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Comment Re:Hmm (Score 1) 342

I'd be enormously surprised if Chinese businessmen working in manufacturing industries dependent upon American and European clients aren't interested in news relating to how easy it'll be to export to the US and to European nations in the near future. I would, absolutely, expect them to show more interest than they've done in the past given the ramifications for Trump, who appears to oppose the degree of international trade we have, and Brexit, which will change the relationship of nations and thus have massive ramifications for trade.

Just because the "average" Chinese person doesn't care, doesn't mean that a significant minority will suddenly have a lot more interest in US and European events than they did previously. With China being a fairly populous country, you'd expect that to amount to a lot of new readers.

Comment Re: Great idea... But there is a problem... (Score 1) 289

They didn't die after a few minutes - they lasted for 1-2 hours. And they didn't cost a billion dollars, they were built on the cheap. The Soviets launched almost all of their Venus missions in pairs because they considered it likely that something would blow up or fail at some point along the way - not a rare situation, a number of their Venus missions never even left Earth orbit, and some didn't even get that far ;). But of missions that actually got to Venus, they had great success, and even had one mission "rescued" by Venus (they designed it to parachute down, but the parachute broke - but the atmosphere slowed the fall so much that it survived the impact anyway).

For exploring Venus, if you're wanting PR, the Vega approach is the right one - aerobots, optionally paired with sondes. Aerial vehicles can fly for long periods of time studying the planet, and there's a number of exciting missions related to this being worked on (just waiting for funding). As for surface lifespans, they don't have to be limited. There's work on probes designed to "run hot" so that they don't need any (or only minimal) cooling, and there's also work on probes designed to lift off (bellows balloon) to a cooler layer of the atmosphere (to have any length of time to examine / process samples, cool down, etc) before re-descending any number of times. If you're only talking something with a ~2 hour lifespan on the surface and nothing else, you're talking something cheap, Discovery or at most New Frontiers class - not Flagship.

The main thing that's held everything back is that NASA almost never funds anything related to Venus. The last dedicated NASA mission to Venus (not counting flybies to other destinations that used Venus as a gravitational assist) was the Magellan probe, nearly three decades ago. And that came a decade after the previous NASA mission to Venus. Easiest planet to get to, and they almost never fund missions to study it. It's embarrassing.

Comment Re:Echo-chamber fake news (Score 2) 342

There were a lot of contributing factors, but yes, this sadly was one. The Thiokol engineers were against launch, but they failed to make a sufficient case as to why exactly they felt the O-rings were unsafe (there actually was a Thiokol document showing that not only was O-ring failure high at low temperatures but that the second O-ring ceased to be redundant - but they didn't have the document available to them). The Shuttle program managers were getting mad at them for insisting on delays due to the low temperatures without being able to back it up (one of them said something along the lines of "My god, Thiokol - when do you want me to launch, April?") and eventually the Thiokol management dropped their objections (even though the engineers were still strongly against launch). The engineers all gathered round to watch the launch on TV, thinking it was going to explode on the pad. When it lifted off they all breathed a sigh of relief, only to have it dashed during the explosion.

Comment Re:Hard to read (Score 4, Insightful) 342

You mean they should stop reporting on the President of the United States when he does something with serious consequences if whatever he did happens to be a bad thing?

That's... not the way the press is supposed to act in a free society, FWIW. The Press is supposed to cover what the government does and what the impact of that is. You might not like that, but the rest of us prefer it that way.

Comment Re:Kowtowing (Score 3, Insightful) 342

People have been claiming newspapers are obsolete in some shape or form for 50 years, ever since television became everyone's primary method for keeping up with the news. In practice, newspapers, while hit, never went away, while TV news has become supplanted by the Internet.

And who is dominating news on the Internet? Oh, yeah, the newspapers. Most of us have at least one newspaper's website that's on our rotation of sites to check every day, despite the attempts to get us to use news apps or search engine news aggregators - both of which suffer in that they mix the latest from, say, the Daily Mail, with that of The Guardian or Washington Post.

As for this:

Few people spend the time to read the entire article when they are looking for headlines and sound bites

Few do, But few have ever done. You think, if you teleported back to a New York Subway car in the 1940s, every strap hanger was reading the New York Times on the way to work? Go to a London Underground Tube Train in the 1950s, and every passenger was reading The Times, Guardian, or Telegraph?

There's always been a range of newspapers providing news in different formats for different readers, and the most popular have always been the ones screaming headlines that today we'd call "clickbait", and whose articles are scarcely a few sentences long.

The New York Times is an exception, because it caters for the market of people who want more. It's always been a small minority that reads it. The difference between the days of paper and today are that all of a sudden the NYT can have an engaged audience that spreads far beyond the range a printed, time critical, newspaper can be delivered within, and that without page limits, its no longer limited to coverage of the region it serves.

Which is why the New York Times is doing very well right now, when 20 years ago it wasn't.

Comment Re:Echo-chamber fake news (Score 5, Informative) 342

Really, I have to give them credit where credit is due: by repeatedly pointing out errors (however trivial) out of the tens of thousands of news stories that are published every day, they've managed to get their supporters to the point where they'll trust a new story on www.siteiveneverheardofbefore.com/newishstuff/hillaryclintonpedophilering.html more than they will an actual newspaper. It's a real masterstroke in terms of controlling the narrative. "Anything negative you hear about me, it's fake, because there exist cases where newspapers have made errors, and we've selectively presented you only with those cases to create a narrative for you that newspapers are packed full of fakery." Not just newspapers - fact checkers, peer-reviewed articles, even official government statistics - all fake, because they've been presented with every case people can get their hands of of error, without the balancing context of the 10000x more that wasn't in error.

In the words of XKCD: "Dear God, I would like to file a bug report". ;)

It's the same thing that contributed to the Challenger explosion. They had a nice clean graph in front of them that plotted O-ring failures vs. temperature. There was no clear trend visible on the graph. The problem was that they omitted the successes, the cases where there were no O-ring failures. Here's what it looked like with that added in. All of the sudden there's a very clear trend of failure increasing at low temperatures - in fact, every low temperature launch had had O-ring failures, while very few high-temperature launches had. By being selective in what data you present (accidentally in that case, on purpose in the present case), you can get people to believe precisely the opposite of what is true.

Comment Re: Great idea... But there is a problem... (Score 1) 289

Anyone who can say "only 6000 m/s" with a straight face when talking about post-launch maneuvers has never worked with rocket mass budgets. ;) For a single stage, 6000 m/s with a 340s isp and 0.08 inert mass ratio is an over 10:1 scaling factor (aka, for every 10 kg you launch to LEO you get 1kg payload to your destination). Just 3000 m/s is a nearly 3:1 ratio.

Comment Re: Great idea... But there is a problem... (Score 1) 289

Probably better to get some kind of cloud city working on Earth before attempting to go trans-solar-system with the concept.

That would indeed be part of the development process. It's harder on Earth, mind you - a Landis habitat has to be inflated with heliox on Earth, which is much more expensive and permeation-prone. But such a habitat absolutely can be tested on Earth.

By the altitude Venus' atmosphere is more dense than Earth's, it's also highly corrosive.

The sulfuric acid is quite overstated in the popular imagination. It's more like a bad smog (or more accurately, vog) - several to several dozen milligrams per cubic meter, as noted below (also as noted below, OSHA allows people to breathe up to 1mg/m^3 for an entire 8-hour shift). It's much more of a resource than a problem; design work would be simpler if it were denser, not sparser. Material compatibility is easier to ensure (via fluoropolymers) than the scrubber design aspects are; you have to have high mass flow rates because the sulfuric acid is so sparse.

(That said, there was some - disputed - evidence from Vega that there may sometimes be "rain" on Venus. If that's correct, that'd be quite the blessing for resource collection. It's sad how we don't even know such basics as "does it rain on Venus?" at present)

Jupiter is a little too active for my taste, but perhaps Neptune or Uranus might have some attractive latitudes at which to float a city, assuming you bring your own power sources and don't rely on the sun.

The gas and ice giants are tough. They're very, very far, exceedingly hard to get out of, and because they're predominantly hydrogen (80-96%), the Landis design is right out (you can't live in a spacious envelope, you're stuck in a gondola); the envelope has to be hot hydrogen (heated with a lot of energy, because you lose it quickly on those scales). The gas and ice giants also have the wrong ratios of temperature to pressure - too much pressure relative to temperature. Plus, much less diverse gaseous mineral resources, and (effectively) no surface mineral resources at all. And of course as you note, little light. Venus is far better in virtually every respect. Its right next door, the easiest planet to get to, a great location from an orbital dynamics perspective, and it has everything.

Comment Re: Great idea... But there is a problem... (Score 1) 289

I'm with a group called Venus Labs; we'll have our first book out later this year. :) Materials compatibility is a big topic therein. Thankfully, there are a lot of polymers that have good resistance to Venus's environmental conditions (particularly fluoropolymers, although minimizing coating fluorine content is important for ISRU because hydrogen fluoride is a lot less common than hydrogen chloride and sulfuric acid - so for example PCTFE or PVF would be preferable to, for an example, FEP). The sulfuric acid mist isn't actually very concentrated from a particle density perspective - visibility is a couple kilometers. The mist is a couple to several dozen grams per cubic meter, depending on the altitude, latitude, time, etc (by comparison, OSHA allows people to breathe up to 1 mg/m for an 8-hour work shift). But it is concentrated from a molar perspective - on Earth, H2SO4 mists self-dilute with atmospheric water vapour.

Comment Re: Great idea... But there is a problem... (Score 2) 289

"That book"?

Why Venus? Venus has the most Earthlike environment in the solar system outside Earth. High latitudes in the middle cloud layer have Earthlike temperatures, pressures, gravity, sufficient radiation shielding, ample light, and diverse resources already gas phase and only needing to be run through a scrubber to give you feedstocks (even iron, in the form of iron chlorides - estimated at about 1% of the mass of the sulfuric acid - which, by the way, thermally decomposes in the presence of a catalyst to release water and oxygen). Concerning orbital mechanics, Venus ascent stages are of course harder than Mars, but apart from that, it's in a much more favorable spot concerning orbital mechanics, with a much greater Oberth effect and much more frequent launch windows; it can be easier to get payloads to Mars from Venus than from Earth (and can even get gravity assists from Earth). Beyond the abundant solar power, there's also abundant wind power. Normal Earth air is a lifting gas. Unlike a Mars habitat which is a cramped pressure vessel, a Venus habitat is an expansive, open, bright area, full of plants and life. If you don't like someone, go hang your room elsewhere in the envelope, potentially even hundreds of meters away. Bored? Jump into the safety netting; the scale indoors is so big you can basically do indoor skydiving.

As for learning, Venus has vastly more unknown than Mars. Venus is our twin, and the question as to why it ended up the way it did and Earth didn't is one of the great questions in planetary geology. Venus used to have oceans like Earth. Yet today its surface has become this alien place, a veritable natural refinery that bakes and erodes minerals out of the surface and precipitates them out in the clouds. The whole planetary surface, or nearly so, resurfaced itself about 500 million years ago. We have no idea why. Can Earthlike planets just up and do this? If so that's a very disturbing concept. it has the longest river in the solar system - we have no clue what carved it. The best theories are really weird, like natrocarbonatites - super-rare low-temperature lavas that look like oil, flow like water, and glow crimson at night. It has lightning, but we can't seem to find it. It seems to be the second most volcanically active place in the solar system (after Io) but we've never positively confirmed an eruption. There's a huge amount that our planetary models just can't explain. Why doesn't it have an intrinsic magnetic field? Even with its slow rotation speed, dynamo theory says it should; it doesn't. Where's its mercury? Chemical models say that there should be 3 1/2 orders of more in the clouds than the upper detection limits of the probes thusfar constrained it to. What are the strange radar reflective frosts / snows in the highlands? Pyrite? Galena? Tellurium? There seems to be more than one type, too. I could go on for pages and pages here. And there's vastly more reason to have humans present for exploration on Venus, because given the surface conditions, latency for controlling robotic probes is very important - unlike Mars, where communications "downtime" for rovers just gives them more time to charge in the weak sun. And you don't have to worry about degeneration due to low gravity like you do on Mars.

The surface, while hostile, is absolutely accessible. The Soviets had a lot better success probing the surface of Venus than they had Mars. The basic design is very simple: metal shell. insulation, and a material that absorbs heat through a phase change; it can easily buy you a couple hours. Tech developed by the Soviets in the 1960s. It's been determined that you could actually shoot a hollow titanium sphere at Venus, without any kind of heat shield or parachute, and it'd reach the surface intact; that nice "fluffy" atmosphere goes a long way. On Mars you have to have controlled propulsive landings onto rough terrain with little to slow you down - something that continues to randomly kill landers. The surface air on Venus is dense enough to allow you to dredge minerals off the surface.. You can get off the surface, too, with phase change or bellows balloons. The surface is even accessible for humans, and not just in "submersible"-style vehicles - through atmospheric diving suits like are used for deep sea human diving. NASA was developing such "hard suits" for the Apollo program and a bit after - the AX series. They went with soft suits because they're lighter, but hard suits have better mobility. And more to the point, on Venus with such a suit and a bellows balloon, a person could literally fly - floating up, and gliding down with little wings in controlled flight at up to a couple dozen meters per second.

Comment Re:Maybe people are oversaturated (Score 2) 124

Clicks let people actually see a quantifiable effect from their advertising (flawed as it might be). That is a lot harder with things like TV commercials and print ads.

IMO, those commercials and ads had become very over-valued because they couldn't really be measured. Especially when the people selling ad time/space talk up "brand recognition" and similar effects as the major value in buying their time/space.

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