Recently in CONTEXT

Sunday, April 18, 2021

NASA to Spend US$2,941,394,557 on SpaceX’s Lunar Starship

If I were inclined toward a cynical, Stygian, and conspiratorial outlook instead of my customary sunny and optimistic disposition, I might interpret this news as follows.

Look, NASA doesn't really want to land on the Moon. If they did, they'd have been working on, you know, landing on the Moon, instead of spending billions on a Lunar Tollbooth which will complicate any missions to the surface but spread that delectable taxpayer (and borrowed, and freshly-printed) money around to the congressional districts and states of the politicians who fund the agency. As Robert Zubrin has observed, “NASA used to spend money to fly missions. Now they fly missions to spend money.” If those pesky politicians should demand they actually land on the Moon, which might get the juices up among the hoi polloi and motivate demands for NASA to actually expand the human presence beyond Earth as opposed to flushing money down the toilet on the Space Launch System (SLS) and other grotesque extravagances, then why not choose the cheapest alternative, one with (under the NASA view of things) the highest technological risk and then, when it inevitably fails, say “We told you so. Now, can we return to our incremental plan for flags and footprints sometime around 2030, or 2040, or, well…when we're ready? And how about a budget bump in the next fiscal year?”

Further, in choosing the SpaceX Starship, they not only get the NASA camel's nose under the SpaceX frenetic incremental refinement development tent, they, by spending less than what they're wasting every year on SLS, its ground support equipment, and Orion (the “deep space exploration vehicle” without a toilet), get the whole NASA camel into the heart of Starship development, sending “hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance”, bury it in paperwork, cripple it by hordes of inspectors, sub-sub administrators for diversity, and all of the other reasons no human has ventured beyond low Earth orbit since 1972.

But this may all backfire on NASA, and that would be just wonderful. If there's one thing we've learned over the years, it's not to bet against SpaceX. (Eric Berger's wonderful book, Liftoff, which chronicles the start-up and hard-scrabble years developing and debugging the Falcon 1, is an excellent look into the driven SpaceX culture.) What if SpaceX takes the three billion, nods to the NASA minions, continues their frenetic development pace, and succeeds? A functioning Super Heavy, reusable tankers, and lunar Starship, all of which are required to deliver on the NASA contract, will render SLS, Orion, Gateway/GLOP/whatever they're calling it, impotent and obsolete, and be able to deliver tens of tonnes of cargo and dozens of paying passengers to the Moon on a monthly schedule, while NASA is still pursuing its plans to send four civil service space cadets on brief excursions “every year or two” at a billion or so a pop.

Well, at least when they get there, they'll be able to stay at Bigelow’s lunar hotel, which will have toilets, even in the economy rooms affordable on NASA per diem.

Posted at 10:40 Permalink

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Emulating Nixie Tubes (or Anything Else) with Programmable LCD Displays

Bet you've never see a nixie tube reboot before!

Posted at 12:38 Permalink

Friday, April 16, 2021

New Insights in the Search for Planet Nine

Here is the musical composition mentioned in the interview, Planet 9, op. 3, by Eduardo Marturet, in its premiere performance by the Miami Symphony Orchestra on 2021-03-14.

Posted at 12:01 Permalink

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Brute-Forcing a 256 Bit Encryption Key

But remember:

xkcd: Security

Posted at 10:53 Permalink

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Mining Bitcoin on a Commodore 64

Hey, why not? In 1987, I got a neural network to run on one!

Posted at 10:36 Permalink

Monday, April 12, 2021

Robin Hanson—Explaining Stylized UFO Facts: Panspermia Siblings, World Government, Moral Ideology, and Complexity Rot

Might millions of years of woke ideology, ever-increasing sclerotic regulation, and pervasive incompetence due to lack of competition explain the seemingly irrational behaviour of aliens responsible for the UFO phenomenon? Also see the earlier post, “UFO Stylized Social Facts”.

I continue to think they're dumber still: “Flying Saucers Explained”.

Posted at 14:30 Permalink

Toilet Technology: U.S. vs. Europe

“That's OK…there may be blood.”

Posted at 12:56 Permalink

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Pigeon Hole Principle: 7 Gorgeous Proofs

Are there two people on the continent of Australia with exactly the same number of hairs?

Posted at 10:49 Permalink

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Helmholtz Resonance: Moving Things with Sound

You can see an example of vortex separation and the formation of a Kármán vortex street in the WIND computational fluid dynamics model included in Fourmilab's Cellular Automata Laboratory.

Posted at 13:46 Permalink

Thursday, April 8, 2021

More on Muons: Brian Keating and Dan Hooper of Fermilab Discuss the g−2 Experiment

Here are how two different kinds of theoretical calculations fit with the experimental results.

Posted at 14:43 Permalink

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

User Interface

The Kenworth W900 series of trucks has been in continuous production since 1961.

Posted at 11:20 Permalink

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Age of Stupid—Academic Journals Are Omitting the Titles of Cited Papers

This makes citations almost worthless unless you want to look up every one to see what it's about. The “saving paper” argument is absurd in an age where the vast majority of publication is electronic and actual printed journals go for exorbitant prices. You almost wonder if academics don't want you to check the cited papers.

Posted at 19:54 Permalink

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Bitcoin Blockchain: A Secure, Worldwide, and Unjammable “Numbers Station”?

Here is more about numbers stations. Of course, you'll want to encrypt any message you embed in a blockchain transaction with, for example, my JavaScrypt.

It appears everybody hasn't yet gotten the message. Here is a numbers station broadcasting in Russian, recorded earlier today (2021-04-05) in Finland.

Posted at 20:03 Permalink

The Darkest Clothing in the World

Invisible is the new black.

Posted at 11:36 Permalink

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Estimating the Probability We Are Living in a Computer Simulation


It is shown that under reasonable assumptions a Drake-style equation can be obtained for the probability that our universe is the result of a deliberate simulation. Evaluating loose bounds for certain terms in the equation shows that the probability is unlikely to be as high as previously reported in the literature, especially in a scenario where the simulations are recursive. Furthermore, we investigate the possibility of eavesdropping from the outside of such a simulation and introduce a general attack that can circumvent attempts at using quantum cryptography inside the simulation, even if the quantum properties of the simulation are genuine.

The authors do note, however, that one potential solution to the Fermi paradox might be that we are in a simulation and the absence of aliens is due to the simulators using a variable level of complexity to reduce the computing power required. If the simulation is confined to Earth, there would be no reason to include intelligent aliens from other planets. Here is a PDF version of the paper.

Posted at 10:46 Permalink

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Eric Weinstein: A Revealing Conversation about Geometric Unity

Posted at 19:43 Permalink

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Book Even Theodore Dalrymple Couldn't Finish

Here is the book, The Ahuman Manifesto: Activism for the End of the Anthropocene. A brief quote from the volume:

The negative value of the end of anthropocentrism is where the jubilance of the world begins. The everything else that comes at the end of these systems is primarily only really the end of the primacy of one isomorphic functioning mode of knowledge. Difference and proliferation which seethes beneath in a germinal state has the capacity to express when the anthropocentric mode is diminished to one of many ways, historical or majoritarian-hysterical.

The Kindle edition sells for US$ 26.95.

Posted at 12:48 Permalink

Clouds on Mars after Sunset

Posted at 11:11 Permalink

Thursday, April 1, 2021

An Engine Block Shredder

I'd call it “The Persuader”.

Posted at 14:56 Permalink

SpaceX Starship: What Happened in the Fog at Boca Chica?

Posted at 11:33 Permalink