Saturday, September 25, 2010
A private Danish rocket built by volunteers to launch one person into suborbital space is set to fly its first test flight Tuesday with a dummy pilot riding aboard.This was what the US did with Alan Shepard in 1961. However now it is being done by a small group of Danish enthusiasts as a
If successful, the rocket should carry its payload up almost 19 miles (30 km) into the upper atmosphere.
$70,000 effort funded by private sponsors and donations includes the capsule, booster and an offshore launch platform.Well it didn't launch & has been put back to next year because an of the shelf hair dryer component failed to keep the fuel running. However this is merely a technology glitch & doesn't affect the principle of it being feasible. It does tend to support Jerry Pournelle's assessment
I wish them well, but I wouldn't ride it.Maybe not but I much more wouldn't have joined Scott going to the South Pole.
When I first met Jeana Yaeger (copilot with Dick Rutan of the Voyager on the first non-stop non-refueled flight around the world) she had volunteered to let Captain Robert Truax launch her 70 miles downrange in what amounts to a reinforced garbage can atop one of his sea launched Sea Dragon rockets. Truax was once a major figure in rocket development and a rival of Max Hunter for the mantle of Werner von Braun and this was a serious proposition; it didn't happen largely because other events made it pointless. But Miss Yeager was ready to take the ride.
I wish the Danes well, but I wouldn't ride that rocket...
The thing that gets me is the cost. $70,000 (£45,000) is nothing. It puts funding elements of space development into individual's hands not just governments. It is, after inflation, merely a fraction of the £10,000 the Daily Mail put up in 1906 as a prize for an aircraft to go from London to Manchester.
Even if no European or North American government is willing to put £45,000 towards promoting progress it now seems X-Prizes, albeit at a low level, are almost inevitable. There are a lot of rich individuals donating sums far larger than that. There are even a lot of newspapers paying more than that to girls willing to name some footballer they slept with.
H/t to Freedom & Whisky where I first saw this
Friday, September 24, 2010
I put this on Channel 4's "Snowblog". The intro is a reply to Mr Snow's contention that Earth's "inability to feed itself" is the big piece of world news & Britain's inability to build houses is Britain's. It was posted here. Perhaps it will be answered or perhaps mot:
Earth is perfectly able to feed itself & indeed is doing so. Britain is perfectly capable of providing a virtually unlimited amount of inexpensive modular housing, if the government were not preventing it. Neither is a real problem.
Another fake problem caused purely by government regulation is rising power costs. In that regard I was pleased to see you last night say that "we are going to have a discussion on wind power". Unfortunately the alleged discussion was no such thing but instead a three headed sales pitch. The discussers were a representative from the wind farm industry who, understandably, is enthusiastic about being given £240 billion from the taxpayer (£4,000 from every man woman & child) & one from the Renewable Energy Foundation whose enthusiasm was only faintly marred by his wish that other uneconomic sources of power not miss out on the bung.
A real discussion would have involved people of differing views. In particular the exclusion of anybody willing to point out that all this power & much more could be supplied at 1/4 of our current electricity costs without us having to fork over a single bung, with infinitely greater reliability & indeed far less carbon.
There must be some reason why C4 continuously censors any genuine discussion on this, & so many other issues. Perhaps there is another reason other than the obvious option of C4 News not being a genuine news organisation but simply a wholly corrupt, fascist, government controlled propaganda organisation employing nobody even attempting real journalism. Mr Snow if you feel there is another explanation please let me know because, for the life of me, I cannot imagine what it might be.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Anybody wishing to make their own points can contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Steve Jones,
I understand you are writing a report on the impartiality, or otherwise, of the BBC's science reporting. Here are a number of points which I trust you will either accept or be able to give reasons for disagreement.
ALLEGED CATASTROPHIC GLOBAL WARMING
Since there is no actual evidence for such warming at the very least the default position of any scientist must be that it is questionable. A few years ago the BBC devoted an entire day to Al Gore's Pop Music against Global Warming concert. If that had been the only programme ever done supporting this theory then the BBC, if it were attempting to be impartial would have had to devote 10 hours to the opposite theory. If it devoted 1 hour it could claim to be 10% honest. If the BBC had ever allowed the broadcast of a 1 hour formal debate on the subject (with debaters from both sides) it would be able to claim to be 5% unbiased if only the programmes mentioned had taken place. Obviously the BBC have never done anything remotely as impartial as that & there is no possibility of anybody remotely honest ever suggesting that the BBC's integrity is anything better than asymptotically approaching zero.
Their repeated contention that there is a "scientific consensus" on global warming, which they still have not retracted, while censoring any mention of the fact that the largest single expression of scientific opinion, the Oregon Petition says it is false, is deplorable.
NUCLEAR POWER & RADIATION
The BBC devote a considerable amount of time to nuclear scare stories, Chernobyl etc. While pushing the LNT theory that there is no safe lower limit to radiation they never report that the LNT theory was a bureaucratic not scientific decision for which not only has there never been any evidence whatsoever but that there is a large mass of evidence for the opposite Hormesis theory.
Not only do they omit any mention of relative proven costs in their consistently wildly enthusiastic reporting of windmills but I have never once heard them mention that windmills are far further from being CO2 neutral than nuclear plants.
These should be evidence based. Where there is no evidence for such a scare (e.g. GM foods or mobile phones) it is wrong to give equal or close to equal time to those pushing the scare. This gives the impression there is something to it. By comparison in Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy the possibility of the Earth being eaten by a giant mutant space goat is raised. The evidence for dangerous giant mutant space goats is exactly the same as for mobile phones, GM foods or cloned animals being harmful & it is quite improper for the BBC to, on purely political grounds, choose to give disproportionate airtime to the latter. I am making no suggestion as to which way movement should go - if the BBC decide to redress the imbalance by giving airtime to the space goat menace that would be equally appropriate as reporting of other "environmentalist" scare stories.
The BBC should appoint science reporters with scientific credentials. Roger Harabin, for example, has an English degree which may, or may not, make him expert in other fields but does not do so in science. On the other hand the BBC decision to cease working with the immensely popular David Bellamy on what can only be described as purely political grounds is disgraceful. On the opposite hand they recently endorsed a statement by David Attenborough that all of Norfolk will be under water by 2026. There is no evidence whatsoever for that & the BBC should issue a clarification that this claim merely represents the very highest standard of accuracy the BBC ever aspire to & thus should not necessarily be believed & that in the event Norfolk does not vanish by the due date, or a significant portion of it by 2011, no statement by any representative of the BBC should ever, under any circumstances be treated as honest without strong independent verification.
Diversity should be encouraged. The BBC should commission programmes from a wide variety of individuals, having editorial control of what they say, so long as the science is fact based, Continuance of individual's contracts should depend on popularity not political approval. I have previously suggested that our political life would be improved if we had formal broadcast debates on political issues. The BBC have refused to do this or to say why & the assumption must be that they do not want such improvement. The adversarial process of investigation has a long & relatively successful record of testing evidence. There are quite a number of scientific & technological issues where the public could be both more informed & entertained by such debates (obviously alleged catastrophic warming, but also nuclear power, GM foods, supporting commercial space development, "alternative" power. I would even be happy to see such a debate on evolution - I think a clearly free formal debate on the subject would be decisive - after all it was in Darwin's time.
I consider the general refusal of the BBC to give significant airtime to any viewpoint that does not fit their political position is seriously damaging & inconsistent with a free society. Science, in particular, depends on investigative freedom
PS I sent a copy of yesterday's blog to the BBC to see if they felt able to dispute neing nakedly politically partisan & 100% dishonest. So far they have not felt able to but I will publish if they ever do.
UPDATE 16 minutes after I sent the above I got an automated message from Prof Jones saying he "read it with interest". Such diligence.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I tried it out. To my disappointment, but not surprise, it had no option for showing us the ill effects of cutting subsidies for windmills & other Green subsidies, abolishing building "planning" regulations or getting rid of regulatory quangos. It did give the option of cutting the transport budget. According to the BBC the prime effect of cutting the transport budget by 23% would be that 210 miles of motorway annually would not be constructed.
So if the BBC are 100% truthful the prime achievement of the transport budget is that 700 miles of motorway gets built annually. If the BBC are 10% honest & only 90% a gang of corrupt, thieving fascist propagandists willing to tell any lie to promote government parasitism then we only built 70 miles of motorway last year.
If the BBC are as much as 1% honest only 99% corrupt, lying, thieving, fascist parasites we must have built 7 miles of motorway last year.
The very last motorway to receive public funding, the final section of the M60 Manchester Outer Ring Road, opened to traffic in 2000. For the first time since the start of work on the Preston Bypass in 1956, there were no new motorways under construction in the UK.So nobody in the BBC can claim to be within visual distance of merely being so wholly corrupt as to be a totally dishonest, lying, thieving, parasitic, propagandist for big government fascism.
Doesn't say much for Labour either that, with a transport budget which over 10 years must have totalled something like £220 billion (15% of annual GNP) they have managed to invest absolutely nothing in the country's main transport arteries. That money could, for example, if spent on nuclear power, have given us free electricity up to 4.5 times as much as the total we currently use.
Monday, September 20, 2010
The fact that Al Gore & indeed almost all "environmentalist" groups have always flatly refused to participate in such a debate & that the BBC has totally refused to broadcast one shows that, even according to the words of their hero Gore, they are all wholly corrupt eco-fascists committed to the suppression of the truth.
"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste." -- Rahm Emanuel, Obama's White House Chief of Staff.
This statement is the reverse side of the same coin Mencken displayed when he said "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins,"all of them imaginary." It is, however, interesting to have it so thoroughly confirmed by such a high ranking practical politician