Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Extending Human Intelligence?

I wouldn't consider mechanical/electronic additions, be they internal or external, as figuring in to intelligence. You can have all of the toys in the world and they will be useless if you don't understand how to properly use them and why.

This is the same way that I view information, whether it be facts, ideas, or formulas. You can have all of them stored in your head (no, not really, but just for the sake of argument) and they are useless if you do not know how to utilize them and why.

You could also have none of them stored upstairs, but instead have them available in some other searchable medium. If you know what to actually do with them, where they come from, and why each aspect is important and how it can be tweaked to suit whatever purpose you have at hand, that is what I consider to be understanding and for me that equals intelligence.

Some people can run intellectual circles around others. In my opinion, this is not because they have some massive library of information in their skulls or an engineering calculator. It is because (while they do not have the specifics stored for ready retrieval) they understand the ideas, where they come from, what the effects are, how they can be used, and the recognizable patterns that they create. They can also recognize patterns and formulate entirely new ideas and methods based on the information that they have. That is also understanding/intelligence. doesn't really factor into a person's ability to convey ideas in an intelligent manner (just my opinion). Understanding how to use language does.

As for the diminished math skills of our current students, I would not attribute this to the rise of calculators. Students should be taught to use most mathematical concepts using pen and paper, and it should be hammered into their heads repeatedly with more and more complex problems. The failure is not in the calculators, but in the teachers who do not properly educate those in their charge. I've met several students who took Pre-Calculus at a local private university and failed Calculus 1 miserably. They were taught how to punch numbers on a calculator while the fundamentally important concepts of Trigonometry and College Algebra were simply glossed over. They could use the calculator to get the right answer some of the time, but for most problems they had no clue how to set them up in the first place. They had no understanding. As Dr. Verhyden drilled into our skulls: Up till now, you've been taught to take an equation and do "stuff" to get X. We don't do "stuff" in here. We find solutions. Do not let me catch you doing "stuff." That is WRONG and you will FAIL. Do not let me catch you punching numbers into a calculator unless I tell you you can. I want EXACT solutions. If you can't find your solutions without using this (TI-83 calculator) you will fail. Your calculator is dumb, and it wont help you if you you don't know what the heck you're doing.

I spent nearly as much time in her office asking questions as I did in her class. That woman is the most hard assed, no bullshit, excruciatingly difficult to keep up with math teacher I have ever had and I Thank Her For It. Show me a piece of technology that can do THAT for me, and it will be an extension of intelligence. Plug me in, baby!

Questions about 2012 and "The End of the World"

Can somebody tell me where exactly is the prediction in the Mayan Calendar that the world will end in 2012? Does it even exist? Is this just something that someone made up?

Bear with me here. What if we don't know what's going to happen in 2012? What if it's like the edge of an ancient map, where we sail into the unknown and fall off the end of the earth, get eaten by sea dragons, or slide into an enormous pile of cosmic turtle poop?

But what if we use a different map... say one that is based on modern knowledge. On this map, when you reach the edge, maybe you pop up on the other side! What an ingenious idea!

What we need is a calender that works just like that....

(I take no credit for this calender, but I do give credit to this guy for pointing out the obvious.)

Thoughts on Lunar Power

While there is a great deal of aversion to fission, it is being investigated as a viable method of power on the moon.

The best part is that for nuclear waste disposal you just leave it where it is and dig a different hole for a new reactor. I fully support the commercialization of this technology for use outside of NASA. There is also the option of mining lunar KREEP deposits for fuel.

As for non-nuclear power storage, if we're going to import all of that water for fuel cell storage we might as well just import a vanadium redox flow battery for higher efficiency. This method does not need cryogenic storage of H2 and O2, which will tend to boil off. That's a terrible waste of precious hydrogen.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Multiple Kill Vehicle

Ian O'Neill introduced me to this Terminator like gadget in this article over at A multiple warhead intercept and kill vehicle. This is not the standard kinetic vehicle, but an advanced robot capable of tracking multiple targets simultaneously and intercepting them with warheads. See the video below. I recommend playing it along with this soundtrack or maybe this one.

Scary as it may be, tactical developments have a way migrating into every other sector of society and revolutionizing the way that we work and play.

As long as we don't strap it to a homicidal AI embedded within the internet or the extracted brain of a serial killer, I'll be able to sleep just fine. I guarantee that this same technology will be integrated into NASA missions in the coming years.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Record! 333sec ISP via bipropellant

Contributed by Greg Francke

hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, 150lb thrust in a standard 100lb form factor.

iridium-lined rhenium combustion chamber run at 4, 000°C, wide throttle range, no practical limit to restarts.

storable, but toxic propellants.

For anybody who doesn’t know, but cares: ISP is a figure of efficiency, it states how long a given mass of fuel generates the same ’amount’ of thrust, usually given in seconds.

So: SSME (space shuttle cryogenic liquid fuelled)= 465 sec- (a pound of LOX and LH2 will generate a pound of thrust for 465 seconds in a shuttle main engine)

SSRB: (solid booster for shuttle) 269 sec

Spaceship One: (hybrid)= 250 sec

This thing: 333 seconds.

Final analysis:

It’s a relatively easy to use storable propellant fully throttleable unlimited restart high ISP engine with good scaling potential for future small-scale stuff like spaceplanes and such.

Aerojet Bipropellant Engine Sets New Performance Record

Aerojet News Release

Obama transition team seeks comment on space solar power — Space Solar Power (SSP) - A Solution for Energy Independence & Climate Change. Paper prepared and submitted by the Space Frontier Foundation and other space advocates, calls for the new Administration to make development of Space Solar Power a national priority. The SSP white paper was among the first ten released by the Obama transition team.

If you support it, now is the time to go there and show that you do. The current debate on the page is rampant with ridiculously uninformed assumptions and misconceptions. Example: fear of a monopoly on sunlight, fear of burning a hole in the atmosphere, fear of using an SPS as a giant death beam, etc etc. They are just plain hilarious but please try to keep a straight face when responding.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cheap & Reliable Access to Space (CATS)

Please Sign this Petition by clicking here.

About this Petition:

We need CATS if we want to:
• Enhance the national security of the United States, deter war in space and foster peace on Earth by reducing the incentive to
attack U.S. space assets in the first place - since allowing for the rapid replenishment of our satellites, CATS would eliminate most of the benefit of a surprise attack in space.
• Accelerate the growth of the existing $250 billion/year space economy, potentially to over $1 trillion/year, creating millions of new high-wage jobs for Americans;
• Inspire millions of American children with the tantalizing possibility that they might one day live and work in space — thus motivating them to study science, technology, engineering and math;
• Tap the unlimited clean and renewable, solar energy available in space to enable a modern standard of living for all 6 billion people on Earth and for the rapidly growing global economy that
is lifting billions out of poverty;
• Increase the amount of environmental research and monitoring of planet Earth with a larger number of cheaper and more powerful remote sensing satellites;
• Enable the birth of new space industries like satellite servicing and refueling; commercial human spaceflight of thousands of people per year; point-to-point global transportation in a few
hours; on-orbit tourism, research and manufacturing; and the mining of asteroid and Lunar resources;
• Open the “space frontier” by making human activity, presence and settlement in space economically self-supporting and starting a virtuous cycle of economic development;
• Enhance our ability to study the Universe and to search for life beyond Earth with many more scientific missions and a new generation of larger space-based telescopes; and
• Achieve “all of the above” within our constrained
Federal budget environment.

The Desired Outcome of this Petition:

CATS cuts across all space agendas, all space agencies, and all space programs. It is a clear national imperative.

We urge the new President of the United States and the U.S. Congress to:
• Establish CATS as a national strategic priority;
• Learn from, and avoid, the failures from previous attempts to achieve CATS, all of which tasked a government agency to pick “The Solution”;
• Focus instead on promoting the growth of a competitive private CATS industry by encouraging private
investment, development and innovation while also drawing on proven examples of government support for technological and industrial development — e.g., NACA, DARPA, NSF, focused X-vehicles, Space Act agreements, the Kelly Airmail Act, tax incentives, and prizes;
• Undertake a review of current U.S. policies that may hinder the achievement of CATS; and
• Re-establish the National Space Council to help implement CATS as a top national priority.

This petition is sponsored by the Space Frontier Foundation.