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Saturday, July 07, 2012

UKIP's X-Prize Fund Policy - Scotsman Letter

While I entirely agree with Steuart Campbell's wish that, as human beings, we should be as willing as our ancestor's to explore new horizons (Letter 6th July), in this case Mars, I think he understates the case.
The idea that we shouldn't do anything in space until all problems have been settled here would have meant Columbus still waiting at the dock. That would have done nothing to solve Europe's problems.
The commercial space industry is growing at 10% worldwide and 17.6% in the USA because they are being driven by a series of X-prizes*. This industry is also already the fastest growing in Britain despite the lack of government support.
UKIP have recently called for the £275 million we put into the European Space Agency, where it overwhelmingly disappears into the maw of European bureaucracy, into a British Space X-Prize fund instead.
One space industrialist has already confirmed that this will be "plenty" to kick-start a commercial British spaceplane.
If our political classes continue to turn their backs on our fastest growing industry, on the excuse that they have to wait until the economy is fine before doing anything nothing will ever be done.
Britain could establish itself as a, possibly the, world leader in space industrialisation, without spending a penny more than we already give to European bureaucracy.

  Letter today

  Minor grammatical editing plus I wrote UKIP but they spelled it out to the full name. Note to self - next time I should write it "United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)" which gets the name in twice. Also the asterisked bit - they added that the American X-Prizes came from the X-Prize Foundation which is not entirely correct, there are a number of such prizes, only some of which come from there.

   I did also send out letters to every paper drawn from my previous blog here but Google news don't show any of them being used.

   This is part of a series of letters which went out on the subject of NASA's most recent promise to go to Mars in a couple of decades if given a blank cheque. I think the way I have written this does a disservice to Steuart Campbell whose previous letter had in turn been an answer to a silly woman who who doesn't want us to go to Mars because western imperialism is doing so badly!!  My point in saying that he had understated is that his letter had been about the exploratory urge and human destiny which are indeed the ultimate reasons for doing it, whereas I concentrated on the economic advantages.

    Its raining soup and the old parties are taking the money we should buy buckets with to feed the European gravy train.

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Friday, July 06, 2012

"Rebut" Another of those Political Weasel Words

      I have regularly run across "green" bloggers saying "that has been rebutted" when confronted by the facts. Of course they never attempt to repeat this alleged achievement so it is simply a variant of argument from non-existent authority.

      The point here is the meaning of the term rebut
1. to refute by evidence or argument.

2. to oppose by contrary proof.
Refute in turn means
1. to prove to be false or erroneous, as an opinion or charge.

2. to prove (a person) to be in error.

   So any way you look at it it is only rebutted if solid, undisputed proof is presented. Obviously no part of the sceptics case about alleged catastrophic global warming has been disproven by undisputed proof.

    The one thing one can say about any alarmist  using that line is that they are lying. And i think it reasonable that that should be said & they be asked to correct it.

     To argue against, let alone merely denounce using ad homs, the normal practice of alarmists, is no more to rebut than climbing half way up Ben Lomond, is bagging the Monroes.

   Any way you look at it anybody who says it is is hardly to be trusted  on anything else. As every honest  "green" will be happy to meet as soon 1 is found.

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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Space Travel Anniversaries - July and August

4th July 1998 – Japan launches the Nozomi probe to Mars, and thus joins the United States and Russia as a space exploring nation.

8th July 2011 – Space Shuttle Atlantis is launched in the final mission of the U.S. Space Shuttle program.

10th July 1962 – Telstar, the world's first communications satellite, is launched into orbit.

14th July 2000 – A powerful solar flare, later named the Bastille Day event, causes a geomagnetic storm on Earth.

1965 – The Mariner 4 flyby of Mars takes the first close-up photos of another planet.

15th July 1975 – Space Race: Apollo–Soyuz Test Project features the dual launch of an Apollo spacecraft and a Soyuz spacecraft on the first joint Soviet-United States human-crewed flight. It was both the last launch of an Apollo spacecraft, and the Saturn family of rockets.

16th July 1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 11, the first manned space mission to land on the Moon, is launched from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

17th July 1975 – Apollo-Soyuz Test Project: An American Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft dock with each other in orbit marking the first such link-up between spacecraft from the two nations.

18th July 1966 – Human spaceflight: Gemini 10 is launched from Cape Kennedy on a 70-hour mission that includes docking with an orbiting Agena target vehicle.

19th July 1963 – Joe Walker flies a North American X-15 to a record altitude of 106,010 metres (347,800 feet) on X-15 Flight 90. Exceeding an altitude of 100 km, this flight qualifies as a human spaceflight under international convention.

20th July 1969 – Apollo Program: Apollo 11 successfully makes the first manned landing on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility. Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first humans to walk on the Moon almost 7 hours later. (US Time)

1976 – The American Viking 1 lander successfully lands on Mars.

21st July 1961 – Mercury program: Mercury-Redstone 4 Mission – Gus Grissom piloting Liberty Bell 7 becomes the second American to go into space (in a suborbital mission).

1969 – Space Race: Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin become the first humans to walk on the Moon, during the Apollo 11 mission (July 20 in North America).

2011 – NASA's Space Shuttle program ends with the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-135.

22nd July 1951 – Dezik (Дезик) and Tsygan (Цыган, "Gypsy") are the first dogs to make a sub-orbital flight.

24th July 1950 – Cape Canaveral Air Force Station begins operations with the launch of a Bumper rocket.

1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 11 splashes down safely in the Pacific Ocean.
25thn July 1973 – Soviet Mars 5 space probe launched.

1984 – Salyut 7 cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to perform a space walk.
26th July 1971 – Apollo Program: launch of Apollo 15 on the first Apollo "J-Mission", and first use of a Lunar Roving Vehicle.
27th July 1949 – Initial flight of the de Havilland Comet, the first jet-powered airliner.

29th July 1958 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs into law the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

30th July 1971 – Apollo program: Apollo 15 Mission – David Scott and James Irwin on the Apollo Lunar Module module Falcon land on the Moon with the first Lunar Rover.

31st July 1971Apollo program: Apollo 15 astronauts become the first to ride in a lunar rover.
1999 – Discovery Program: Lunar Prospector – NASA intentionally crashes the spacecraft into the Moon, thus ending its mission to detect frozen water on the moon's surface.

5th Aug 1963 – The United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union sign a nuclear test ban treaty.

6th Aug 1996 – NASA announces that the ALH 84001 meteorite, thought to originate from Mars, contains evidence of primitive life-forms.

7th Aug 1959 – Explorer program: Explorer 6 launches from the Atlantic Missile Range in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

10th Aug 1990 – The Magellan space probe reaches Venus.

12th Aug 1960 – Echo 1A, NASA's first successful communications satellite, is launched.

1977 – The first free flight of the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

17th Aug 1958 – Pioneer 0, America's first attempt at lunar orbit, is launched using the first Thor-Able rocket and fails. Notable as one of the first attempted launches beyond Earth orbit by any country.

19th Aug 1960 – Sputnik program: Sputnik 5 – the Soviet Union launches the satellite with the dogs Belka and Strelka, 40 mice, 2 rats and a variety of plants.
20th Aug 1975 – Viking Program: NASA launches the Viking 1 planetary probe toward Mars.
1977 – Voyager Program: NASA launches the Voyager 2 spacecraft.

23rd Aug 1966 – Lunar Orbiter 1 takes the first photograph of Earth from orbit around the Moon.

25th Aug 1981 – Voyager 2 spacecraft makes its closest approach to Saturn

27th Aug 1962 – The Mariner 2 unmanned space mission is launched to Venus by NASA.

29th A|ug 1965 – The Gemini V spacecraft returns to Earth, landing in the Atlantic ocean.

30th Aug 1984 – STS-41-D: The Space Shuttle Discovery takes off on its maiden voyage.

  I will, over time, do the full year and link them up. These have been taken from wikipedia. The wiki entries average 17 anniversaries of events since 1960 each day.  Since I have excluded a few minor entries that means that about 4.3% of all the important human events since 1960 involve space travel. I estimate that the total cost of this (the vast majority of which goes, in NASA, to bureacracy not achievement) cannot have been more than 0.05% of humanity's GDP over the time.

   Wiki is written by the public in a relatively random manner (excluding deeply political subjects like catastrophic warming). This is about as good a snapshot of human opinion as you are going to get and suggests populatr interest greatly exceeds the interest of the political classes.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Bankers are the New Jews - Useful Scapegoats For Our Rulers

Attacking bankers is a good way for the political classes and their clacks in the media to distract from politicians.
We have seen Labour spreading the lie that the recession was caused by the banks – as if they had all been somewhere else and the bankers running the government when government deficit and banning of productive technology was going on. And the Tories letting them away with it because they like having scapegoats too.
Now we see Barclays being crucified when it is apparent that what they did was done on the nod of the Bank of England and unless the BoE were deliberately deceiving their boss, on the at least implicit command of Ministers.
Nor is manipulating Libor comparable in its costs to ordinary people with the deliberate actions of the monetary policy committee in letting inflation rip when they were, at least in public, charged not to.
How many of us, asked to put money in a bank or a government, would be more confident that they would get it back from the latter. None – if it were not so taxes would not have to be compulsory.
In purely practical terms this attack on the banks is likely to kill or drive offshore the only major industry the British state has not so far been able to stifle, and thus deprive the Exchequer of £100 billion and drive us deeper into recession. This is a high price for ordinary people to pay simply so that the politicos will have a scapegoat for their own creation of an unnecessary recession.

Somebody then wrote that because the banks had been more successful than the rest of the declining economy, the declining bits must be suffering from all the good people going to the City. I replied

If you wish to make such a case I would be amused to see you doing so. Perhaps you could explain that if derivative dealers were not dealing derivatives they would be the ideal people to be employed as drillers of shale gas and builders of nuclear power stations – the skills being interoperable.
That is a ludicrous claim. A free market would allow all these industries to prosper. The lack of growth of the latter 2 is entirely down to politicians banning it and owes nothing to drillers being snapped up as financial analysts.

   All the above from John Redwood's blog.  It Looks like Bob Diamond has been persuaded to tone down his statement that the Bank of England told them to fix the Libor rate but (A) it could only have been done if all or most of the banks were doing it, because "outliers" are discounted from the figures Libor is made up of (B) it would have been obvious to a competent examiner at the BofE & everybody would know that (C) only the BofE has the muscle to get everybody on board & (D) the Libor fixing is insignificant compared to the failure, under both governments, of the Monetary Policy Cttee, charged with keeping inflation to 2% by using interest rates, to make even a token attempt to do so. If the minor one is fraudulent the MPC's fraud is far moreso.
It rather looks like Barclays have been deliberately picked on because they have no government money in them and indeed Vince has never quite forgiven Barclays for not accepting state handouts back in October 2008? 
I have previously compared the targeting of the bankers as being responsible for the recession as equivalent of the claim made by Germany's ruling class that they were not responsible for losing the war - it was all because of a "stab in the back" by the socialists and Jews. They got away with it, at an enormous cost to Germany and Europe.

Who were the 'senior Whitehall figures' who tried to fix the Libor rate?
Well no such fixing would be authorised without the approval; of the Chancellor and he couldn't do it except on the PM's word. Of course both of them deny it, in the same way that both of them made manifesto promises that we would have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and Brown has stated under oath that he never leaked or briefed against any party colleagues which everubody knows is perjury.

Are there any circumstances under which the sworn word of any politician in the main parties can be treated as 1/1000th as credible as those of the average banker. I suggest not though I would be open to evidence,

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

UKIP Will Put European Space Agency Funds Into Space X-Prizes

  News that comes up once a generation.

   Arguably less often since the history of British scientists being innovative in space and British politicians resolutely destroying the vision goes back 50 years. The scientists launched our only satellite in 1971, in despite of an order to close down from the politicians. This has been largely successfully airbrushed out of history by the bureaucracy.

    Now UKIP has broken that 50 year record by its call for Britain to use the £275 million we currently give to ESA (who have yet to put a person in space, except by buying tickets on the American and Russian craft) into a British Space X-prize Fund

    Lord Monckton, Head of UKIP's Policy Unit who has said his mission is to provide us with the best policies of any British party said
offering prizes is a good way for governments to stimulate technological advance.
The development of controlled re-entry by private enterprise has vastly reduced the cost of space travel: no doubt further inventiveness will become evident if only we can get the costly bureaucracies out of the way and reduce general taxation to the point where it becomes at least potentially profitable to take big risks. 
Monckton of Brenchley
   Nigel Farage, party leader, has also confirmed
 It is inconceivable that UKIP would allow the EU to retain control of Britain's space-research. Conversely, it is inconceivable that UKIP would wish to participate in the European Space Agency (ESA)

    A UKIP government will take the £275 million wasted in the ESA bureaucracy and instead use it in the most efficient way available - prizes. Technology Prizes do not provide subsidies to rent-seekers, and they entice imaginative thinking which is why they are at least 33 times and according to Professor Freeman Dyson, possibly 100 times more effective than conventional funding.

    This can give Britain an orbital shuttle flying close to daily. Though our space budget will be unchanged and still far lower than NASA's the effective budget will be higher because prizes are so much more efficient..

   As US space expert Jerry Pournelle says    
"a conclusion, confirmed by a number of those in the rocket entrepreneurial community, and also several Pentagon people:

if we stay outside NASA, the technology exists to build a reusable orbiter for under a billion dollars; probably far less than a billion.

 This could be done by prizes, and at the moment there are two prize schemes to consider: a single prize of $1 billion [£636 m], or a first and second prize of $500,000,000 [£318m] for first and $250,000,000 [£160m] for second. The notion of a second prize is intriguing but harder to sell. A second insures that more than one firm can raise capital to compete."

   These specific prizes represent only 2 years of our money given to ESA and since building such a British shuttle would take considerably longer than that, these prizes and more could be offered immediately in the knowledge that the fund will still be in surplus after the shuttle is flying and the prize won.

   The economic potential of the commercial space industry is recognised even by the current government who have refused to put anthing but token sums into it.. The British space industry is not only one of the few growing but our fastest at 10% annually. It has been the consensus of civil service departments that it will be worth £40 billion a annually in 18 years. With the world space industry growing at 10% this was actually a low estimate but such is the way of civil services

     That was before the recent commercial SpaceX launch. SpaceX are, as Lord Monckton points out, launching at 1/20th the cost of NASA and promising, as Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder says "far more dramatic reductions in price in the long term".

   Even before that the US commercial space industry was growing at 17.6%.

   For those countries willing to support the industry, even to a small extent, the sky is not close to the limit. "Once you are in Earth orbit you are half way to anywhere in the solar system" in energy terms as the visionary writer Robert Heinlein said. Potential industries include a massive expansion of telecommunications satellites, solar power satellites providing more energy than we could ever need with no fuel costs since sunlight is free and the sun never goes down in orbit; unlimited mineral resources, including gold and platinum, in the Asteroids; and ultimately new homes for humanity.

   So far the other parties have refused even to think let alone talk about this. They, in the worst traditions of Luddism, are content to tell us to live without growth, and have managed to achieve it. Even though, outside the EU the world economy never stopped growing at 6% a year.

   Doubtless most of the old parties will still oppose it but with UKIP having thrown down the gauntlet, they can no longer refuse to say why.

  They cannot claim they don't want to spend the money because UKIP are not proposing spending any more than they have been wasting for decades on ESA.

   They cannot claim that it would be wasted if it didn't work (as it largely is being with ESA) because part of the beauty of prizes is that the prize is only awarded when the spaceship is working.

    They are left with their only argument being that they are against human technological progress. This has always been an argument of the "Greens" but leaders of other parties have been more reticent  about saying so.

    UKIP has made the main division in British politics abundantly clear. It is between those who desire human progress and look forward to a better future and those who are uncomfortable with growth and prefer a managed decline, albeit a comfortable one for the managers. It will force members of all parties, not just the Conservatives, to consider what they really got into politics for.

    The Conservatives proved unable to fully win an election, even against "the worst prime minister in this country's history" as one Labour candidate described Brown . It is clear they cannot win another except in tandem with UKIP and agreed on "the best policies of any British party". Mr Farage has made it clear that it is "inconceivable" that we would allow our space budget to continue to be frittered away by European bureaucrats rather than being used on the most effective space development programme.

    Things are looking up for the UK.

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

X-Prizes - "do not provide subsidies to rent-seekers, and they entice imaginative thinking"

  In correspondence the economist Eben Wilson, fellow of the Adam Smith Institue and a leader of the Taxpayer's Alliance, gave me this description of the use of prizes rather than traditional government spending which sums up the difference concisely and methodologically. 
they do not provide subsidies to rent-seekers, and they entice imaginative thinking - very much support the idea of using them more.
  Imaginative thinking is obvious. As Freeman Dyson pointed out the US government gave a grant of $50,000 to a respected and worthy scientist to develop a flying machine and he failed. The Wright Brothers did it on a budget of $500. I cannot think of any way a properly run non-bureaucratic grant system would have identified the Wrights as sensible recipients of grants but having had the imaginative breakthrough of aerilons they would certainly have been encouraged by a prize of that size.

  "Rent seeking" is a term in economics.
"Rent seeking” is one of the most important insights in the last fifty years of economics and, unfortunately, one of the most inappropriately labeled. Gordon Tullock originated the idea in 1967, and Anne Krueger introduced the label in 1974. The idea is simple but powerful. People are said to seek rents when they try to obtain benefits for themselves through the political arena. They typically do so by getting a subsidy for a good they produce or for being in a particular class of people, by getting a tariff on a good they produce, or by getting a special regulation that hampers their competitors.
   Rent seeking, including government workers getting better and/or more employment security, pensions etc. than is available in a free market is recognised as a, possibly the, major cause of government wastefulness. Virtually nobody defends it in principle though many defend their own instances as special cases.

  Thus by showing prizes as inimical to rent seeking & and even more inimical to new instances of rent seeking not yet established (and thus not having their own lobbying constituency) I believe Mr Wilson has demolished most possible arguments against prizes. Although the only occasion actual arguments have been put against them come, fairly tepidly, from this NASA report, which nonetheless endorses the concept.
prizes do not necessarily further these goals that NASA has frequently set forth as success measures in its R&D policy:
increase the number of academic researchers;
increase the number of scientists and engineers;
create jobs;
influence political support by way of job creation;
broaden the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups in science and technology; and
prop up a particular supplier or group of suppliers to ensure choice (say, to ensure that a range of capacities is available in space transportation by dividing business among companies that offer different classes of vehicle lift)
  All of these are example of government subsidy of rent seekers, whether they be scientific groups, minority groups or manufacturers with uneconomic products.

    My thanks for putting the case in such a concise and economically unarguable form

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