I’m not special, I just found that light inside me that you all have and got my strength from it. It seems like I found the key to open up your hearts and souls so now you can reach inside and gain strength from there.

Now that we are here, let’s all be equal in this Quest and share the responsibility of saving our world. It is too much for one person but when it is up to all of us, I know we can do it


Sunday, October 01, 2006

From the mailbag

I do get the oddest mail. But I'm not posting it on advice from my better-half. "Be kind" she said.

I'm a better person because she's in my life. But o' Lord it was so hard to hit the 'Clear Content' button.