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Comment Re:The guy aint no Sagan... (Score 1) 330

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 forgot to exclude operational expenses. And also didn't mention that you can't just lob chunks of metal straight to Earth's surface, and refined minerals in LEO aren't useful to anybody right now or for the foreseeable future. If they are going to re-enter you need at least some sort of return vehicle to control reentry, if they aren't then you need on-orbit factories for those to do any good. By your same logic, the mining of minerals on Earth would be zero dollars per gram if the equipment was solar powered and automated - that isn't the case, because fuel and drivers are a tiny fraction of the total cost of a mine.

There's no question that it will be economical to mine asteroids at some point, but the primary driver of this is launch costs. Planetary Resources exists because they believe the business case will close, and they are giving it a good shot, but given that we have only one small startup pursuing things right now, I suspect that it's still not obvious that the numbers will work out. Part of that is because there is so much uncertainty about the makeup of asteroids, how challenging the material will be to retrieve and what the real mineral densities are. But I guarantee you, if the cost of space access came down by an order of magnitude, as SpaceX is targeting, a lot of marginal business prospects become viable. That said, Planetary Resources might already be banking on that cost reduction, it's hard to say.

It does nobody any good to pretend that the lack of a space economy is because investors are cowards and morons that are just too narrow-minded to see the possibilities of space resources. The real problem is that boondoggles like SLS and the Shuttle before it cost the better part of a billion dollars for each and every launch, and that's been the primary model for space access historically. If people appreciate just how expensive this is, they'll stop advocating what amounts to a private jet to retrieve a $15 sweater, and instead start focusing on finding better transport. Things won't change until access gets cheap.

Comment Re:The guy aint no Sagan... (Score 1) 330

Furthermore, who's focused on mining the moon?

The point of the example wasn't to say that Apollo was focused on profit, or that the Moon is a good business proposition - it's to point out the fact that there are very few substances that are valuable enough, per gram, to make retrieval from space financially viable. It's not that a business case has been there all this time and everybody is too dumb to see it - it's that the business case hasn't been there because launch costs are too damn high.

Comment Re:or -effective- against the infidel imperialists (Score 1) 488

I guess you fail to understand that the conservatives don't view those events as bad. To you, they were lessons in what not to do, but conservatives have learned other lessons.

Good point. First among them: war and xenophobia can always be exploited for profit and power.

Comment Re:Arson, bombing favored by leftist terrorists si (Score 1) 488

You didn't respond directly to any of my points, although you used an ad-hominem and threw out a lot of tangentially related information. So, I'll just repeat what I said earlier.

How many people has Greenpeace killed? Non-violently interfering with business operations is something more socially disruptive than activism, but still a far cry from murdering people en masse. Lumping them into the same category as ISIS, et al isn't sensible.

You didn't explain how many people had been killed by Greenpeace. Nor did you rebut my point that the actions by these left-leaning groups are a fundamentally different kind of activity than what we see from ISIS and Al Qaeda. One is destroying property for a political cause, the other is crucifying, beheading, and burning people alive for the sake of spectacle.

Comment Re:The guy aint no Sagan... (Score 1) 330

You don't understand just how overwhelmingly expensive it is to get to space. Suppose the Moon was made of diamonds. Just big piles of diamonds, easy to pick up and bring back home.

Large, pure, high quality diamonds are worth about $65,000/gram. Someone did the math on the total cost to get us all the moon rocks we have... the cost in today's dollars to return those rocks works out to $281,000/gram.

Your business case doesn't even come close to breaking even. You lose over $200k for every gram fictional lunar diamond you bring home. That isn't to say that there will never be a business case to be made, but if things were as easy as you claim them to be, people would have been doing this long ago.

So, if people want to ever make money in space, it needs to become cheap. The right combo to get us there might be SpaceX working to make it inexpensive, combined with NASA providing the megabucks. Governments on their own haven't made any real progress on lowering the expense of access despite multiple serious attempts.

Comment Re:or -effective- against the infidel imperialists (Score 4, Insightful) 488

How the hell is this modded insightful?

A conservative, by definition, values the lessons of history

You wouldn't know it by today's conservatives. They are calling for Muslim registration (sounds eerily of WWII concentration camps for Japanese-Americans), abandoning war refugees (the populace didn't want to accept Jewish refugees from Germany), continued American presence in the Middle East (which has arguably created much of this situation). What lessons are they heeding, exactly?

The conservative engineer determines that singing a song has been ineffective, while blowing the bastards up more reliably stops their influence.

Really? Terrorism has been effective in what ways, exactly? It produces tangible results in terms of dead people and international headlines, but what is really accomplished?

If Greenpeace extremists was your sample of terrorists, you'd find they tend to be liberal and have degrees in social sciences , environmental science, etc.

How many people has Greenpeace killed? Non-violently interfering with business operations is something more socially disruptive than activism, but still a far cry from murdering people en masse. Lumping them into the same category as ISIS, et al isn't sensible.

Not sure if this is sarcasm and I just missed it. They do say that parody of conservatism is often indistinguishable from the real thing.

Comment Re:Please put the word "space" in quotes (Score 1) 121

I don't understand what you mean. The Falcon 1 did have a useful first stage.

There's no inherent size limit to what can be orbital and what can't. The Falcon 9 can put up a pretty hefty payload to orbit. The New Shepherd isn't nearly as powerful, but if the capsule was replaced with a small second stage and a smaller payload, there's likely a configuration available that could get something orbital.

Consider the cubesat launch platform that's basically just a big-ass missile hanging off a fighter jet. The New Shepherd could certainly lift that missile as an orbital second stage, if it replaced the passenger capsule. Possibly even something much bigger.

So, from that standpoint, the difference between New Shepherd and Falcon 9 is one of scale (which still make things very, very different) but it isn't pure orbital vs. suborbital. It's big suborbital booster versus small suborbital booster.

Comment Re:Please put the word "space" in quotes (Score 1) 121

Flights that just pop up to the Karman line and back down are virtually nothing like flights that actually go to orbit.

To be fair, the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 doesn't go to orbit either. It does have a very substantial horizontal velocity component, it has to boost back to the launch site, and it does go about twice as fast as the New Shepherd did in this flight, so the SpaceX problem is more challenging, but there's more to the comparison than you might suspect initially. Consider: the New Shepherd could absolutely serve as a reusable first stage of an orbital vehicle, albeit with a much smaller payload than the Falcon 9.

Comment Re:"The Karman line? More like the LOSER line!" (Score 2) 121

The backlash here is because the article's author claims "Jeff Bezos finally one-upped Elon Musk in space."

That's completely inaccurate. Jeff Bezos' sub-orbital landing is the commercial jingle to Elon Musk's five-movement symphony of orbital re-entry and landing. Anybody who is saying this feat is more impressive is just ignorant.

To be more technically correct, the author could have claimed that Bezos one-upped Scaled Composites and Spaceship One, which made sub-orbital spaceflights several years ago to claim the Ansari X-Prize, but even then he has only really replicated their accomplishment. So the point isn't that the New Shepherd isn't technically impressive (it is) or that sub-orbital spaceflight is easy (it isn't), but that the article is totally wrong in its comparison to SpaceX.

Comment Re:Complete video stream pre-rolling (Score 3, Informative) 491

Did you ever think that it's not "stupid" but more related to customer preference?

What customer would EVER prefer that a paused video would not continue loading? Netflix, Youtube, Google Play, Vimeo - all of them stop downloading when you pause, which makes them unusable if your connection is slow for whatever reason - network congestion, bad wireless signal, etc.

I recently rented an online video from Google Play and demanded a refund, which I wouldn't have done if this feature existed... the video kept stopping to buffer every 30 seconds or so. That ruins a movie. If I could have left it alone for 20 minutes to load, and then watched the whole thing, it would have been fine. Google's choice to save bandwidth (or whatever their motivation is) cost them that sale.

So, there's no real "preference" at play here, unless your preference is for limited options. You can still stream it real time, the OP is asking that you also be allowed to download in one chunk when bandwidth is limited so you get a seamless viewing experience without frequent pauses to buffer.

Comment Re:OMG Pacific Rim (Score 1) 211

I guess the question is what was meant to be implied by "Analog" in the context of the movie (and the real answer is they just needed some technobabble to explain why one robot was EMP immune and another one wasn't).

The thyratons are interesting - how would they be used for analog control? It looks like enough current can be sourced, but they can't be operated in a linear region so you're talking about switching still, which smells digital to me.

And, I don't doubt that analog components could be up to certain aspects of the job... a lot of controls problems can be solved quite elegantly with analog circuits, and what is a giant robot if not an incredibly complex series of controls problems?

The thing that really caught me as absurd was that this robot, built some time in our near future, would have been built *exclusively* with analog components, and that all the other existing mechs, built years or decades later, wouldn't have been. It's just preposterous. Not to mention, aside from all of the robotics hardware, you've got a fancy neural interface and a whole lot of display hardware - basically a whole lot of stuff where you would have to spend many orders of magnitude more to implement via analog design assuming it were even possible.

Comment Re:OMG Pacific Rim (Score 1) 211

- EMP-type event not affecting one robot because it's nuclear powered.

Actually, this wasn't the reason given in the film. It was even better. Gypsy Danger was ANALOG, not digital, so that's why it survived the blast.

I would love to see the schematics for that thing's control boards, since they apparently don't have a single microcontroller in there, no memory, nothing. For some reason they decided to build the entire robot with 1930's technology. Not to mention, how are they modulating the power to all the insane motors they must have all over the place? The world's largest potentiometers?

Myself and a few other robotics/physics nerds watched this one in the theater and the hilarity of that scene alone was well worth the ticket price.

"Necessity is the mother of invention" is a silly proverb. "Necessity is the mother of futile dodges" is much nearer the truth. -- Alfred North Whitehead