June 2, 2017

"Science fiction gave people more false hope than two thousand years of Bibles... It was all lies!"

"The space program... It was a hollow, vaunting waste of taxpayers’ money. There is no future in space! I love the word— space! That’s what they were all discovering— empty space!... This is the future.... A little motor in a little boat, on a muddy river. When the motor busts, or we run out of gas, we paddle. No spacemen! No fuel, no rocket ships, no glass domes. Just work! Man of the future is going to be a cart horse. There’s nothing on the moon but ruts and pimples, and those of us who have inherited this senile exhausted earth will have nothing but wooden wheels, pushcarts, levers, and pulleys— the crudest high school physics, that they stopped teaching when everyone flunked it and started reading science fiction. No, it’s grow your own or die. No green pills, but plenty of roughage. Hard backbreaking work— simple, but not easy. Get it? No laser beams, no electricity, nothing but muscle power. What we’re doing now! We’re the people of the future, using the technology of the future. We cracked it!"

Paul Theroux, "The Mosquito Coast" (Kindle Locations 4972-4980).

A passage from a book I just finished that sprang to mind when I read this:
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has spent the last six years working on a giant aircraft capable of launching rockets to space. It's not quite ready to fly, though. Over the next few days, each of the six fuel tanks will be filled independently to make sure that the tanks are properly sealed and that the fueling mechanisms work. How big is it? On a football field, the wingtips would extend beyond the goalposts by more than 12 feet on each side. Video of the rollout here.
At least he's using his own money. What's the carbon footprint? 6 fuel tanks... not very Paris Accord-y. 

53 comments:

St. George said...

Looks like one of the gig undo Bulgemobile-type vehicles that National Lampoon/New Yorker artist Bruce McCall would have drawn.

St. George said...

That's gigundo

rehajm said...

Rich guys have expensive hobbies.

I don't know how leftie he is, anyways. He's on record as against income tax. Perhaps he could give a damn about carbon.

Ann Althouse said...

Writing "Paris Accord-y" made me want to make a wisecrack coining the phrase "Paris Accordion." Didn't think of one.

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rehajm said...

My second accordion reference of the day. First one:


"To help poor children, I am going to launch flaming accordions into the Grand Canyon."
"That's stupid."
"WHY DO YOU HATE POOR CHILDREN?"

pacwest said...

Spruce Goose.

rhhardin said...

I can't guess what it's supposed to do. Long wings means lifting efficiency (low induced drag) but high dynamic drag, so low speed. Also low strength, not great for lifting.

Jet engines aren't efficient at low speed though. You want long propellor blades for the same reason that you want long wings.

So it may just be a life-sized version of a favorite paper airplane he made as a kid.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Paul Theroux is an idiot.

Rene Saunce said...

"Not very Paris Accord-y."

Thank you.

But wait - because science! = pass.

rhhardin said...

Possible he's just going to put a firecracker in it and blow it up in mid air. That's what happens to most flying models that kids make.

rhhardin said...

Back around the airport when various guys would have home-built airplanes, a 3/4 scale version of the C5A (big airplane) was suggested.

Maybe homebuilders will do it for this thing.

rhhardin said...

Strike while the accordion is hot.

rhhardin said...

The Russians have the biggest airplane, I think. Theirs remains a little more serious.

Antonov 225. You can charter it to move nuclear power plants from one place to another.

rhhardin said...

One of the features of Russian airliners is that all the parts don't necessarily work but it doesn't matter.

Kate said...

The father from "Mosquito Coast" may be the greatest bipolar character ever written.

zipity said...

Wow. I've never seen a bigger pile of bullshit make so many people lose their frigging minds.

The Paris Accord is a complete and total fraud. Even IF the US abides by it, it totally allows India and China to continue to spew C02 until 2030, at which time they totally promise for sure scouts honor to do "something" about it.

China currently produces TWICE the C02 the US does. And the US output has fallen or been flat due to the conversion from coal to natural gas for electricity generation (thanks fracking!).

This accord is nothing but America bashing. It would require us to reduce our C02 emissions to 26% less than the 2005 output, and require us to transfer billions of tax dollars to foreign countries, including India and China. The results would be European like prices for energy in the US, meaning approximately tripling the current costs.

And assuming you believe in man-made climate change, this accord would have ZERO effect on the presumed issue.

The Godfather said...

Yesterday Trump played the Star Spangled Banner on the Paris Accordion.

readering said...

A lot more people in China than US.

Expat(ish) said...

Steve Ballmer (the unsung co-founder of MS) is spending his retirement coming up with a tool to make government finance transparent. "Government 10K" he calls it.

http://fortune.com/2017/04/19/data-sheet-steve-ballmer-usafact/

Doomed to failure, IMHO, but one can hope.

Because Iowa (https://dom.iowa.gov/state_budget_links) has put their entire state budget online for years, and you can drill down into your local DMV and see what it's costing you.

Which is super cool.

-XC

Kevin said...

"Paris Accordion." Huge container with little inside.

tcrosse said...

The two cockpits suggest two air crews. They could race.

SteveE said...

Based upon the success of the WWII P-38 fighter success, you'd think that the two tails would also be connected. How would one deal with the "twisting stress" on the center wing if the independent tails didn't work together perfectly? As to the question about his concern for carbon emissions, it'd likely still be less than that from a ground based rocket launch--if he actually cared about them all. Which high station liberal can you name that actually acts like their carbon emissions are being kept low?

Robert Cook said...

"Paul Theroux is an idiot."

I don't know what Paul Theroux actually thinks, but I wouldn't assume the opinions and words with which he animates a fictional character necessarily reflect his personal views. I saw the film of the book--didn't read the book--and I only vaguely recall it...but I think the protagonist was supposed to be an angry crank, not a fount of wisdom.

mandrewa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mandrewa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mandrewa said...

I understand what Paul Theroux is saying. Or at least I believe I understand because my understanding is based on reading his mind. That is I think I know at least some of the thoughts behind the words that are written.

Unfortunately it is a good argument. It is possible that we will never as a species get off this planet in a substantial way because doing it is just too difficult.

Now I know some are going to think this is just a matter of will. That we can set a goal to build a colony on Mars and spend a certain amount of every year and NASA will eventually accomplish it. But I fear that the reality of government is that it is a wasteful mechanism that can spend huge amounts of money and accomplish nothing. Now the government has a decent chance of accomplish specific goals as long as they are not too ambitious. Lots of relatively small goals can be funded and they can be achieved, but when you get to really complicated goals that require the simultaneous achievement of a great many things the risk is that the whole thing will just collapse into wasteful dissipation.

I think the complicated things that societies achieve are based on market-like situations where the complexity is built out of the successful actions of individuals and small groups. So for a market evolving from one extremely complicated and functional state to another extremely complicated and functional state, every intermediate position is based on the sum of a lot of individual circumstances that make economic sense at the time.

The problem with expanding the human presence into space is where are the viable economic intermediate states for individuals and companies to occupy that we need for a market to traverse to get to a situation where you have colonies off of the earth.

For example, let's take SpaceX. I'm very much a fan of the company, but there are circumstances that make it possible for this company to exist. It isn't just the vision of the people running it, although that is essential. It is also that there be a market to launch satellites that will orbit the earth and will be used by people on the earth plus a space station built at huge government expense that needs to be supplied as long as it exists. This creates a demand for rockets to supply the launches that make it possible for SpaceX to make rockets that are economically more efficient.

Without that demand, this market, SpaceX cannot exist. Now what do you do when you need the development of some ability at some reasonable cost where there is currently no economic demand for it?

To actually get to the point where we have colonies off the earth, there are a lot of essential intermediate states where there is no market. Now if we already had the colonies existing, yes, there would be a market. The problem is how do we get to that point.

William said...

At the end of WWII, it was universally agreed that the big invention that came out that war was nuclear power. We didn't know whether nuclear power would be a curse or a blessing, but everyone agreed that it would fundamentally transform the way we live. There was near total consensus on this issue.......The Turing machine was put into a warehouse and gathered dust, but this seems to be the WWII invention that has had the most effect on the way we live. Computers certainly succeeded in changing Paul Allen's life. I don't know if this plane will be a success or if we will ever travel to the stars, but I make this prediction. The future will unfold in ways we don't understand, and serendipity will shape our ends.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am an avid reader of science fiction, and have been for a century now. And next fall, in the new house, I am going to put up bookcase shelving along one side of the garage, and finally get my collection of thousands of titles unbowed and sorted, really for the first time. Exciting.

For the first time in decades, I am excited about our future in space. And that is because space in the private sector is starting to take off. Maybe the biggest event there over the last decade or so was the X Prize, where a prize was given for the first team to put a spacecraft into (near) space, land it, relaunch it, and land it again in a week or so. And, then, the race was on. We have arguably made more progress in advancing into space since then, than in the time between when we put a man on the moon and then. It was done by getting the govt out of the way, and letting private enterprise, in the guise of tech savvy billionaires, compete. NASA, in particular, had failed, and that became obvious under Obama with two illustrations. One was the last shuttle launch. And the second was his adding Muslim outreach to their mission. Being nice to the Muzzies was more important to NASA than getting man back into space (we could use the Russians for that). But now, it seems that a week doesn't go by without some real space news. I was reading an article a day or so ago (which I can't find now) about the price per pound to get into space, and how it was plummeting.

Why is this important? I read a book a decade or two ago that set out the proposition that mankind's best hope of long term survival was to get into space, but we had to do so, before we ran out of fossil fuel, which is still the cheapest way to get mass out of our gravity well. I think that the assertion was that if we weren't self-supporting in space in maybe the next 200 years or so, we would never be (because we would have depleted our fossil fuels). But if we were, we would ultimately be fabulously rich. Looking back, I am not completely buying the time frame - for one thing the day we run out of such has been pushed back and, secondly, this discounts what can be done with Nuclear, both fission and fusion.

There are several things that need to come together before this dream can be realized. One is money. It is going to take launching a bunch of stuff into space before we can be self supporting there. And that costs a lot of money. One answer there is that they are already looking for, and maybe finding, trillion dollar asteroids. It is possible that the minerals harvested that way can dwarf the wealth that our tech companies have created. The race is on. We also need water, which is also found in asteroids, and the material to build space stations and the like. Some/much of that may come from the moon, with its much smaller gravity well and atmosphere. Everything seems to be moving along at once, which is exciting.

Yancey Ward said...

Mandrewa,

I think the species as it exists won't leave the Earth. I think, though, we will leave the Earth as some future species that we evolve ourselves into.

n.n said...

Conflation of logical domains is a leading cause of false hopes and cognitive dissonance. The so-called "seculars" are projecting their sins of violating the separation of logical domains on their competing interests.

Yancey Ward:

as some future species that we evolve ourselves into

Evolution is not a progressive process. It's a chaotic process that forces mortal beings (i.e. us) to adopt a scientific logical domain where both backward and forward perception are constrained to limited frames of reference.

n.n said...

The "green" political myth through shifting and obfuscating technological impact and manufacturing universal viability is a leading cause of false hope necessary to sustain high density population centers.

The belief in spontaneous conception is a fantasy propagated by the twilight fringe and liberal judges in order to realize political progress and Planned Parenthood profits.

mandrewa said...

Yancey Ward, I'm certain we are going to be modifying ourselves in just a short time. I doubt it will be a hundred years before people are genetically modifying their embryos for higher intelligence for instance.

But I think it's going to be a rough ride. Modifying humanity is going to prove to be more difficult than anyone can imagine. There's a significant chance we'll screw something up we don't understand and go extinct.

And once we start modifying, there's no one end state. Instead mankind will probably fragment into many different species. Their interests will conflict and there is a possibility of war without end.

I don't know. There are so many things to fear. It's a good thing people, the original thing anyway, can take almost amount of abuse.

Johnny Sokko said...

"At least he's using his own money."

For this project, but billionaire Paul Allen got the stupid folks of Washington to pay for Century Link field where his Seahawks play. That publicly financed place only adds to the value of the club. Welfare for a billionaire.

Ann Althouse said...

Theroux's character (Allie Fox) is a ranting, half-crazy genius, but some of the things he says are really good. I happen to agree with the opinion that the space program is "a hollow, vaunting waste of taxpayers’ money." And: "There is no future in space!" To relocate some human beings to another planet is a game that can be played with extra money for the pure achievement, like climbing Mount Everest, but I'm not a supporter of acting out that arrogant fun with other people's money.

A few people might be able to live on Mars in some crimped horrible way, but we evolved for earth, and we belong here.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

"Science fiction gave people more flase hope than two thousand years of Bibles.... It was all lies!"

Well, Man has been to the Moon - or some would have us believe. As to the Second Coming of Christ - was that supposed to be a hope or a threat?

=======

Theroux in the quote seems to be preaching independence and self-sufficiency. There is a lot of Robert A. Heinlein in that.

=======

And mostly, yes, it is his Allen's own money. We seem to be doing fine in supra-atmospheric ventures with private capital now. Whether JFK's boot of Govt funding was needed to start things off, is moot. It happened. Past. But humanity did seem to enter the steam and internal combustion age without much prodding or funding from Govt.

=======

Hammond's hope for the future? Private development of small molten salt thorium breeder reactors.

Ann Althouse said...

How does Paul Allen justify what he is doing in terms of the carbon footprint? I think it's an environmental crime.

Bruce Hayden said...

"How does Paul Allen justify what he is doing in terms of the carbon footprint? I think it's an environmental crime"

Why would he have to justify his "carbon footprint"? AlGore doesn't bother to justify his. Tom Steyer? Barack Obama? Any number of Hollywood personalities? All those flying to Copenhagen on private jets for the CAGW confab several years? They at least proclaim their fervent belief in CAGW/CAGCC (etc).

Gahrie said...

I can't guess what it's supposed to do.

It's designed to carry a rocket plane into the upper atmosphere. The rocket plane drops, fires its engines and makes low Earth orbit.

Gahrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gahrie said...

A few people might be able to live on Mars in some crimped horrible way, but we evolved for earth, and we belong here.

This is one of the most ignorant things I have ever read.

"A few people might be able to live in cities in some crimped horrible way.

We evolved for the African savanna, and we belong here."

Exploration, exploitation and colonization of new places is part of the fundamental nature of man.

Gahrie said...

To actually get to the point where we have colonies off the earth, there are a lot of essential intermediate states where there is no market. Now if we already had the colonies existing, yes, there would be a market. The problem is how do we get to that point.

A gold rush.

Bruce Hayden said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...
"Theroux's character (Allie Fox) is a ranting, half-crazy genius, but some of the things he says are really good. I happen to agree with the opinion that the space program is "a hollow, vaunting waste of taxpayers’ money." And: "There is no future in space!" To relocate some human beings to another planet is a game that can be played with extra money for the pure achievement, like climbing Mount Everest, but I'm not a supporter of acting out that arrogant fun with other people's money.

A few people might be able to live on Mars in some crimped horrible way, but we evolved for earth, and we belong here."

Well, guess what? Allen isn't really using taxpayer money. And ditto for most of the rest of those involved in getting into space. NASA (using your taxpayer money) was more interested in Muslim outreach that getting man into space. So, most of the money being spent is private money. And if you are worried about pollution, keep in mind that space industry will likely be far cleaner to our environment than industry back on Earth. Power is likely to be insanely cheap in space, with almost unlimited solar energy available, and nuclear fission, hopefully fusion, much safer. You go to space first for the stuff that can be harvested from asteroids, and esp rare earths that have become critical in our high tech economy. And you stay for the industries that can profit from zero gravity (e.g. Semiconductors) or cheap energy (e.g. Aluminum). All you really need then is water (asteroids), power (the sun, nuclear), gravity (likely centrifugal force), cosmic ray shielding (moon, asteroids), and plants.

Let me also add that the power that controls space, controls the Earth. It is the high ground, accentuated by our gravity well. If we don't get there first, the ChiComs will likely beat us there. Or maybe the Ruskies, Europeans, Japanese, or Indians. Treaties are fine, but not something that I would bet my last dollar on.

mandrewa said...

Ann said, "people might be able to live on Mars in some crimped horrible way"

Well that has long been my suspicion. Basically it means people living virtually their entire lives inside of a building.

Basically there are three destinations near term for off the earth: the Moon, Mars, and space stations. The Moon probably isn't going to work because at one-sixth the gravity of the earth that quite possibly isn't going to work out for having children. Mars at under half the gravity of the Earth might work and it might not. And you can design space stations to have whatever gravity you want.

For all three places the basic materials and energy we need for life are available without being lifted from the Earth assuming that the huge investment to develop the technology has already been made and we've walked down the learning curve far enough so it is economically practical. (In a earlier comment I talked about the difficulty of getting there.)

But the economics of the situation are most likely that to be viable the people on these colonies will be there all their lives. You will have people that will never go to Earth because the trip is too expensive. But that means these people are spending essentially all their lives inside rooms. They will see all sorts of things through technology, but their bodies will not directly experience the rich environment that we experience here on earth. That may or may not be a problem. If you are born in such a world, you may never need what you've never experienced.

I think the stakes are high because I don't believe human beings are going to survive on the earth. We are too violent. It's like war is built in to us. If ISIS had nuclear weapons they'd be using them now. And it's just a matter of time before they or their equivalent get them.

Wouldn't the same dynamic apply to these colonies? Well maybe. But they would be much smaller than the earth and possibly more stable. It would be a different dynamic. And all you have to do is to have mankind survive in one place and then that one place will reestablish mankind on earth and everywhere else it can reach.

mandrewa said...

Ann said, "I happen to agree with the opinion that the space program is 'a hollow, vaunting waste of taxpayers' money."

I think we don't fully appreciate just how lacking in achievement most government expenditure actually is. I think in many cases the only positive thing being done is that people are being employed. NASA at one-half of one percent of the federal budget at least has the virtue that fair number of people know about it and pay attention.

I think this is more value than we are getting out of a large portion of what the federal government spends money on.

John said...

I really like some of therouxs travel writing. He is sort of an idiot, though so I agree with the commenter.

More than an idiot, though, he is a total douchebag.

Having liked his non fiction, I've tried to read his fiction. I found it completely unreadable and had to force my way through a couple chapters before giving up.

John Henry

John said...

Bruce,

I used to require reading The moon is a harsh mistress when I taught economics.

A nice hypothetical liberal socisty.

Your mention of the gravity well brought it to mind.

A key plot point is the loonies going to war with earth by throwing rocks. Huge miniasteroid size rocks. Launched by solar generated electricity

John Henry

Bruce Hayden said...

@John Henry - vintage Heinlein. One of my favorite authors during the 1960s, when I was new to the genre and he was still writing prolifically.

Turning rocks, and maybe more realistically, asteroids, into kinetic weapons really shouldn't take that much energy. You just tweak its orbit a bit, and let gravity do the rest. Obviously, it is going to take more energy if you want to get more immediate results. But, ultimately, energy in space should be much cheaper than planet side. Plus, it is downhill all the way into a gravity well.

But don't limit yourself to solar energy. Why haven't we gone all Nuclear since the first nuclear reactors were developed? The answer is mostly fear of pollution and meltdowns. But, in space, those can become non-issues. One place where Nuclear may be advantageous over solar is in expeditions further out from the Sun. The further out you go the less solar energy there is. Fission, and maybe even fusion, may be the best answer. We (or maybe our grandchildren) shall see.

David said...

Think The Hindenburg.

One spark and woosh!

welas asih said...

semoga artikel yang anda post menjadi prioritas pembaca artikel sangat bagus dan mantap kunjungi juga website di bawah ini

OBAT BIUS MANJUR

Bruce Hayden said...

This is the cost per pound to launch that I saw a day or two ago, by science and science fiction author Jerry Pournelle, PhD
https://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/making-electricity-a-luxury-good-and-other-diversions/

We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating:

The use of new materials and technology that now allow batteries to power rocket fuel pumps is fascinating. Werner von Braun used a kerosene turbine to power the fuel delivery pumps in V2. Then we started Expanders, Staged Combustion, and all kinds of ways, many of which blew up rockets. Now it’s lithium batteries, which are much safer; are they rechargeable also? They will be…

Rocket Lab

the issue with launches isn’t cost-per-launch, it’s cost-per-pound prices to LEO
Rocket Lab pans to launch 500 pounds for $5m or $10k/pound
space-x Falcon launches 50,000 pounds for $55m or $1.1k/pound
the Falcon Heavy will launch 140,000 pounds for $90m or $650/pound
ULA Atlas V launches ~40,000 pounds for ~$160m or ~$4k/pound
ULA Delata IV launches ~62,000 pounds for (indirectly calculated) >$300m or ~5k/pound
and this is not including savings Space-X will see from ‘flight tested’ boosters (including the eventual savings for the initial user), but the expectation is that it will cut costs by at least half.
Yes, there will be a market for ‘I need it right now and it’s small’ satellites, but far more of them can wait, and could piggy-back on another launch and include maneuvering capacity to get them into their own orbits at less cost than an individual launch (The Iridium launches launch 10 satellites/launch and they include enough maneuvering capacity to get them into their individual orbits)
It’s good to see someone else get into the market, but to describe this as “About to Eat Elon Musk’s Lunch” is overstating things by a lot.
I also think you may be interested in https://copenhagensuborbitals.com/ an amateur group working towards a manned sub-orbital flight. They routinely post videos to YouTube showing their progress.

David

It is trivially true that cost/pound-in-orbit is the long term determiner; but the new techniques keep expendables in the business, and that means it’s easier (takes less capital) to get into the rocket business. Obviously over the long run reusables will drive out most expendables.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bad Lieutenant said...

Ann,

but I'm not a supporter of acting out that arrogant fun with other people's money.

Just have a big tax on fashion and art to cover it.


Gahrie said...
A few people might be able to live on Mars in some crimped horrible way, but we evolved for earth, and we belong here.

This is one of the most ignorant things I have ever read.

"A few people might be able to live in cities in some crimped horrible way.

We evolved for the African savanna, and we belong here."

Exploration, exploitation and colonization of new places is part of the fundamental nature of man.
6/2/17, 1:29 PM



Exactly. Man. "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts."--Camille Paglia