Tuesday, March 26, 2024

A City On Mars

I think one of the reasons Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials are so pissed off is we were promised adventures in space that we never got. We were ripped off in our most hopeful aspiration along with all the other stuff that seems to turn to shit around us.

Short term, at least. But is that true long term?

Consider: if we set off every existing nuclear warhead all at once - in the worst possible way, some 4 gigatons of ground bursts - the resulting Earth, cold and poisonous, would still be better than any other place in the solar system. If somehow humanity made a comeback, and got a mangled Earth back to some semblence of our current pretty sweet environment, it would still cost way, way less than terraforming Mars.

A City on Mars is a book about all of what it takes to establish a permanent off-world human presence. The authors, space horny like me, talk to the experts, and get bummed out how Not Ready we are, but a hopeful consensus is Go Big or Stay Home

Go big also means go long; timewise. Go deep; as in research and experments on contained ecology and repair here on Earth. Go broad; figure out how to repair Earth systems before worrying about space.

But we are not ready. Forget about living up there, its the getting up there that is still a problem. Chemical rockets are not enough. You send cripples and corpses on a 2 year voyage to Mars with our best, which is Starship, if it were working, which it ain't. And the Earth to LEO dollar numbers (99% of your cost for your ticket to the solar system) are just not there. Reusable Starship and booster, Elon Musk figures down to $10 a kilo, from the Bullshit Cinematic Universe he inhabits. Without nukes, you'll never get less than $1-2 grand a kilo. Elon don't care. All SpaceX has to do is crank rockets out like sausages, plus network effects even better if SpaceX offers franchises to manufacturers to crank out those sausages.

No darlings, Elon wants the orbits, and he's getting them with a third of all active satellites being Starlink. Elon is Elon, and if someone comes up with a fusion rocket, his ass is saved. Otherwise, he must realize that 99% of existential disasters are exta-solar. That "carrying the light of consciousness" bullshit is just that.

On Earth, geology gets cranky and the Sun shoots deadly farts at us, but we live on with free air, water, a radiation shield (free!), a stable and realtively pleasant if not downright gorgeous environment. Surprise! we can start doing that right here right now!

So what is space for? Science! Robots! Robots throughout the solar system. I did a term paper on robot farms back in college and  it was not promising. von Neumann self replicating machines look good on paper, suck on the Moon.  Even today, with solar powered AI on the Moon's Peaks of Permanent Sunrise, stinky humans would do better.

Besides, the majority of people don't give a fuck about space.

Everybody loves plucky space robots, though. That's the angle. Like Voyager 1, an old gobber, trying to Phone Home. That is where the sentiment is, so throw monies at that. Put in a dollar for an old interstellar robot? Change jar for the good robots in your market store. 

Who knows? 2060, way past my dead time, might be pretty fucking sweet.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Non-exciting update, I promise

Little by little I am getting ready for mass production of the turtle. I could send the shape to a aerodynamic analytic bot and it would say A-OK. If it looks good it will fly.

The 3D print negative mold for a silicone rubber positive mold is a dream. Plaster molds almost demold themselves. What a happy material partnetship I've found.

Silicone rubber is fun stuff actually. I honestly can't praise it enough. Such fidelity!

On a reality note, hopefully my last eye operation to save this valiant brave eye. My right eye is thirty years older than me, and it shows, but I will have no secessions from my Union. Keeping the eye, godammit

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

You Should be Afraid of Your Government

The more I complain about not wanting to do anything, the more shit I end up doing. Imagine Frankenstein Happy. 

But that's not what I want to talk about. I'm reading A City On Mars and the topic that is screaming to me is infrastructure. Plenty of energy out there, same as here. Ah, but infrastructure, like we have on Earth? That costs a lot of money.

Not just money, lives, little bees what live in tomorrow's trees and make the honey money; us busy little creatures. How are you going to get a million people on Mars, like Elon Musk wants? (BTW, a viable Martian colony starts at 100 million people, assuming one person can wear two hats).

Material, wanted material, needs to be gathered and distilled same as down here. We have the same infrastructure problem as here, but you are doing it out there; in a Solar System with no free air, water, gravity, radiation shield, a microbial ecosystem of unknown benefactors?

The thing on Earth is the distilling and transport of materials -  since the Modern Age -  been energy cheap, but still material scarce. Or rather, the right kind of material. Before modern times, we were energy scarce but materially wealthy. Slaves extracted and distilled the material  from vast sources. Not so much now. And, what good is a ten million trillion dollar platinum asteroid? Except maybe as a threat to drop it on someone?

The infrastructure problem of space for space is just too big, because space is too big and spread out. You need big, huge infrastructure to do the job. The argument is but we will have so much energy. Yes, you'll need it. Even though E=mc2, you need infrastructure to do that. Big time, long term, and the only way that happens is to involve government. That should worry you. As I've argued before, governments are the AI we've been worrying about, and corporations more limited version of these monstrous.. monsters. 

The objective function of your government may not coincide with your comfort zone. Most educated US citizens are well aware of the horrific beastly shenanigans of our adolescent corporate self, a 360 million cell slime mold living on a globe of slime molds, each snarling and snapping at pseudopod limbs.

What to do about this big kaiju? Become a virus, I guess.