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Comment Re:The guy aint no Sagan... (Score 1) 274

Except that your cost examples are based around the price of rocks brought back as a "oh and we're going to do this too" mission add-on. It would be like as if I flew to America to visit my grandmother for Christmas via purchasing a $700 plane ticket and while I was there I bought a $15 sweater and brought it back, and you said, "See, she paid $715 to go to America and buy a sweater - American sweaters are unjustifiably expensive!" You simply cannot take the cost of the Apollo mission, divide by the mass of rocks returned, and pretend that that's anything even remotely close to the cost of retrieval per gram.

What's the actual cost of space mining? It's too early to say. But the mining of NEOs could be as little as *zero* dollars per gram (excluding capital costs and maintenance), insomuch as it would be possible to fire sintered minerals (using solar power) via a coilgun onto an aerocapture trajectory. You don't actually have to have a rocket to bring them back. What would the capital costs be like? That we don't know - again, it's too early to say. But it's normal for large mines on Earth to cost billions of dollars, and what one can do with a large mine on Earth one could do with a vastly smaller mine on a NEO due to the superb mineral concentrations on some of them. There are a number of peer-reviewed papers putting forth that it could work out to be economical (I was reading one from the USGS just the other day) as a result of this.

But time will tell. It's going to take a lot more basic research and engineering before we can get a good sense of just what it would cost to get what sort of throughput of what sort of minerals.

Comment Re:Cost of access is key. (Score 1) 274

we don't know the reasons the Polynesians expanded. It is highly doubtful a lone couple of polynesians set sail on the high seas to find new islands. The amount of provisioning and boat building...analogous to modern government sponsorship

What's even more likely is that tribes who lost a war were tied into their own boats with meager rations and set to drift at sea. Most probably died, but a few got lucky. Perhaps this was part of a ritual.

Comment Re:The real Bill Gates of India (Score 1) 27

A lot of non-IT people don't know what a jerk Gates was. He was brilliant at killing off competitors using targeted sell-at-loss campaigns, bait-and-switch "standards", bundling, and locking one in to product upgrade cycles.

But that stagnated business software evolution and robbed the market of choice. I bet he'd make a great military general.

Comment Re:Better Question (Score 1) 286

you sure are big into regulation to set the rules of the game. why don't you let the market sort itself out?

Wow, that's an interesting reading of this thread. I thought I was responding to the hypothetical idea that nobody would repair cars if we didn't have a state-mandated dealer system. Apparently not.

I think you find that it will settle to exactly where it is now. Aside from some high end boutiques, all the OEMs will sell through a dealer network.

I think that's somewhat true, but I also think that what the dealers will look like will be somewhat different. They'll end up competing with the few OEMs (like Tesla) that control their buying experience, and frankly, the buying experience through those operations is superior. There's not a human on earth who enjoys dealing with car dealers, so as soon as any cracks in the system show, they'll have to change their ways. They definitely won't go away (for reasons you mentioned), but they'll probably start looking more like retailers and less like the hellscapes they currently are. Toyota will be saying, "We have to compete with Tesla on price and quality, but we also have to deal with the hit that comes from a miserable buying experience." The threat that Toyota will start selling directly will definitely put pressure on Toyota dealers to up their game.

And the car buying process continues to get easier and more transparent.

I think this will be the game changer. I bought 2 of my last 3 cars through CarsDirect. Reasonable straightforward price that's easy to check, no negotiation or games. My last car was delivered to me at my office with the paperwork. If I had to guess, I'd say we're going to move more and more toward that model and the only people who haggle at the dealer are going to be the real sharks who aren't profitable to haggle with. Once that starts to happen, the incentive for having a staff of professional hagglers goes away. Eventually, I expect prices will normalize and dealers will have to differentiate on other factors.

Comment Re:Better Question (Score 1) 286

On the one hand, I'm highly skeptical that it's actually true. I mean, it's not as though the dealer is the only place you can go for car servicing even now. In fact, going to the dealer is generally considered to be what suckers do. And in terms of complexity, cars are likely peaking out--as we transition to electric, they'll get mechanically simpler. Whether the electronics are serviceable (software lockout, etc.) is an interesting question, but the only way to make independent service operations viable is to mandate that manufacturers make replacement boards and diagnostic manuals available. If we don't, manufacturers will be able to software "lock out" everybody no matter what our sales channels look like.

Even assuming it's the case that we need some mandate to make it happen, there's no reason for car *sales* to go through that channel. You just need to mandate that manufacturers make parts and manuals available to third parties on reasonable terms. The reality is that the dealers don't seem to be making much money on sales anyway these days. It's all through servicing or financing. And in exchange for that, we get a miserable, sleazy buying experience that is widely recognized to be the worst in any industry or market. So it seems clear that whatever we're trying to do, we're doing it wrong.

It seems like the simplest solution would be a ban on manufacturers offering services and parts directly to the public. That way there would be a profitable market for parts and technical manuals, but the manufacturers wouldn't have an incentive to kill off the competition. The service operations would just be customers instead of competition.

Comment Re: Getting a car repair (Score 1) 286

You sound like you've never heard of the independent mechanic that as far as I can tell

You sound even worse. An independent has to specialize in a topic, like transmissions. Would you trust him to work on the cars computer system? A dealership say Ford, has to be able to work on all aspects of fords, same with gm, chyrsler and Toyota. And stand behind their repair.

You absolutely proved him correct when you claim an independent has to specialize in a topic as narrow as transmissions. Most independent mechanics I have used have been able to work on a wide range of automobiles. There has been some very specialized work, such as with more rare hybrids like the 05-07 accord hybrid, where I have had to use a dealer in the past. But I have only had one car repair in 20 years that needed a dealer. And if dealers did not exist, the market would compensate for those rare cases in their absence.

It is funny you stand up for dealers because of their repair services, when generally that is the department people like the least at dealerships. I thought it was general knowledge to never go to a dealership for service unless your car was under warranty. They are overpriced and refuse to use after market parts.

Comment Re:Better Question (Score 1) 286

Answer: Some middle men add value and some simply extract rents. Distributing and warehousing a wide variety of perishable vegetables for purchase on demand at random times is a valuable and complex service. Having a showroom to poke at cars in person adds value, but basically *everything* else a dealer does is either overpriced compared to alternatives or actively subtracts value from the car buying experience.

Comment Re:It was most likely in Syria (Score 1) 561

I suppose it's possible that there's a different reality, but it seems to me like we have two major possibilities:

1) Russia, which has a record of being increasingly aggressive about airspace, allowed its aircraft into Turkish airspace despite complaints and warnings and got shot down.
2) Turkey saw some advantage in shooting down Russian aircraft and antagonizing Russia for no reason.

I suppose there's also various forms of incompetence that could be dumped into possibility 3. But really, what does Turkey have to gain from intentionally shooting down Russian aircraft outside its borders? Is there some eleven dimensional chess operation going on here that I'm not seeing?

Comment Re:There are no "moderate rebels" (Score 1) 561

That is the problem with handing weapons over to "moderates" and hoping they'll be tenacious enough to win a civil war for us, isn't it? At best, it's the, "We'll fight to the end, kill everybody and scorch the Earth," faction against the, "We wish you guys weren't so militant," faction. Pouring crates of weapons in is just going to continue to arm the people who are aggressive and committed enough to seize them.

Comment Re:Space-based Economy (Score 2) 274

As usual, "pop science" news overstated the case. We know that there's ppm quantities of water in most lunar regolith, but that's not what people usually talk about. There's also a good degree of confidence that there's a lot of *hydroxyl* group in a lot of places on the moon. But the connection between that and the group being specifically water is much weaker - and many missions sent to detect water in likely areas have failed. The best evidence for water have come from Chandrayaan and LRO, examining craters that were considered likely to find ice. They have both failed to find "slabs" of ice in the crater, but found evidence for ice grains in the regolith - about 5% according to LRO. On Earth that would be considered dry soil, but it's something at least.

Of course, if you're constraining yourself to such craters, you're really constraining where you can go. On the general lunar surface, the sun bakes water out of the regolith.

Iron, aluminum, and titanium are very useful for making things

They're all tightly locked up as oxides, without the raw materials that we use to refine them on Earth being available. There are however tiny grains of raw iron in the regolith, so there is some potential to comb it out magnetically. Still, asteroids present by far better resource options in much greater concentrations.

There really is just no reason to do your work in a gravity well as deep as the moon's, and then have to break out of it, when you can just mine NEOs. Yes, it's "half the gravity of Mars", but it's vastly more than asteroids. Rockets with a couple thousand spare m/s delta-V don't just grow on lunar trees.

Comment Re:Space-based Economy (Score 1) 274

The moon's surface is kind of boring, as far as geology goes. Aluminum oxide, titanium oxide, iron oxide, silicon dioxide... by and large it's stuff that's really common on Earth. And not much of the common stuff that's super-useful, like water. And really, it's way more of a gravity well than is ideal to have.

Theory is gray, but the golden tree of life is green. -- Goethe