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Saturday, January 08, 2011


  The last poll I did was on whether we should build the atomic explosive powered Orion spaceships designed 50 years ago by Ted Taylor & Freeman Dyson.Polls of this nature should be taken with a pinch of salt since readers here are likely to be self selecting to more technologically progressive than most & the numbers too small to make a good statistical population. However with that caveat the results were spectacular. 89% (OK 8 of 9) of votes were for doing it, 78% choosing the "not yes but Hell Yes" option. The remaining 1 was not Luddite but reasoned.  These are the reasons he gave with which I will disagree:

No - Small, clean nukes are a proliferation concern and would probably trigger an arm's race with the Russians.

No - Manufacturing the propulsion units would cause local environmental problems in the UK, (see hanford site for details).

No - The costs of manufacturing the propulsion units are unknown cos that kind of thing has always been a state secret, it's likely to be more that has been estimated.

No - We'd be better off with doing RandD and developing buckytubes for a space elevator since that has many, many useful spinoffs - we can always use lighter and stronger materials!

1 - An American one might risk that, a British or international one would not. Indeed if it was used as a way of running down our own plutonium stockpile, as I hope it would be, it would have a stabilising effect.
2 - I think this is wrong. Hanford was at the dawn of the nuclear age - several countries including Britain have built nukes since then without polluting. In particular Israel, which has no spare land to pollute, has produced probably 200 nukes without even having to test them.
3 - That is a fair point. However even if they were significantly more than expected the cost of an Orion programme ( £5.4 billion over 10 years ) is so low that it is not a show stopper.
4 - If it were one or the other I might agree. However both together are insignificant compared to many useless government programmes from windmills to Iraq which are the real; alternatives. Indeed they complement each other - I have blogged about using an Orion to cut both the cost & timetable of a Space Elevator.

I wouldn't take 89% support for this as gospel but, particularly since it is a pretty unknown possibility which only I have been wailing on about (well not quite the only but not many currently), I think it is enough of a sample to expect that if it was put to the general public in a serious way by the powers that be it would be very likely to get majotrity support

Another poll on a subject I have previously discussed - televised formal debates on subjects chosen by the public. All broadcasters seem totally uninterested in this. The cynical reason may be that they are deliberately censoring real political discussion in Britain because our political class fear it. The uncynical one would be that they have some doubts about its possible audience. There may be another possible reason but nobody has been able to provide it.

So lets test if there is an audience for it (UK readers only please).
Please tick each of these which you watch and how often or which, if broadcast in comparable time slots you would watch (UK readers only)
Coronation St often
Coronation St on occasion
X-Factor - often
X-Factor - on occasion
Question Time - often
Question Time - on occasion
Newsnight - often
Newsnight - on occasion
"Climate Change" 1 off TV debate
Weekly televised political debate on public's choice of subjects - often
Weekly televised political debate on public's choice of subjects - on occasion free polls

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