Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Jeffery Bell exposes the cold equations of spaceflight
- bashing most attempts at creating reusable rockets. I largely agree with him - what we need to return to the moon closely resembles a lighter Saturn V... unless we get the fuel for the return trip - and the boost to the moon/mars from elsewhere
Not that that's stopping spaceX from announcing the falcon-9
- a vehicle capable of lofting 55000 lbs to LEO. Theoretically. For only 35 million dollars a shot - a pittance, compared to any other launcher currently in existence. They have a contract to deliver from Bigelow aerospace in 2008.
Their falcon-1 is yet to fly - but it's supposed to fly soon. At one level I'm filled with hope for the space program - at another - doubt. Only time will tell.
Bush's fishing trip
Allegory brought to you by the wonders of photoshop...
Vint Cerf has joined google
! Vint is a k3wl dude, man. He truly peed on everything.
I used to think that technologists could outrace the courts, but this quote chilled me:
"The bnetd.org emulator had limited commercial purpose because its sole purpose was to avoid the limitations of Battle.net."
Let's play a word substition game with this, ok?
"The aftermarket exaust system had limited commercial purpose because its sole purpose was to avoid the limitations of the standard MR2 exaust system."
Does the court's argument still make sense to you?
running name services a good thing
Just wanted to remember that running your own DNS nameserver in house is a good idea, especially when you'd otherwise be using comcast's abysmally slow set of nameservers. I had downgraded my inhouse nameserver from another box the other month and bind (named) didn't just work, so I fixed it by telling my dhcp server to just use comcast's name servers directly.
Result: really slow initial web access to everything.
I got used to that [click] [PAUSE] [download] thing - as no doubt many without nameservers in their house have - but spending a few minutes fixing the problem (was a chroot issue) by running my own nameserver made a very noticible difference, especially as I visit many of the same sites every day....
I had also been running without privoxy
for a while, as it's threaded version was running away on me. As I obsessively searched for news on Katrina I was astounded at the number of popup ads and the banner ads that I had been previously blocking. Yuck.
The unthreaded version of privoxy is noticibly slow (tis nothing compared to the dns issue fixed above) but runs forever.
Going back to the threaded version now... from cvs - maybe after I get out from the crunch of my current project I'll take a look at fixing that, too.
Lastly, I've been running with the realtime-preempt patch for linux on my dual opteron for much of the past few weeks. It's nice. For the first time I've been able to do some real musical work... I'll put a sample up of something this weekend.
Slashdot just had a nice thread on why some marsnauts aren't going anywhere soon. Two posters talked about asteroid exploration as a viable alternative, which warmed my heart.
ok, back to crunch mode. A ton of things to do this week, I'm signing off the blog for a while.
The heroes of New Orleans
From The Ems Network - an eyewitness tale
What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.
Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.
Dirty Rotten Snowballs
"It's not your father's solar system"
- says SpaceDaily
- Until now, comets have been dubbed "dirty snowballs", but it might be appropriate to call them "snowy dirtballs" given the extraordinary dominance of ultrafine dust.
"[Tempel1 was] like a brittle sponge... which crumbles in your hand," said Uwe Keller, a scientist with the European Space Agency's comet-chasing probe Rosetta ... and the solar system seems likely to be dominated by a huge population of rock and ice planets ranging from dwarf sizes like Pluto to perhaps super-Earth's. Most of these new worlds are expected to follow elliptical, highly-inclined orbits, like those of Pluto, Quaoar, Sedna, and UB313.
A revolutionary aspect of this emerging, new paradigm is the dawning realization that the long-known eight rocky and giant planets, Mercury through Neptune, now seem to be the misfits.
Further still, of all the planets now expected to orbit within our sun Sol's grasp, most orbit between ten and a thousand times farther than do any of the planets we were taught about in school.
Not only that, but the deep impact probe - a few hundred kilograms of impactor - liberated over 5000 tons of water from Comet Tempel1
- in case you weren't paying attention, that's more water in solar orbit than a shuttle could lift in a thousand missions, more water than is known to exist on Mars or the moon - frozen there - and on every comet and probably most asteroids, waiting for us, in a fine dust that would be easy to convert to clean, usable water....
Now if we can only summon the international nerve to get our materials for space development from space
- more than just the 100 milligrams that Hayabusa is returning
Labels: comets, deep impact
The War on Error
Doc is doing amazing things for The War on Error
As I was pumping gas today a bicyclist zoomed by a group of kids collecting money for Katrina victims. He passed them a 10 dollar bill without stopping. It was an amazing sight. And humbling. And wonderful all at the same time.
We have, with the Net, the most formidable vehicle getting people organized that has ever existed, and people like Jeff Jarvis
are working at making it even more effective:
Call this Recovery 2.0.The goal is to be ready — God help us — for the next disaster so people can better use the internet — via any device — to better:
1. share information,
2. report and act on calls for help,
3. coordinate relief,
4. connect the missing,
5. provide connections for such necessities as housing and jobs,
6. match charitable assets to needs,
7. get people connected to this and the world sooner.
There are many, many wonderful things happening, but they are happening — as is the want of the distributed web — everywhere: See the more-than-50 places where the missing from Katrina can be found and more are being built as we read. I just heard anchors on Fox start to read the names and descriptions of the missing but as good-hearted as that may be, with unknown thousands missing, it is frightfully inefficient. But Dave Winer points us to efforts to create an open standard for a People Finder XML structure, which we need. And we need better ways to make all this discoverable and searchable.
We're in an age where the encyclopedias update in realtime
And through my head all week has run through my head the refrain "Who will take responsibility?" from The Postman. When I was growing up we had half-assed drills on nuclear safety in our schools, so watered down as to be obviously useless and futile... but they didn't need to be. On the internet today are simple howto instructions for how to build a latrine, a water distillery, or a fallout shelter
- and in many cultures with universal military service, these sorts of survival skills are embedded in the entire population.
How helpless would those remaining in New Orleans have been if they'd had these basic survival skills?
How helpless would those trying to help have been had they too had these skills? How more effective would the relief effort have been if our relief forces, fearing for the unprofessionalism of the populace pouring in to help, hadn't barred entry - and instead confidentally embraced and deputized every man and woman willing to help? If they had a plan for such volunteerism?
A friend commented:
I was in conversation with a co-worker, who is ex-delta (not kidding) and we were talking about who we want watching our backs. I told him that while I was doing physical security analysis as part of my 'gig' in the army, the most outstanding, the folks who just simply "got it" when it came to boundry defense, patrolling with purpose, physical security in general, were... inner city black females. He just tossed his head back and laughed out loud.
"Gawd, how completely true!" He went on to relate of the troops he trained, that they were the "class" of people who listened and did EXACTLY as they were told, and qualified expert with small arms, having never fired a weapon before, than any other "class" of "troop" generally encountered. "Man, if I could have a squad of inner-city black females that I could train for a year, buddy, I'd have one hell of a squad."
Of course, officially, that can't be said.
Watching the recent "looting" I was asked, "Are white folks not doing this?" I was kinda forced to answer. "well, from what I know first hand, and what I've studied and been trained on reference civil disorder (I've had a few hours of civil disorder training) with your basic redneck, they can be looting, but you won't catch them on camera. Another thing, you can pop a few rounds off at "looters" and make'em scatter. Rednecks on the other hand, will duck and cover, and move to flank you.
Well, OK, some skills can be misapplied... but...
The power of an enabled, enraged, educated, alert, and compassionate populace is ours to make ever more real over the coming century in our War on Error.
(a veteran of Hugo and multiple other Hurricanes in the Virgin Islands) writes in:
One thing you will notice about New Orleans is that many of the structures are intact, they are simply underwater. I saw a report early on during the storm that at H-hour plus 1 or 2 they had already determined that the 'advanced' levie and pump system around the city had already failed. Perhaps they should learn to test their generators more often?
Compare the damages in New Orleans to the pictures out of MS, where everything has 'traditional' windstorm damage (blow apart), with only small localized flooding in some areas.
I agree with the comments made about investing billions to rebuild a city that sits 7-ft below sealevel on a 'normal' day. The storms are not going to get smaller/weaker due to impact of global warming making the ocean temps warmer each season. How many billions do you want to 'sink' (pun intended) into it when you know it could be underwater again by next season? People will think those are harsh words, but you cannot ignore the truth of the matter.
I think there will be some interesting fallout from this one:
1) Most people don't have flood insurance. If you lived in New Orleans and got flooded, your windstorm insurance won't cover your damage. There could very well be a shake-up of the insurance laws/rules once people start to find out that they are not covered. With such large damages, I expect the feds to gloss over the rules and simply pay for everything tho otherwise there will be riots.
2) People will start to take hurricanes more seriously on the mainland. Up until now they have been treated as annoyances that take place now and then.
3) People will (hopefully) start to listen to evacuation orders. The people that decided to declare a mandatory evacuation of the city are heros. There would be tons more floating bodies if they had not made that call. (see also #4)
4) Pre-Evacuation routes/plans/assistance will be worked out to help people that cannot make it out on their own (financial or medical reasons etc).
5) We are screwed if a storm hits us (in the Virgin Islands) as no one will care ;) Then again, with so much hype in the news about hurricanes, it may help our cause and provide publicity to our plight. (We have been demolished several times in the past 20years, I am talking about 95-98% of structures GONE each time a storm comes in). We don't have the easy escape to neighboring states when we get whacked. (e.g. road/rail/air transports/electricity and water grids etc)
6) People should be taught more about survival and the skills needed to stay alive instead of depending on help to arrive and have handouts ready at h-hour plus one.
Reading the news reports of people complaining about be on a bridge in 96 degree weather in New Orleans etc. I couldn't help but to wonder why they would not be UNDER the bridge to be in the shade. Healthy people can last several days without food. Water is needed by day 2 or 3. Collect some of the storm debris to make a shelter and fire to boil collected rain water (using debris to make a water collection 'roof').
This also ties into #4. If there were zero people in the city, there would be far fewer problems. The people that DID leave as told are probably being treated worse than the ones that stayed. (e.g. not being treated as refugees, but as evacuees) There could be some strange fallout from the federal assistance afterwards (I expect blanket coverage in order to keep the red-tape low)
7) People have been trying to criticize everything and everyone for not responding soon enough.
Everything I see tells me that the local officials were not prepared for a flood situation. It really has nothing to do with a hurricane IMO. The same thing could have happened had a terrorist blown up the levies. (that could actually be much worse, as the city would be fully populated with no warning)
8) People have been angry about not getting Army troops in to do police work. They don't know that it is normally forbidden by law (see the Posse Comitatus Act" from 1858)
Mars Polar Lander found?
Meanwhile, back on Mars, the remains of the Mars Polar Lander have probably been found by the Mars Global Surveyor
, which is gearing up to do a closeup of the probable crash site of the Mars Polar Lander (MPL) before Sept 10th. The MGS was launched in November 1996 on a mission to study the Red Planet's surface features, atmosphere and magnetic properties. It completed its primary mission in January 2001, so the spacecraft has far exceeded its planned lifetime.
I'd incorporated the story of the MPL into my speech, Uncle Bill's Helicopter
, in what seems like ages ago.
Some essential optimism - redirecting hurricanes from my mind
A big thanks to David Brin for this
Consider the following two hoary old clichés:
"Isn't it a shame that human decency and justice haven't kept pace with our technological progress?"
"No past era featured as much cruelty and misery as this one."
In spite of their vogue, both of these oft-parroted passages are patently false. It's incredibly easy to disprove them!
Over half of those alive on Earth today never saw war, starvation or major civil strife with their own eyes [emphasis, mine!]. Most never went more than a day without food. Only a small fraction have seen a city burn, heard the footsteps of a conquering army, or watched an overlord brutalize the helpless. Yet all these events were routine for our ancestors!
I've always wondered what the castle newspaper of 1102 would have reported on had the peasantry been literate.
Normal people seem to be able to immerse themselves in the news, and remain unaffected. Me I gotta go off now and do something positive and worthwhile, I've eaten way too much of the world today.
The engineer in me tries to come up with ideas that can help, especially as I drop off to sleep, like now... Here's one crazy idea I just had for manipulating hurricanes:
Weave nanotube ribbons into a giant, ultrastrong parachute, 25-150 miles in diameter. (smaller ones can catch disturbances early) Make the chute reflective - a mirror - so as goes over the disturbance less energy gets to the hurricane - cooling it off - and (if it does not tear) as it slowly settles, it forces the wet air down to the roiling ocean surface.... Drop one over an active hurricane, heavily weighted (so as to sink) or keep it aloft with airships at 70 thousand feet or so to redirect the sun's rays before they hit the clouds.
call it - A Hurricane Herder!
What would an insurance company - or government - pay for a means to redirect or prevent hurricanes? Without the weather satellite system the damage would have been much worse. Some are cynical
Just have to run the math on the costs in the morning... lessee, preventing 100b/yr in damage, times the future of civilization...
For all I know I've got it backwards, that you need more heat to break up a hurricane, not less, sort of like the flawed poem recited in the movie Sleeper, where a catapillar came out of a butterfly.
Wow, I just got an image of a government agent releasing a butterfly in june to stop a hurricane in september. And an Al Queda agent doing the same to start one. It's not a truly crazy idea, just straight out of chaos theory actually, but I know I gotta get to bed now...