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Comment: Re: Earthworks, not robots... (Score 1) 107

by taiwanjohn (#49500127) Attached to: Drought and Desertification: How Robots Might Help

What we NEED is colder winters.

What you need is more precipitation. Colder winters might help that happen, but they are not what you need, per se. What you need is lower global temperatures, especially in ocean waters, so that your regional climate is no longer fucked up by climate change.

I understand that the water-harvesting scenario in my previous post depends on rainfall -- of which California has seen practically none for several years in a row. But that's no reason not to start investing in the kind of infrastructure that could help alleviate these concerns over the long term.

Fixing climate change is going to take some time and effort, on several fronts simultaneously. We all have a role to play.

Comment: Re: Earthworks, not robots... (Score 1) 107

by taiwanjohn (#49499349) Attached to: Drought and Desertification: How Robots Might Help

What AZ, CA, and the whole region need is to slow down the rainwater and help it to soak into the soil. To do this, you need earthworks such as swales and dams (specifically gabions for the arid southwestern desert areas). Those arroyos and canyons in Arizona may be great ATV playgrounds for 11 months of the year, but for a few days they become raging torrents. And as it stands now, ALL of that water simply runs off down to the ocean. But it wouldn't be hard to save that water, and use it to re-green the entire region. (Here's a quick 1-min video which explains the basic process.)

Comment: Re:Wrong Focus (Score 1) 132

by taiwanjohn (#49365157) Attached to: SpaceX's New Combustion Technologies

Yes and no... on the surface of a "planetary" body, you can "sink" the waste heat from your reactor, but in free space, you need acres of surface area to dissipate it. I'm not sure if anyone has ever studied the trade-space between photo-voltaics and space-nukes, but I suspect it would lean toward high-performance PV cells, at least for cis-lunar operations.

Comment: Re:Wrong Focus (Score 1) 132

by taiwanjohn (#49365023) Attached to: SpaceX's New Combustion Technologies

Nonsense. They scale at least linearly, which is "good enough for gub'mint work" as the saying goes. I follow the "space" space fairly closely, and I've never heard anything about ion propulsion suffering from "scaling" problems. If you have sources for this, please cite them. As an avid enthusiast, this is the kind of information I crave above all.

Comment: Re:Wrong Focus (Score 1) 132

by taiwanjohn (#49364847) Attached to: SpaceX's New Combustion Technologies

True 'nuff, but for interplanetary missions there's no off-the-shelf tech to beat it. As Clarke said, "Once you're in LEO you're halfway to anywhere..." (or was that Asimov... or Heinlein?).

The thing about SpaceX is they're planting a flag on Mars now, and working back from there to define their technology. Their MCT (Mars Colonial Transport) engine class is spec'd to run on methane, since it's fairly simple to create this fuel from available resources on Mars. Nobody would be working on methane-fueled rocket engines if they didn't have a long-term goal of colonizing Mars.

Comment: Re:How is this new? (Score 1) 172

Just had this "problem" the other day... I squeeze the bottle and nothing comes out, so I squeeze harder and harder until suddenly I hit the "breakthrough" point and get an avalanche. I do not like those squeeze bottles, thank you very much, the glass bottles work much better for me.

Comment: Re:How is this new? (Score 2) 172

There's a very simple solution to the ketchup bottle problem: turn it sideways.

Most people hold the ketchup bottle vertically upside down over their plate and slap the bottom to make the ketchup come out. This doesn't work very well. Instead you hold the bottle horizontally over your plate and hit the side, so that there's plenty of room for air to enter the bottle while the ketchup flows out. Works every time. Try it.

Comment: Enforcement... (Score 2, Insightful) 129

by taiwanjohn (#49336553) Attached to: Do Robots Need Behavioral 'Laws' For Interacting With Other Robots?

Such "laws" (a la Asimov) are unworkable for the same reason that prohibition failed... there's always going to be someone who wants to disobey the prohibition for personal profit of some kind, whether as a consumer or a provider. As long as there is demand, it will be supplied, "laws" be damned.

Comment: Re:Whatever ... (Score 1) 141

by taiwanjohn (#49322163) Attached to: "Google Glass Isn't Dead!" Says Google's CEO Eric Schmidt

be hostile to the people around them who wear them.

I agree, at least to the degree that they're "obvious"... ie, the HUD/glasses form factor is the culprit. You look like a Borg, it's kinda creepy, etc.. But to me the most attractive aspect of G/Glass was simply its ability to record my movements throughout the day, like a policeman's lapel-cam. At the end of the day, I could save a few highlights, and clear the buffer, like a diary.

As for the HUD display, augmented reality is overrated, If I need "augmented" info in real time like that, I'll get an iWatch instead. However I do like the idea of a "body-cam" to serve as a record in case something happens. And this could be done with clip-on, blue-tooth jewelry (perhaps in a "swarm" for 3D capture) instead of a face-mounted camera-cum-display gizmo.

So yeah, as TFA says, they'll "save the technology" for later use..

Comment: Re:delay (Score 1) 89

Looks like a very interesting book, thanks for the link.

Mars One isn't being innovative *enough* to really bring down costs.

My point was that Mars-One doesn't have to bring down costs because the industry is already doing that. Lansdorp is just betting that the costs will be within reach by the time he has to start bending metal. That gives him a few years, realistically, to ramp up the TV show and start generating some revenue. In the meantime, SpaceX will have upended the launch industry with the advent of reusability and Dragon.V2 will have flown astronauts to the ISS. You have to view it in that context, not the current one.

Do I think Mars-One is a bit "too visionary" to ever become reality? Yeah, of course I do. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. It's not possible today, certainly, but I think it is possible -- just barely -- in the long run, and I'm sure Mr. Lansdorp agrees.

Also, I'm sure I don't have to remind anyone here what most folks thought of that wooly-headed visionary Elon Musk about 13 years ago...

Comment: Re:delay (Score 3, Interesting) 89

Obviously they didn't have SpaceX's capabilities available when they approved the Curiosity mission over a decade ago.

Having a rocket thruster that can ignite in supersonic mode is a game-changer, especially for Mars. Most people in "the business" didn't think it was possible until SpaceX proved them wrong. This is just another example of folks not realizing how much the game has changed while they weren't paying attention.

We are on the brink of massive changes in aerospace... I just hope enough people will "tune in" before it's too late.

Comment: Re:delay (Score 2) 89

Remember Viking I and II? They didn't need complicated airbags/sky-cranes and such because they used a "brute-force" powered landing just like Apollo. But SpaceX now claims to have a Super-Draco thruster that can ignite under supersonic conditions... IOW, SpaceX claims it's Dragon.V2 capsule can land propulsively on "any surface" in the solar system, including (especially) Mars. Based on recent performance in the last few years, how much money would you be willing to bet that Elon Musk is wrong about this?

This is where the reusable booster comes in handy... if your limiting factor is fuel, then just use multiple cheap launches to assemble the hardware and fuel on orbit before trans-mars injection.

"There is such a fine line between genius and stupidity." - David St. Hubbins, "Spinal Tap"