Friday, October 18, 2013

The Christian Case for Vegetarianism | National Catholic Reporter

The Christian Case for Vegetarianism | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Eating fish on Fridays is about supporting the fishing industry. Avoiding meat may or may not help the third world - especially since we import meat from the global south. Currency and labor reform are much more important than vegitarianism - although given advances in laboratory grown meat from stem cells, the case for vegitarianism may be moot someday soon - especially after they synthesize fat and blood cells.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Aging Index: A Wake-Up Call for Policymakers -

Aging Index: A Wake-Up Call for Policymakers - by Michael Hodin

The answer is more kids and possibly higher taxes, rather than lower benefits. That expands GDP in the long term, so that in concert with more technical productivity, makes longer retirement - and indeed - younger retirement - more affordable.

Another piece of the long term sustainability puzzle is the development of self-sustaining environments with food production facilities. If people could grow much of their own food hydproponically, they could spend down their savings less quickly (and receive lower pensions where those still exist) - keeping active in retirement without taking a job away from younger workers. Indeed, as retirees age, they might even provide shelter and a job to younger workers so that they can assit them in growing their food while learning how to run a hydroponic house. This would be the perfect part time job for a young family or couple to take while still in training for a primary career.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The President's New Space Policy

The President revealed his new space initiatives yesterday. Among the promising developments are the development of a new heavy lift vehicle. Such a vehicle will be useful to lift private space colony modules - however it won't be available for the private sector unless the government eats the development costs. Therefore, this is a good thing for spacers.

The President also decided to pursue Mars but not the Moon. This might be a bit of a mistake, since colonizing the Moon will provide useful experience for colonizing Mars, as well as a training ground for future colonists. If I were going as far as Mars on what is almost a one-way trip, I would want that kind of experience. Once you leave the Terra-Luna system, you aren't coming back soon.

On the plus side, leaving the government off the Moon means the private sector can exploit it more easily. The Moon is an excellent place for science, tourism and a probable source for Helium-3 for fusion power. I am a bit shocked that no one has briefed Obama about Helium-3 yet. He may have decided differently after such a brief. The Moon is also a great place to dump high level nuclear waste. Putting it in perpetual orbit is just plain rude and leaving it on Earth is hazardous. On th barren wasteland that is Luna, it won't be bothering anyone. Indeed, it may not even be noticed. All we need to utilize it is reliable lift.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

About Global Warming

It was cold this winter. Indeed, it was so cold, that people are saying that man-made global warming cannot be true.

There is evidence to the contrary and evidence that warming is partly natural. It could be both sides are correct, since climatology is an exact science.

Where I part with most environmentalists, however (especially the Zero Population Growth types) is whether warming is a bad thing. Indeed, if man-made warming is true, then perhaps we would still be in the minor ice age which lasted from the 14th Century to the late 19th Century and that only industrialization ended the ice age.

How does that make warming a bad thing? Indeed, we have still not returned to 13th Century temperatures. It should never snow in either Washington, DC or London, England. Greenland should have pastureland. We don't have these things. In fact, variable weather is not the artifact of warming, it is the artifact of unstable cool periods. We may still be in the tail end of the cold period now.

If emitting carbon dioxide is all that is keeping us from a return to pre-industrialization weather, than I say Drill, Baby, Drill and thank God for dirty coal. Now, if sea levels rise so that rich beach condos are washed away, so much the better. Homo Sapiens is a migratory species. People will move before they die off and will probably have a better life for having expended the energy to move.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Defunding Constellation - Prospects for Spacers

The White House has defunded NASA's Constellation program. George W. Bush's plan to go to the Moon and Mars on the cheap is dead. If Bush had thrown more money at the program in his term of office, it might be too far along to kill. Every cloud has a silver lining, however.

Readers of this blog know that it is committed to creating private space ventures. Given the sparse goals of most of the space startups currently receiving money from NASA in their latest round of private space funding, I think this effort, in combination with 1000 Planets, is the best thing out there. Indeed, the White House is doing the same thing that 1000 Planets suggested to them on this issue - get out of the launch business and buy tickets on a private carrier. I would gather that we were not the only ones suggesting this - although if we were first, Norm Augustine owes me an iced decaf Americano.

At first blush, it would seem that the President's action dooms the space industry and consigns everyone in the military who wants to enter the Astronaut Corps at NASA, as well as the current membership, to the ground for the next decade. This is not the case, however.

This initiative opens up the market for spacers of all varieties. To date, to become an Astronaut or mission controller, one could only go one place - NASA. This is no longer the case. If a company wanted to do serious manned space flight, it had to win a NASA contract. This is no longer true. If an engineer had an idea for a neat space drive or vehicle, he pretty much had to dance to the NASA tune and those of its vendors. Not anymore. Space tourists had to bribe the Russians to go up and the price has been increasing of late. This is no longer true.

NASA, by going to a private market, is helping to create an infrastructure that will attract other space tourists. It will provide capability to lift people and equipment that will eventually seek an expanded customer base, thus lowering prices while still remaining highly profitable - thus attracting more industry. All that is needed to get into the game is the ability to hire talent and find customers and financing. Anyone who has navigated the DoD PPBE process or been involved in major systems contracting should have the moxi to pull together a space startup. Anyone who wants to fly a space ship, and has the military training to do it, should be able to find a job doing it if they work hard enough at it. Indeed, this may actually get more people to join the military, since of late becoming an airline pilot has been an unattractive goal, given the way the airline industry has evolved. This changes that.

So, what is a spacer to do if he wants a job? Look to the right pane and see if you fit in and then send an email to

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

Building the Space Station

Construction of International Space Station Alpha is almost done. It now has a six person crew. It has been a long, slow, slog, with intense pool training for every mission as doctors, scientists and pilots are turned into extraterrestiral construction workers.

There has to be a better way - and there is one.

Most station modules have been ready for a long, long time. Instead of making building the station a long, drawn out program to keep NASA and the aerospace firms in eating money, I would have sent up a crew of real construction workers and started with a life-boat like station. I would then have begun launching modules one after the other on big, dumb, boosters - letting the crew go home when the job was done. In order to forestall serious damage, I would have put up as part of the "construction shack" two or three modules linked with a cross beam and rotating to produce artificial gravity. Of course, if that becomes your base site, the whole station might have gravity in the add on process, with mirco-gravity platforms in station annexes or in a center portion which is connected to the spinning portion with a flywheel so that it doesn't move.

As parts of the station get done, scientists or tourists could come aboard - as long as they stay out of the way - and have something to offer in the way of budget.

Think of how much money could have been saved if we had built the station in this fashion. I'm not going to say we could have knocked it out in a weekend, but it would not have taken years to finish. Some modules may be ending their useful life before the whole thing is put up! Unreal.

If you like my approach, drop me a line at There are a group of us who want to do space much more cost effectively than the current welfare program for bureaucrats and aerospace companies. The sad thing is, if you do it cheaply, as I am proposing, you end up doing more of it - so the aerospace companies are shooting themselves in the foot for going with the Construction Project as Test Flight Program approach.

The other thing I would do is drop ground based mission control from the equation. Control will come entirely from space. If instrument monitoring of systems is necessary 24-7, then the station should have a control room that does that, with watches posted to do that. If your agree, contact me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Making a Steak

The drive for artificial habitats will be largely academic until someone answers the question, "How do you make a steak (without a cow)?" I am of course not talking about those veggy steaks or about how to actually prepare a steak when meat has been provided. I am talking about how to make synthetic muscle fiber that looks and tastes like the real McCoy and contains enough saturated fat to clog your arteries.

This problem is basically one of reverse engineering. So let's reverse engineer last Saturday's dinner, shall we? The steak I ate was a Porterhouse, the ultimate steak. It contained four basic elements. Hard bone, connective tissue, muscle fiber and saturated fat. The challenge is making each of these. The bone is mainly calcium. Because we do not eat it, the details are not that important. The connective tissue, although inedible, is essential to hold the meat, fat and bone together. Fat we know how to create. The essential problem is how to synthesize artificial muscle fiber.

We can also treat this problem as one of cybernetics. We know what the put of our system is - we just stated it in our reverse engineering description. The inputs are known by any animal husbandry major, they are what a steer eats. All of these can be grown with little effort.

The challenge is to duplicate the process by which these inputs become a steer. Also, synthesizing milk would be nice, although from what I hear soy milk can come pretty close.

The biochemistry of muscle fiber is pretty well known. Cell biologists know what proteins are contained within it. The also know how the composition of the cell membrane. The key is to take this knowledge and turn it into a process which takes what amounts to home grown animal feed and turn it into a synthetic steak. This process can then be turned into a household appliance, which will also add strategically placed fat for our synthetic steak.

I am speculating here, but I think the process may be as easy as spinning the correct mix of proteins and encasing the thread in synthetic cell membrane. On the show 2057, a dot matrix printer was thought to be the instrument to regrow an artificial heart. Could it be that easy to grow a steak? I would think so.

Currently, the demand is not there for such artificial beef. However, for space travel and in reaction to the end of cheap fossil fuels, the day when this is cost effective is sure to come.

Egg yoke should be much easier to synthesize, which is good because nothing goes with a good steak then Sauce Bernaise.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fixing the Station

The AP reports in the Washington Post that the astronauts have fixed the jammed solar panel.

Congratulations are in order, especially since this was an unrehearsed mission. Now that we have a team trained to work without rehearsal, we are sending them back to Earth.

If we built skyscrapers and bridges this way there would be no skyscrapers or interstate highways.

We could, right now, today, change how we do things. I am sure that by now all the components are ready. Let us consider, if not now, than at some future date, launching everything into space on unmanned rockets and putting up a crew to just put everything together. Don't rehearse every turn of the screw, just find a crew who knows how to do every action that would be required and set them lose at it. The station would be done in weeks, rather than years, and at substantially less cost.

This would also be a good SOP for doing the Luna and Mars colonies. Its time to at lease loosen, if not cut, the cord to misssion control. They may have a bit of separation anxiety, so send a few of them into space if required (kind of like on-site architects). Its time to get real on space development. There are way to many planners and not enough doers. Lets change that.