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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Unmanned 140,000 ton Atomic Spaceship Launch For £650 million in 2 Years

   This an old article from Next Big Future detailing a proposal for a cheap and not dirty version of the Orion atomic rocket. Unlike the original version it launches at a peak acceleration (probably for under a second) of 1,000 G. So it is only suitable for launching raw materials or simple parts. But it can launch a lot of them.

    The secret is to launch it from a really deep hole in the ground. Thus the blast is funnelled up, under the craft all the way to the surface. Thus also, by putting a closable cover over the top the radiation (of only 1 nuke) is contained.

A 10 megaton nuke (large but we have quite a few) can launch 140,000 tons

 Summary *This is a modification of the old underground nuclear tests. Repeating the old 5-10 megaton tests. But reconfigure to optimize conversion to kinetic energy. Radiation containment for underground tests is a known problem and has proven tests.
* The Project Orion configuration and directed nuclear blasts had the Orion work and the Casaba-Howitzer work. So 85% conversion of nuclear explosion to directed propulsion is known.
* Sacrifice one salt dome or an area under an island. Using natural geological feature mostly reduces cost of containment.
* Actual out of pocket cost less than one billion. (£650 million) Can be done within 2 years.
* Can do some supercomputer modeling and tweaking and optimization to be sure.
* Very limited technical risk for the launch. Nuclear bombs work.
* Leverages the trillions spent on the arms race for good. (sunk costs)
* Negotiate for the exception to the test Threshold test ban and only ratify the Comprehensive test ban with an exception for space launches. Maybe allow Russia, China, UK and France and other to share the payload that is delivered or for each to be allowed to launch one.

This proposal is simpler, cheaper and safer than Project Orion. The proposal is not to build a manned space vehicle but an unmanned projectile that contains cargo. There are not two hundred atmospheric explosions but one underground explosion. the pusher plate does not need to withstand multiple explosions but survive one while not losing the cargo. The cargo is selected and designed to survive the forces that it will encounter.

There are petaflop class supercomputers now that were built for the sole purpose of modeling nuclear explosions in a precise way as an alternative to live tests. There are powerful lasers and other high energy machines created to validate the precision of the computer models.


 The Pascal A nuclear test "launched" a blast door at six times earth escape velocity.

" it would seem that it would have to be on the order of 10,000 gs, which is getting pretty extreme for the delivery of any interesting cargo other than fuel. Or am I wrong?                 

You are correct. The acceleration is extreme. But I would argue that being able to deliver refined metal, water, fuel and other material that can take the acceleration is worthwhile if it can be done cheap enough $1-20/kilogram.Water and fuel and food are heavy supplies that a colony would need.
Water and fuel and metal are needed for industrial projects. Nasa Constellation plan is to spend $20+ billion developing a 125 ton to LEO chemical rocket that could deliver about 10 tons to the moon."
    So only as part of an existing space development programme able to machine

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Hyperloop Metro Letter

  This letter was in the Metro on Tuesday as their headline letter.

    The bits in italics were edited out and in capitals put in and I have to say they improved the letter drastically. This is easily the best bit of editing I have ever seen in a letter of mine.

Congratulations, to the Metro for noticing the Hyperloop ultra fast rail proposal by Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX (Metro article Monday by the estimable Mr Gilliland). This, being both THOUGH twice as fast and 10 times cheaper than the HS2 rail project THE HYPERLOOP PROPOSAL  has gone unnoticed by our traditional parties, though not by UKIP which opposed that waste of £80 billion. ONLY Christopher Monckton, UKIP's Scottish leader says HE'D "Let us continue to oppose the HS2 white elephant, but consider putting together a consortium to build a SUCH A SYSTEM subterranean X-rail system from Wembley yards to Falkirk: the heart of London to the heart of Scotland in under an hour". Meanwhile the SNP wish to waste over the £3 billion it was costed at years ago when the LabLibs wanted it, on the Glasgow/Edinburgh line. A far faster Hyperloop connection could be built in the time at a fraction of the cost, proving that Scottish engineering is still far more progressive than our outdated parties.

   Considering that yesterday I was bitter about the refusal of the Scotsman and Herald to print my letters and suggestion that it was not because they are less effective than when I started but because they are moreso, I am very pleased that the Metro has rather confirmed this. Also pleased that the Metro readership vastly exceeds both of those papers put together and is probably easily the largest in Scotland.

    Scotland can certainly do with having some part of our media that is freethinking and (as the articles of Ben Gililand show) technologically progressive.

   On Wednesday there was a small, far from the headline space, reply saying that it wouldn't work because (1) it had been done before (2) it would cost far more than promised and (3) it was a new idea that hadn't been done before and that UKIP are "naïve" to think about it.

    I have sent this reply. I would be surprised if it is published because the Metro doesn't really do long political discussions, but who knows.

     George (letter Thurs) if Elon Musk, the designer of Hyperloop can build a successful commercial spaceship and the Tesla car (recently confirmed as the world's safest) it would be a brave man who asserts he is wrong on this superfast rail. UKIP's proposal is to facilitate a commercial consortium to run it not to put in public money - so different from the other parties who want the taxpayer to fund their £80 BILLION HS2. Government's role would be to cut government regulatory costs. That these have grown out of control is shown by the fact that though the new Forth Crossing costs £2,300 million the last one cost £19.5 million, in today's money £320 m.

    Bearing in mind that technological progress is a matter of learning to do more with less it is hardly surprising that Hyperloop is less than 1/10th of government run high speed rail.

    The SNP's high speed Glasgow/Edinburgh link is intended to be in place by 2023 & HS2 (to Leeds not Scotland) by 2035. By the time they start they will be obsolete white elephants & the rest of the developed world will be using Hyperloops. Britain & even moreso, Scotland, suffers from a political class who neither understand nor like technology.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

14/15ths of Cable Cost Goes Walkabout - Letter West Highland Free Press

   I listed this letter once before as being published by the Courier. I am reprinting it here again because a very interesting gentleman, Grant Cornwallis, part of Wild Land News came to my shop recently to say that when he read it in the West Highland Free Press on November 23rd last year he was sufficiently impressed to have kept a copy and eventually looked me up.

   He had also been a little surprised that nobody from the Holyrood parties had tried to reply, to a letter of which he was remarkably flattering. I was less surprised since experience has shown me that when they are caught (as, immodestly, is almost always the case with my letters) they take refuge in silence.

   That it had hit the nail on the head sufficiently well to be unanswerable is also confirmed by the fact that the WHFP is extremely politically correct and right on and would certainly have published any reply.

   We had a long natter about the state of the world. He is a real environmentalist but is therefore open to believing some of  ecofascists may be honest, but he was rational and our views were close enough, but also far enough apart, to make discussion interesting.

   I was gratified that an intelligent individual, so many months after the event, had kept the letter and taken the time out to talk about it. Also grateful to know it had been published in the WHFP.

  In a period when I have been a bit short of published letters particularly in the Scotsman which has had relatively few from the Letter Writer's Guild lately I am pleased to have confirmation that it is not any lack of quality. I am now approaching 1,000 letters (well about 20 sent out to 50 papers) on the BBC's 28 gate fraud, not one of which has been published. When I first started writing letters many years ago I would be disappointed at a less than 50% hit rate.

     Clearly if it is not because I am less capable now it must be because I am hitting uncomfortable targets with precision. Which in turn says a lot about our free media.

"I am no fan of windmills - they are 10 times the cost of conventional power, intermittent, unreliable and tend to destabilise the smooth voltage on which the grid and modern technology depend - however I have sympathy with windmiller's dismay over the price increase, to £775 million, of a cable between the western Isles and the mainland.

The Aberdeen bypass, at £23.3 million a mile is 8 times more expensive than new roads across the EU & US are. The same applies to the Forth tunnel which is 8 times more expensive, after adjusting for inflation, than the previous Forth bridge.

By comparison, a few years ago, Norway signed a contract with Nexans to lay a much longer cable (292km) at a cost of $98 million (then about £50 mill) in the North Sea. This seems to be the normal cost in the rest of the world.
 Thus in this case we are greatly exceeding the normal situation of Scottish public projects costing 8 times what they do elsewhere. In this case it looks like well above 15 times.

Before the Forth crossing contract was signed I e-mailed every MSP asking why so much of the money goes walkabout but got only one, not entirely coherent, reply.

Can none of our elected leaders tell us why everything they do costs us so many times more than it would elsewhere in the world and where the money they take from us goes?"

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to win arguments - tactics

     I am fairly confident of my ability to come out at least even in any written argument I get into with anybody. Partly this is because, unlike professional politicians, I don't have to defend anything I don't believe in so I am always on the side that should win.

   (I am less confident in debate because there you don't have time to prepare a snappy comeback)

Here is some tactical advice:

1 - Don't let them have the last word.

2 - Push them into an unsustainable assertion and then, politely, ask them to retract. Keep asking. The sort of people I argue against never will. This applies particularly to eco-fascists who will never recognise even the slightest and most unimportant, to their argument, error. I assume this is because they know their façade is fragile.

3 - Remember it is the audience not the opponent you are trying to persuade. An opponent who will admit to being half persuaded is a formidable opponent and an admirable person.

4 - Don't let them change the subject "Your are trying to change the subject but we have to get the basics right first"

5 - Start from where you really stand. Don't start from a "moderate" compromise position. You will just be asked to compromise again until you have given away everything. This does not mean never compromise - politics is the art of compromising so that everybody gets some of what they want and nobody gets killed. But to compromise properly you first need to know what you really want. 

6 - Know your facts and be sincere. Nothing beats that combination.

7 - See where their argument is going and ask a simple question that undermines it. "Mr Cameron, if world growth is 5% why is growth of any sort so difficult here?"

8 - Have a list of facts to throw into the debate.

9 - When you have the evidence use the evidence, when you have the law use the law, when you have neither pound the table. This is an old lawyer's maxim. I don't like it much but you don't have to look far to see it works.

10 - Use their first name if you are going to call them, by circumlocution, a liar (it gives the impression that "come on we both now you are a lying turd, stop pretending). If I am going to call somebody a liar in debate, or worse, I would rather do it by circumlocution. It is more difficult to take offence and because it takes longer actually sinks in deeper.

11 - When the opponent has been caught in a lie, politely ask them to retract (usually retract rather than apologise)(extension of #2). They still won't.

12 - If they won't say "In that case I am forced to recognise that claim must represent the highest standard of honesty to which your (in group rather than the individual) aspires but factually it does seem to be a lie, and an obvious and silly one at that because........"

13 - When facing multiple opponents see where they disagree and exploit it.

14 - Ask a question, when they don't answer say so. An extension of 4.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hyperloop - Big Engineering 54 - Far Faster & Cheaper Than HS2

Latest Article up on ThinkScotland. Please put comments there. I'm putting this up as a Big Engineering item though I certainly didn't invent it (I suppose I can claim to have "ivented" the fairly obvious idea of applying it Glasgow to Edinburgh. I did previously do a BE on vacuum trains

    Elon Musk is the boss of SpaceX, creator of the Tesla car and is, while a far better engineer than Edison, as good a businessman and publicist.

   For some months he has been teasing technophiles on the net with his proposal for a transport system from Los Angeles to San Francisco that would be faster than air, more "environmental" than trains and far cheaper than either. He called this Hyperloop.

   A few days ago he unveiled the concept.
Hyperloop plans

The Register says:

"The plans call for a low-pressure tube mounted on pylons and stretching between the two cities which would fire transit capsules floating on air bearings down the line at speeds of up to 760mph.
Hyperloop would use prefabricated steel tubes for the route, which would be partially evacuated to a fraction of outside air pressure to reduce friction. Musk said he looked into running the system in a vacuum tube, but determined that it would be incredibly costly and highly vulnerable to leaks.

But having air in the pipes means each transit capsule would be pushing a column of the stuff in front of it, so the design calls for a battery-powered compressor in the head of the vehicle which sucks in that air and feeds it into air bearings that keep the tube from touching the tunnel and provide enough thrust to outweigh the loss of speed from air friction.

 .....speeds of around 300mph before the route reaches the current I5 freeway. Once on that long, straight route, it will be boosted up to 760mph before slowing against at Los Angeles

Hyperloop could be built directly above the freeway, Musk suggests, to cut down on the amount of land needed for the system, and where the route does cut across private land, the worst the landowner would have to deal with would be support pylons for the tubes every 100 meters. A 15-mile tunnel section would also be needed to get through the hills surrounding Los Angeles".

   But they conclude it is doable and the $6bn (£4 bn) price tag is optimistic but not inconceivable. Probably building it over the freeway helps get the cost down a lot.

   I was quite surprised that he isn't aiming for complete vacuum in the tubes. Total vacuum means no frictional losses and in theory no upper speed limit.  Musk is officially  aiming for a very low air pressure - as low as present technology can guarantee. In a tube air produces a bigger barrier than it would elsewhere because there is nowhere for it to get out of the way to. However in the detailed description he says air pressure would be "1/6 the pressure of the atmosphere on Mars .... an operating pressure of 100 Pascals, which reduces the drag force of the air by 1,000 times relative to sea level conditions and would be equivalent to flying above 150,000 feet altitude" which, if it isn't a perfect vacuum is as close as most of us are ever going get to one.

    This looks like what is practical now. Someday we will be able to build the full vacuum tube system in tunnels across, or rather under, continents. Because pure vacuum tunnels will be faster they will have to be very straight whereas the route given for this has a limited number of bends.

    But doable is doable.  
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk reveals designs for 700 mph Hyperloop

   So why is this in a magazine about Scotland?

   Well while Musk's thoughts were inspired by California having a high speed rail project costed at $60 bn we in Britain, not to be outdone, have our own High Speed 2 project at £45 bn (& rising) which will take till 2032 (and rising) to reach Manchester and Leeds and then to proceed to Scotland in the far mists of futurity at an additional cost.

     Even more insanely the SNP are promising a Glasgow/Edinburgh HS (admittedly only 140 mph) by 2024. Last time the Lab/SNP government promised this it was costed at £3 bn but presumably costs have risen since then.

    But hyperloop shows that what so many had thought a white elephant has now become a white dinosaur.

    There was a good argument that cars would remain more practical than HS2 unless your destination was the station itself. A better one that air travel to Leeds and certainly Scotland, would remain both cheaper and faster. But it is rail and rail is officially good and deserves massive subsidy.

     But now we have a rail system that will be faster, 10 times cheaper and at the technological cutting edge.

     Another alternative is to do it by tunnel the whole way. That would cost more but not that much more. The Norwegians have been cutting tunnels at £4 million per km and it would certainly be much less for long tunnels cut near the surface. That suggests 2 lane of tunnel to Leeds would be about £3 bn. Glasgow-Edinburgh £500 million. Both on top of normal hyperloop engineering costs. Since a tunnel doesn't intrude on the environment, without all the expensive delays caused by Swampy.

       It looks like about £4 bn for HS2 as far as Leeds, £7 bn by tunnel as opposed to a minimum of £3 billion. In Scotland £600 m for Glasgow-Edinburgh, £1.1 bn by tunnel as opposed to at least £3 bn by conventional (slower) rail.
       Lets go for it. Britain, particularly Scotland has some of the world's best engineers. Wouldn't it be nice if, as we did a century and a half ago, we did something at the technological cutting edge? Particularly if, as better technology usually proves, it costs less.

     I am not saying that Hyperloop is, without some finessing the complete answer but I am saying that it, or waiting a few years till it is perfected, is more than 10 times more sensible than going for a conventional high speed link which is clearly going to be obsolete long before it is built.

     I did send links involving this to a number of politicians. The only one to reply was Christopher Monckton, UKIP's Scottish leader. He said:

I've been following the hyperloop notion with some interest. There's actually a cheaper way of doing it, because maintaining a vacuum is not only expensive but dangerous. One uses guide-rails not only below but also above the train, leaving plenty of space between the train and the tunnel wall, allowing the air to flow easily. You can still do the speed of sound in safety, and the upper guide-rails prevent the lateral acceleration that is otherwise the curse of all rail travel (e.g. the Tay Bridge disaster). Let us continue to oppose the HS2 white elephant, but consider putting together a consortium to build a subterranean X-rail system from Wembley yards to Falkirk: the heart of London to the heart of Scotland in under an hour. 
Running-cost as well as build-cost are crucial, it is really cheaper to do without a vacuum if one can. There is also the Safety First principle: if there is a breakdown one wants to be able to get the passengers out without breaching the walls of the tube to get at the capsule inside. 
    I didn't mention the Glasgow-Edinburgh proposal because I didn't realise the SNP had been silly enough to reinstate it. However it seems to me that this would be an opportunity for Scotland to show the rest of the country how to do it. You want a shorter project before going for a trans-Britain line. If only the SNP had the gumption.

     I will differ from Lord Monckton in hoping it goes to Glasgow. That may be Glasgow chauvinism but it can also be that the Scottish Tunnel Project, if it made the western Isles and Kintyre easily accessible by road, would put Glasgow at the centre of Scotland.

     I doubt that there is a single Scottish MSP or MP who would even know what the Hyperloop is let alone be competent to discuss the engineering. I should mention that like Monckton I am a member of UKIP but on the other hand I have previously acknowledged the Conservative John Redwood as having made an informed and sensible suggestion about rail - that the weight of carriages and thus rail transport costs, could be greatly reduced if they were built with the modern technology used in buses rather than the Victorian technology that still dominates rail travel.

     Both those gentlemen are the exception that proves the rule. That we are ruled by main party leaders who are not only ignorant but revel in their ignorance. I doubt if anybody sane would claim the leaders of any of our main parties are among the better intellectuals the country has. Which explains much of what is wrong and could be easily cured in this country. 


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